All-time favourite listening comprehension activity

A few further comments on an idea I tweeted earlier today…


I've been doing this with classes since before the Internet (!!!), taking a radio (what?!) into class to play the BBC news bulletin to learners First Certificate (B2) and above.

A one-minute bulletin is great, especially great now that you can have it with video (and no static!) and the task involves learners (individually) first listening; then listening again and transcribing everything they can; then comparing notes with a partner; then listening again and attempting to fill in any gaps.

If you're lucky (and yes, it's a bit hit and miss!) there will be at least one news item that will then lead on to discussion and debate.

It works because it's topical; it's real and up-to-the-minute; it's materials and preparation "light" (I don't make a transcription) but language and interaction "rich"; and it satisfies the principal requirement of my one-man crusade against the photocopier: number of photocopies required — none.

Persuading your learners to listen and watch such things on their own every day (they don't have to transcribe, of course!) is also a good idea as it's such great, extra listening comprehension practice.

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post only one thing a day (and quite frequently not even that), always and exclusively things I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Another wonderful lesson plan from Film English

Here's one of the best things I took away from yesterday's Image Conference: a wonderful lesson plan to accompany the above video.

I highly, highly recommend Kieran Donaghy's Film English, which recently won an ELTON. It has great lesson plans based on short films, which are invariably wonderfully as films, which people then seem to respond to so well in class, possibly because what they're watching is so much more than just another piece of listening material.

Without having seen the video, a colleague (hi, Kate!) had a class of teens produce a series of motivational "quotes" on index cards which they then posted around her school (classroom and corridor noticeboards, mostly), hoping that people would respond to them in some way.

They in fact didn't do so very much, but they loved the idea!

50 ways to use music and song in the classroom

Just a quick link to a wonderful collection of great ideas on using music and song from David Deubel's excellent blog.

Heres' one of my personal favourites for using song, from the same source, though if I had to pick one idea for exploiting songs (and particularly YouTube video clips) I'd have to say using them as a starting point for writing collaborative stories — for example with Norah Jones or Bruce Springsteen.

Favourite Edmodo+song activity: when someone (preferably not the teacher) shares a song video and it generates a huge amount of unexpected discussion…

Five things to look for in YouTube clips

What YouTube clips are going to "work" with your learners? Here's one, which I've not used with a class of learners (yet!) but which seems to have a lot going for it…

With just about any YouTube video you use with learners you want:

  1. A short clip, under 3 minutes definitely, under 2 better, under 1 terrific!
  2. Clear sound
  3. Something that it will lead on to, perhaps discussion, definitely use of the language and interaction between the learners

This one I spotted today on The Guardian under the headline Brad Pitt's Chanel No 5 ad: the smell of disaster, which gives me (4) a related article or other text to read and get further language and discussion from; the latter might take place after class, outside class, via an Edmodo group. Note also the other ads linked to in the article.

All I need now is (5) a simple, meaningful listening task of some kind; I'm thinking along the lines of seeing if, in pairs, the learners can jot down what Mr Pitt says verbatim…

But perhaps someone can suggest a better listening task… or a sixth (or seventh thing!) to look for in clips?

Texts learners actually want to read

Here's a story I spotted this morning when I opened Google Reader, as I do first thing every morning. I do that because almost every morning it brings me something I could use in class.

The headline that caught my eye was Miami Invaded By Giant, House-Eating Snails, and I immediately bookmarked it on Delicious, in fact even before I'd actually read the whole article. I'm not sure when I'll use it or with which class but it's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for…

What I'm thinking as I scan the headlines is that any story with a headline I want to click is maybe a text my learners are going to want to read; and any text they want to read is one I want to take to class.

And being on NPR, the article also comes with an audio version and a transcript (not to mention a photo to import to my interactive whiteboard).