Stepping into the real world: transitioning listening

This is the recorded version of a presentation which originally took place on Friday 4th April 2014 at IATEFL Harrogate 2014.

The abstract

“I’ve studied English for years, but I can’t understand anyone!” This was a common complaint from my students on arrival in the UK. This workshop aims to introduce you to practical activities and materials you can use to help students transition from understanding scripted listening materials to feeling comfortable with real-world English.

The summary

Listening is the skill we use most in a second language. We have to understand speakers in many different contexts, of different ages, genders, levels of education, and with a range of accents, both native and non-native. However, this is rarely reflected in the classroom, where listening tends to be focussed on other students in class or on scripted coursebook recordings in ‘standard’ forms of English, mostly spoken by young to middle-aged adults (or overly excited children in the case of young learner materials!). Teachers also tend to focus on testing comprehension, rather than on teaching better listening skills. This results in students lacking confidence in their listening abilities and/or lacking knowledge of how to approach listening in the real world.

The aim of this workshop is to introduce and try out a range of activities and materials which you can use in your classroom to teach listening, rather than testing it. Some of the principles discussed will be based on John Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom (Cambridge 2008), as well as my own experience in the classroom and as a second language learner. The workshop will also look at how you can make the listening you use in the classroom reflect the real world as much as possible. Finally, participants will be given the chance to share activities and materials which have worked for them, as well as discussing how to apply the activities from the workshop to their own contexts.

The presentation

You can watch the full presentation in this video:

The books I recommended are:

(These are affiliate links, so if you buy them or anything else after clicking on these links I will get a little money. Thank you!)

I also recommend showing your students how to make the most of podcasts. I wrote a post on my Independent English blog which you can use as an introduction or to find links to some podcasts I recommend.

I’ve previously shared resources related to weak forms, including more word clouds like the one in the presentation.

The audio tracks are not included in the presentation, so I’ve uploaded them to audioboo so you can listen to them and/or use them in class. No copyright infringement is intended.

Slide 6, audio 1

Slide 6, audio 2

Slide 12

Slide 13, audio 1

Slide 13, audio 2

Slide 16

From another perspective

Lizzie Pinard wrote a summary of my talk as it was happening

Andrea at Anglolang including a summary of my talk in her review of IATEFL 2014

Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson look at the talk from the perspective of English as a Lingua Franca

James Taylor wrote a one-sentence summary which made me laugh 🙂

20 thoughts on “Stepping into the real world: transitioning listening

  1. Hi Sandy,
    What a great job you’re doing, congratulations!
    As a non-native English teacher in Spain, I also want to thank you for your perfect vocalisation, which made it so easy for me to understand your presentation.
    I think I became a teacher of English because I love the way it sounds, and I’ve found out after years of experience, that that’s what I enjoy teaching, even though regular coursebooks don’t focus on sounds. So, I’ll have to watch/listen to your presentation again to write down all the nice activities you offer.
    I’d also like to share another activity I started doing with my elementary business English students this year – and I think it will work out better if I try your activities before this one. Mine is related to your micro-dictations, but I used wassap. I recorded a short text from their coursebook/reader with my smartphone (maybe 10-15 sec.) and sent it to them. They would have to listen to it until they found where the text was from and then they would practise and record themselves reading it outloud. When they felt it sounded good enough, they’d wassap it to me and I’d give them feedback on their pronunciation… I tried using edmodo first, but they told me wassap was easier and faster to use, so I gave it a try and it worked!


    1. Hi Angeles,
      Thanks very much for the comment and the activity. It’s always a good idea to use a tool students are already familiar with as they’re more likely to take advantage of the things we share with them that way. I’d never thought of using What’sApp though – great idea! I like the activity too – it sounds like a great puzzle!


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