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Developing listening comprehension skills at a high school
Entering the modern European Community presupposes a high level of knowledge of lingua franco that is English. In modern society English has become one of the most usable and available means of communication through the Internet first of all – the Skype program. New technologies opened immeasurable and very productive devices both for users and learners to stay in touch with people all over the world. In connection with the above there appears a problem to optimize the learning and cognate activity of students as future specialists in the field and users of English both in professional and every day life.
Developing listening comprehension skills is important for students, especially in the communicative language environment where activities often revolve around interactions between English language learners. Designing a lesson with listening comprehension activities the teacher should be especially creative to organize the pre-listening, listening and post listening training. There should be given a concern to the materials for listening comprehension.When selecting materials, the following criteria can be used to make listening comprehension activities both productive and engaging.
1. Make material relevant to students.
When selecting listening comprehension materials, it is important to decide how relevant they are to the learner’s and long-term learning goals. One way to determine this is to conduct a needs assessment of the learners: identify the students’ interests, language learning strength and weakness, and the real-life situations they are likely to encounter. Then set appropriate learning objectives. This way, the content of the didactic material will go a long way towards maintaining student’s interest and motivation levels.
If materials are not selected carefully, and student performance will suffer. For example, Management students would have little interest in developing listening comprehension skills by listening to a report on Cadastral data. Apart from not understanding the vocabulary involved, they would not be motivated to understand something that they cannot relate to. Consequently, the true level of their listening comprehension skills would be misleading because wrong answers could signify a lack of interest or knowledge of specific vocabulary, rather than the actual level of their listening comprehension skills.
Regarding long-term learning goals, in Ukraine younger students may be more interested in developing their listening skills through music or general interest topics, in contrast, an EFL- class consisting of students specializing in Tourism might be more interested in being able to comprehend conversation in hotel or restaurant setting, in understanding how to take orders correctly, or in answering customers’ questions. Every student is different, and it is particularly important to identify the learning goals of each student.
2. Focus in the clear design and layout of materials
The design and layout of the materials are another factor to consider when developing listening comprehension activities. Teachers should avoid including too many activities that may cause the learner to feel overwhelmed and unable to focus on each listening comprehension task. When designing listening comprehension materials, give clear instructions at the beginning of each activity and one of two examples of the expected response. This confirms the expected outcome by students and prevents feelings of confusion and frustration. If students misunderstand the expected response, they may give teachers the wrong impression of their listening comprehension ability.
3. Emphasize prediction in listening comprehension materials.
Any activity worksheet used for listening comprehension should contain the correct schema to help students predict the type of language they will hear. One technique is to use pictures that relate to the topic or situation in a listening activity. This will provide the correct schema and aid student’s comprehension ability. The presentation of worksheet will either assist of detract from student’s ability to give correct indications of their actual listening comprehension skill. To maximize student’s learning ability, assist them by taking the time to design a worksheet that is user-friendly.
So select materials appropriate for student’s level.
When evaluating listening materials, carefully consider the level of the students. The responses required should be appropriate for their level. For example, it would be unrealistic to use a listening activity in which beginning students listen to a conversation involving two friends discussing environmental problems and then expect the students to give their opinion on the environmental problems, based on the comments of the speakers in the listening activity.
It would be more appropriate to give beginning students a listening activity that requires them to give a short answer that confirms information given in the listening activity or which asks them to directly transfer what they have heard in a gap-fill activity. These activities are more appropriate to help beginning students develop their linguistic knowledge, thus avoiding the danger of overestimating their comprehension and language activity.
4. Using authentic materials
The use of authentic text helps students to further develop their communicative skills . When designing actual listening comprehension materials, the teacher should be aware that authentic materials give the learner the chance to develop skills that are needed in real-life situations.
With the use of authentic materials students learn to comprehend challenging language elements such as a natural rate of delivery and intonation, false starts, slang, reduced forms, abbreviations, and other characteristics of spoken language. This exposure helps students comprehend real-life, everyday language, make allowances for performance errors by other speakers, deal with interruptions, and so on. Some texts are limited in the amount of authentic listening activities they provide, especially for the lower levels. It is therefore important to take the opportunity, wherever possible, to help students become communicatively competent by exposing them to examples of how language is actually used.
The use of authentic materials is beneficial for learners because the skills that are developed transfer beyond the classroom. Some examples are listening to a telephone message to understand a cancelled appointment, to a newscast to learn about current events, or to songs to relax and learn about the English lyrics and popular bands.
The most important factor to bear in mind when designing a lesson to develop listening comprehension skills is that students need to be motivated and to stay motivated. In view of the above mentioned principles there is a hope they will help teachers design successful lessons that motivate students to improve their listening skills and become more communicatively competent.
Porter, D., and J. Robert. 1987. Authentic listening activities. In Methology in TESOL: A book of readings. ed. M.H.Longand, J.C.Richards, 177-190. New-York:Newbury House.