Developing listening for specific information at C1
by Esther Ratcliff

Preliminary Information

Main aims;

1. To give listening for specific information practice of an exam activity (sentence completion) on the topic of time capsules.
2. To raise awareness of weak forms and elision in connected speech.

Subsidiary aims;
1. To raise awareness of the need to use both top-down and bottom-up techniques in listening tasks, and the difference between listening tasks in the CAE.

Advanced. These students have studied for a number of years at advanced level. Most the students will take the Cambridge Advanced Exam in June

Timetable fit
This is the last class based on the topic of 'history'. Over the last few weeks students have revised past tenses, learnt new ways to express the past, talked about historical books and films, learnt vocabulary for talking about changes that have happened to them. They have also completed a number of tasks related from the Reading and Use of English and listening CAE paper. The listening in this lesson is a sentence completion task about time capsules. They have already done one sentence completion task since starting six weeks ago.

Monday 3rd Nov
Reading: Multiple matching task on historical books
Grammar: nouns used in formal writing

Wednesday 5th Nov
Writing: stds watch a clip of historical movie trailers and prepare to write a review of a historical film
Vocabulary: describing films

Wednesday 12th Nov
Listening: Multiple matching task on changes in life
Phonology: How to distinguish emotions in spoken English

Monday 17th Nov
Vocabulary: Changes collocations
Speaking: Talking about changes in life
Grammar: Multiple choice from Reading and Use of English paper and changing countries.

Wednesday19th Nov (observed lesson)
Listening: Sentence completion on time capsules
Phonology: Looking at weak forms in connected speech

Monday 24th Nov
Grammar: Talking about the past and Reading and use of English practice
Vocabulary: revising changes

Assumed knowledge
I think the students will be able to do the pre-listening task of predicting the type of information necessary relatively well. They should also be able to remember what is required for this type of task. However there are three students who haven’t done this type of listening before, and might find the task difficult to grasp. I think students will be aware that some words are weak in connected speech, but perhaps not aware of when exactly they are weak.

Anticipated problems and solutions
I don't think the listening topic will be difficult for the students. The group is very open and willing to discuss most topics and usually find them interesting. I think Juanjo and MºJosé will have particular difficulty. The pairing for this lesson will be as follows: MºAngeles & Juanjo, Rafa & MºJosé, Jesús & Gema, Sara & Francisco. If this is not possible because of the order that students arrive in, I will try to make sure that weaker students are sat next to a stronger student so they can work together.

Problem: Difficulty with some questions will be due to unclear words in the passage. For example I think 'props' might be a difficult word because they are unlikely to have come across this word in relation to this topic before.
Solution: I will encourage students to guess the word they think they hear based on their knowledge of the topic, and what type of word is needed for the space.

Problem: I think that some students might struggle with following the pace of the listening.
Solution: I will encourage them to try not to get stuck with certain words, and try to move through the activity as the passage moves along.

Problem: With the phonology analysis, it will probably be the first time students have come across elision, and therefore they might not be aware of rules which govern the elision of sounds. There is a possibility that the students might feel overwhelmed with the work on phonology.
Solution: It is important to emphasise that even though there are many instances of elision and weak forms, it is necessary to focus on a few at a time in order to make good progress.

Problem: There is a problem with the technology.
Solution: I will give students copies of the powerpoint presentation to share in pairs.

Class Profile
There are eight students aged between 17 and 45 in this class. I would say there is a good balance of backgrounds, experiences and learner styles, and also an equal balance of weak and strong students. (Weak: Juanjo, MºJosé, Francisco; Strong: Sara, Rafa, Jesús, Gema and MºAngeles) Francisco and MºAngeles only joined the class three weeks ago, but they seem to have settled well into the class.

This is a receptive skills class which helps develop listening through looking at some aspects of phonology for use in CAE sentence completion task. It is the second time that most of the students have encountered this type of listening, therefore they should be able to apply some of the exam technique already studied, and help the other students who haven’t done it before. The lesson helps students to combine various skills necessary for the sentence completion task, and aims to give them more confidence in doing this type of task. As Abbas and Mohammed point out, ‘listening requires two subsuming cognitive processes. Bottom-up (data driven) and top-down (conceptually driven) (2011: 977)

The students in the class generally have good abilities to follow the gist of listening, and are interested in most topics and so don’t have difficulty applying prior knowledge about topics. However, a common problem is combining top-down knowledge, and bottom-up listening processes. The strongest students have difficult at word level and so will benefit from seeing how connected speech can affect understanding. Similarly, the weak students, even though some struggle with following the gist of a listening, they will also benefit from looking at how to improve word level interpretation. This will in turn strengthen their listening awareness through learning about the sounds of English. As Rost and Wilson point out, ‘to become proficient listeners L2 learners need to become comfortable with fast speech. Active training in the sounds and sound patterns or the L2 (in regular, small doses) is necessary for all learners’. (2013:12)

The rationale behind introducing students to features of connected speech is based on the theory that there has been shift in focus of teaching phonology, Brown (1996: 1) and that this has had an impact on students’ listening skills. In addition, coursebooks do not utilize the tapescript in order to raise awareness of phonology. As such students are never able to practise exam technique presented in coursebooks, whilst also analysing the language or phonology. Field refers to this as the ‘comprehension approach’ (2009:12), but, there is an argument that students need to understand the process of getting the correct answer. It is also particularly necessary in this task as students have to write a correct written response.

Ur (1984:18) gives some examples of when words can sound very different from their written form.

Rost and Wilson suggest that to overcome this, students need 'multiple exposure' (2013:11) to words, and also suggest a way to help raise awareness is by exposing students with ‘little and often’ to connected speech. However, in the time that I have for the lesson, students will learn about some examples of weak forms and elision in connected speech. It would be impossible to analyse the whole tapescript for examples of connected speech, instead this approach will help to sensitize them to some potentially difficult areas. As these students are at the beginning of the course, these techniques will help them as they gain more linguistic competence as the course continues.

Abbas, P & Mohammed, R 2011 A study of Factor affecting EFL learner's English Listening Comprehension and the strategies for improvement Journal of Language Teaching and Research vol 2 no: 5 pp.977-988
Brown, G 1996 Listening to Spoken English Longman
Field, J 2009 More Listening or better Listeners? English Teaching Professional
Rost, M & Wilson JJ 2013 Active Listening Pearson
Ur, P 1984 Teaching Listening CUP

Stage 1 lead in
Aim:To give stds a chance to express opinions on the topic.

stds-stdsstds-tch(5 mins)

 1. Stds talk about the item that they think best represents our century. (HMK set from previous day)

2. Feedback of ideas.

3. Stds answers Qs about time capsules.

Stage 2 pre-listening task
Aims: To familiarise the stds with the listening task again by reminding them of the techniques.
To prepare them for the task.

tch-stds stds-stds stds-tch (10 mins)

1. Elicit the types of listening at CAE.

2. Elicit info/techniques for the sentence completion task. Check ideas with PPT.

3. Stds apply their knowledge and predict the part of speech relevant for each space.

4. Feedback of ideas.

Stage 3 listening task

Aims: To give stds controlled listening for specific information practice.
To allow students to check their answers and reflect on the topic.

ind stds,stds-stds(15 mins)

1. Stds do the listening task.

2. Check together.

3. Stds listen again.

4. Check together.

5. Stds check the answers on the PPT.

6. Stds answer Q about the listening topic.

Stage 4 Post-listening analysis

Aims: To allow students to see the answers in the context of the whole script and to draw students' attention to difficult areas involving connected speech.

t-stds stds-stds (5 mins)

1. Stds look at answers in conext of the tapescript. (answers that are preceded by a weak grammatical form)

2. Stds look at answers in context of the tapescript (answers that involve changes to lexical sounds)

Stage 5
Controlled practice

Aims: To allow stds to analyse when elision happen in connected speech.
To give stds a chance to practise saying phrases paying attention to elided sounds.

stds-stds (20 mins)

1. Stds read the handout on when /t/ is elided

2. Stds say the sentences and decide which letters are left out. Listen and check. Stds check answers at the bottom of the page. Stds practise saying the phrases.

3. Stds read the handout on when /d/ is elided.

4. Stds say the sentences and decide which letters are left out. Listen and check. Stds check answers at the bottom of the page. Stds practise saying the phrases.

Stage 6 Analysis

Aim: To allow stds to analyse the tapescript and apply the rules of elision to the text they listened to.

t-stdsstds-stdsstds-t (5 mins)

1. Stds look at the answers in the tapescript to find examples of elision of /t/ and /d/.

2. Stds make a list of the things they have learnt about how to do this task.

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