Design Successful Learning
, Selective listening tasks, Lateral Communications, Lateral Communications

The first teacher training book I had published is called “Listening in Action.” It contained 4 main sections about designing different types of listening practice. The most popular was the section on “selective listening” tasks. Here’s the intro to that section. See other posts for guidelines for specific activties.

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            Selective listening activities address two separate, yet equally important goals in language development.  The first goal concerns listening as an active process of predicting information and then selecting “cues” that surround this information; the second goal concerns becoming familiar with the organization of different types of discourse. 

            Because listening is an active process, it goes without saying that learners have to participate actively in order to improve their listening ability. Learners can experience how their listening ability is developing when they have opportunities to test the consequences  of their attempts to listen.  This means that to evaluate how well  they  have understood,  learners need to develop their own goals for listening and to evaluate their efforts at reaching these goals.  

            Because development of listening ability involves increasing our learners’ access to different kinds of listening situations, it is important for us to expose our learners to a range of authentic types of spoken language.  However, since most of our learners will initially  find authentic listening rather frustrating, we can introduce them to authentic language through selective listening tasks.  Selective listening tasks focus the learners’ attention on  key parts  of the discourse.  By noticing key parts of the discourse, the learners can build up their understanding of the overall meaning by inferring, or “filling in”, what they have missed. 

The activities in this section are designed to address both of these purposes.  The activities aim to develop students’ listening ability by:

1.  promoting attempts to listen to a range of authentic spoken language (that is, to a range of speakers, topics, and situations)

2.  focusing expectations on understanding the main ideas of a text and on completing a specific task

3. providing pre-listening work which helps the learner understand the overall function and organization of the listening extract

The key features of the activities in this section are :  

• the learners focus on selected information as they listen

• the learners have the opportunity for a second listening to check their understanding  

• the teacher makes frequent use of taped materials 

• the teacher provides warm-up activities prior to listening  

• the teacher helps students set a purpose before listening

• the teacher requires minimal use of written language  during the activity

• the teacher gives immediate feedback following the activity

There are twelve basic activity outlines in this section.  Once again,  with each activity there are suggestions for variations in which the learners can work toward the same instructional goals.

1.  Cues game

VARIATION 1.1:   TEAMS

2.  Sound sequences

VARIATION 2.1:  SOUND SKIT  

VARIATION 2.2:  SOUND BINGO

VARIATION 2.3:  SOUND TRACK

3. That’s not right!

Variation 3.1:  MEMORY GAME

VARIATION 3.2:  THE CONTRADICTION GAME

4.  Images

VARIATION 4.1:  Listen for this! 

VARIATION 4.2:  ELICIT THE WORDS 

5.  Recorded messages

VARIATION 5.1:  SERVICE ENCOUNTERS 

6.  Facts and figures

VARIATION 6.1:  DOCUMENTARY

7.  Story maps

VARIATION 7.1:  PREDICT THE NEXT PART

VARIATION 7.2:  ARGUMENT MAP  

8.  Talk show

VARIATION 8.1:  WHOSE LINE?  

VARIATION 8.2:  OPINION GAP 

9.  In order

VARIATION 9.1:  MONOLOGUES

10. Topic listening

Variation 10.1:  WRITE YOUR QUESTIONS

VARIATION 10.2:  STANDARD QUESTIONS  

11. Conversation clues

VARIATION 11.1:  WHICH WAS IT?

VARIATION 11.2:  TEST QUESTIONS

12. Episode

VARIATION 12.1:   Self-access

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