On 4th June 2021 I did a presentation as part of IH Bucharest’s regular series of webinars. I did a version of a talk I first presented at IATEFL 2014, sharing activities you can use to train students to understand real-world listening, not just coursebook audio.
Bridging the gap between classroom and real-world listening
“I’ve studied English for years, but I can’t understand anyone!” This was a common complaint from students I worked with in the UK. Inspired by their problems and the work of John Field and Richard Cauldwell, 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.
Here is a recording of the talk, including more information about IH Bucharest and the teacher training they offer:
(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.
This is a lesson plan I put together about 18 months ago for a Proficiency group I was working with, so it’s designed for the face-to-face classroom but I think it would work well online too. I wanted to create something we could use as a reading assessment, hence the inclusion of marks for the reading questions. It’s based on selections from an authentic text from the BBC detailing various unusual traditions from England. It’s been sitting on my desktop since then waiting to go on my blog, and in the spirit of preparing for the new year, I present it for your use and enjoyment.
The lesson plan (also in the notes under the first slide when you download it) goes like this:
Display slide 1
What does the badge mean? And the title of the article?
“There’s nowt so queer as folk” is a saying loosely translated as “there’s nothing as strange as people”. It’s said to emphasise the strange behaviour of people.
In the article, it shows that these English customs are strange (queer) but traditional (folklore)
Do you know any strange English or Polish customs? – quick discussions
Slide 2: look at the pictures. What’s happening? Why? Make predictions. Give them at least 3 minutes to do this to ensure they are actually creative and don’t just give up!
Have the four articles printed out. Gist = match pictures to articles. Look at rest of presentation to check (pictures follow articles)
Reading CA (continuous assessment): Answer the questions on slide 11. (Total = 12 marks) They mark it themselves (switch papers?) by checking answers on slide 12. Collect the answers for Sandy to check and put on computer. [Fast finishers = reread the articles to check answers, then again to see what language you can steal. What tenses do they use? What interesting phrasing could you steal? etc.]
Vocab: choose two words or phrases from each article to add to their word cards. Encourage them to choose things they might use again! Each pair should select, then work with another pair to reselect, then as a class (pyramid discussion). Make sure they use dictionaries (www.oald8.com) when writing out definitions!
Show pictures on slide 13. Tell partner what’s happening in the pictures now that you know from reading. Can you use any of the new vocab?
Slide 14: Work in pairs. Create your own strange tradition. Use the guidelines to help. Afterwards they read each others (gallery) and decide which one they would like to watch as a tourist.
I wonder how many of these traditions still happened in 2020? What unusual traditions exist where you are?
This was a lesson I did with my Proficiency group towards the end of the last academic year. It’s inspired by a podcast episode and general discussions about science and diversity, particularly the number of women who leave science at various points. The PowerPoint shows the structure of the lesson:
The part of the lesson the students responded best to was sharing their drawings of four different people for the first activity. After they’d shared them, I asked how many were male and how many were female, and whether that surprised them at all. Considering we had a female scientist as one of the students in the group, only one picture out of twenty showed a woman! The statistics also prompted a lot of discussion.
As a mini language focus, we looked at how the four different biographies were structured in an attempt for me to figure out how to get more discourse in my lessons. Here’s what I said:
Peggy Whitson: almost every sentence has a background > result/event structure.
Marie Tharp: there’s a lot of potentially emotive emphatic language like controversial, dismissed, painstakingly etc.
Wanda Diaz-Merced: a straightforward narrative in order of events.
Quarraisha Abdool Karim: a list of some of her achievements.
Discourse is not something I know much about, so please feel free to give me more technical information about this! Based on this, students could choose a female scientist to write their own biography about, using one of these structures as a possible framework.
We only spent a very brief time on the final activity about possible solutions as the plan actually took nearly two whole lessons.
I’d be interested to know how it goes down with your students if you choose to use it, and what you would add or change.
My very first presenting experience was sharing a couple of activities at a swapshop at a PARK conference, I think in 2009. I went to every one of the PARK conferences while I lived in Brno, so it was lovely to be invited to present this time round, and to be able to do it due to a Polish national holiday 🙂
I did a version of a talk I first presented at IATEFL 2014, sharing activities you can use to train students to understand real-world listening, not just coursebook audio. You can find it here, along with all of the audio from the presentation.
If you’d like to find other resources connected to listening skills, beyond the ones shared in the presentation, I would also recommend:
Since I did an assessed lesson based on listening for my Delta, I’ve been interested in finding out more ways to help my students develop their listening skills. I even did a presentation on it myself at IATEFL Harrogate 2014, heavily influenced by John Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom [affiliate link]. Richard Cauldwell’s book Phonology for listening: Teaching the stream of speech[another affiliate link!] has also been very useful in helping me to understand why it can be so difficult for learners to decode fluent connected speech. I was therefore very pleased to be able to attend presentations given by both John and Richard during this IATEFL. The other presentations summarised in this post were from the Forum on Listening.
I haven’t tried to summarise Jane Setter’s plenary on intonation for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t get it all into tweets, 2. to fully appreciate the intonation differences, you really need to watch/listen to it yourself!
You can also watch an interview with Jane recorded after the plenary.
John started by telling us that he has been ‘worrying about listening for the last 34 years’.
The typical comprehension approach starts with pre-listening and activating schemata, something that doesn’t reflect real life. We also don’t pre-teach vocabulary in real life, so it’s counter-productive in training. The next step is to set questions to target listening, then play the recording, check answers, and replay key sections (providing answers as we go). However, this approach doesn’t actually train learners to become better listeners.
(not a great picture, I know, but it shows why the student thought the answer to a question was ‘crack’, when in fact it was ‘nature reserves’ – they misheard the word ‘attract’ in the stream of speech)
John thinks that we can get a lot more out of the comprehension approach. We should forget about activating schemata and pre-teaching vocabulary, as these don’t happen in real life, though we should quickly introduce students to the context and the number of speakers, as they would normally know this, e.g. two people talking on a bus.
It isn’t usually the script that causes the problem, it’s the recording. The item writer is not involved in the recording. Tasks also need to be carefully thought out, as we give away in writing a lot of what’s in the recording, and encourage test-wise strategies, rather than strategies for general listening. To improve their approach, the teacher needs to prepare the listening in detail – using the script WITH the recording. What’s perceptually difficult?
There should be a first play for SS adjust to speakers’ voices, listening globally without the pressure of questions, and without using questions to guess in advance what they’re likely to hear. If you’re going to use questions, set them before the second listen, so that they don’t interfere with the learners’ perceptions the first time they hear the text. Check and DIAGNOSE reasons for learners’ answers, then replay parts identified by you AND students as perceptually difficult. Transcribe short sections, especially if they are particularly problematic. Listeners are individuals, each with their own problems with a recording, and these change over time and with experience. If you can afford it, provide a listening centre where listeners can work on their own problems individually. Give learners a transcript at the end of the lesson and ask them to listen again. Set listening homework. Though my students almost never do it – I need to have more engaging tasks and clearer developmental reasons for them to do it!
Do we need better materials? YES! New writers often don’t have a clear idea of what a skills approach is. Materials should take pressure off the teacher, guiding them, and focussing on the difficult parts of the recording. Field suggests open-ended questions, so the class can talk about possible answers. Sometimes you could use short clips with a single question, instead of the more normal long excerpts with multiple questions. You could also embed oral questions in the script rather than written questions to stay within the same modality (so have the speaker ask a question, then pause for answer). Materials should demonstrate a better understanding of the processes that underlie successful listening and design questions to target them.
We also need to understand better what it is we’re actually teaching! When you listen you:
search for words
Sometimes context makes us distort the phonemes we think we’ve heard to make it fit the context. To handle the speech signal, we have to adjust to speaker’s voice (pitch, speech rate etc), then match the set of squeaks/buzzes we hear to the sound system of English. But do phonemes really exist? They are so variable, maybe they don’t. This echoes Richard Cauldwell – see below. To handle words, we have to divide connected speech, recognise spoken word forms, link them to what’s know about the topic. To parse, we must hold in our heads the words which have already been said, recognise grammatical patterns, and work out the word’s sense in it’s co-text. To construct meaning, we have to put what we’ve heard into a wider context, interpret new information in relation to this, infer information the speaker has taken for granted, and link words like he/she/it to what they refer to. This is followed by putting it into wider discourse (I couldn’t keep up at this stage!) There’s an awful lot going on!
How does this knowledge help us? An expert listener does these things automatically, but L2 listeners need lots of effort to do each of these things, so it can be hard for them to form the ‘big picture’ of what they’re listening to. Up to about B1, learners have to give a lot of attention to decoding at word level, limiting their ability to tap into wider meaning (I’ve definitely found this with Polish). Strategy instruction should therefore mainly be done with lower-level learners to equip them with the fact that they often can’t make wider sense of what they’re hearing. Strategy training helps them with real-world situations and to compensate for gaps in text. Lower-level learners needs process training and strategies training to fill in gaps.
You can use the same audio, but vary the task to target any of the five levels of listening.
A syllabus for listening: less top-down! More bottom-up (Richard Cauldwell)
Richard relishes fast, messy speech and tries to find ways to help learners understand it. His CoolSpeech app was an ELTons 2013 winner for digital innovation, and he is currently in the process of writing a follow-up to Phonology for listening: Teaching the stream of speech[affiliate link] which will provide a clear syllabus for listening for language teachers to work from.
All words have multiple sound shapes. Decoding is the skill of recognising words in the sound substance (or ‘fog’ in John Field’s words). The sound substance is the acoustic blur of speech, which exits the mouth, travels through the air, and hits the ear. It’s what exists before perception.
Richard uses a metaphor for different speeds and qualities of speech. The greenhouse is the place for citation forms. In the garden, sounds touch each other gently through the basic rules of connected speech. In the jungle, wild things happen and all bets are off. He argues there are different goals for pronunciation (clarity/intelligibility) and listening (understanding fast, messy, authentic speech).
Teachers tend to brush the mess of sound under the carpet, so even CPE Grade A students have ‘can’t do’ listening points. Every word has a ‘word cloud’: a range of possible word shapes in fluent speech, of which the citation form is the least likely.
The examples of ‘and’ above were all taken from a single conversation, with only one instance of it even vaguely approaching the citation form.
Here are just some of the changes which can happen in fluent speech (in the jungle):
Consonant death: this can appear in many ways e.g. that changes to ‘at
d’eth drop: anenatwasat– no ‘th’s (instead of and that was that)
B-drop/B-soft – often happens with adverbs e.g. superbly – the ‘b’ can be lost or very soft
Smoothie: when diphthongs/long vowels change to just one of their elements: like > læ
There were a lot more, but I just couldn’t keep up!
To help student, we need to delve below the word that is meant to the sound substance itself – what sounds were actually produced. Field and Thorn both advocate using short clips to help students focus (see ‘the bathtub experiment’ below too). Audacity is the best tool to help you break up the stream of speech.
Try this activity: replace the ‘i’ with each of the vowel sounds in the image. This helps students to prepare for different possible ‘shapes’ and accents:
The earworm should be short term, memory length, annoying, and stick in their head to prepare them for perception. I sometimes wake up with words or phrases like this in my head from foreign languages.
Have students listen along with an audio, and when they get to the most important part of it (the ‘wave’), get them to speak along with it (‘ride the wave’):
After the conference, I noticed that Richard shared Tubequizard as a link on his handout – it’s an excellent way to help students to focus on connected speech.
Adventures in listening: the bathtub experiment (Marie Willoughby)
Marie teaches students who attend full-time classes at IH London. She finds her students only get so far with listening before they begin to disengage. Sheila Thorn inspired Marie to start trying different ways of approaching listening in the classroom, and after listening to an episode of the The Moth podcast, she realised she had the perfect material to use, talking about a man who sailed across the English Channel in a bathtub. The only problem was that it was 17 minutes long! Marie decided to break it into a series of mini episodes, each with a cliffhanger. She then used these over a series of lessons.
Marie found that the best texts to use as episodes have a clear narrative, but are outside normal experience. In this case, pure sound is better than video, as students are more invested in understanding what they’re hearing, and will therefore try harder to apply the decoding strategies. If they have pictures to help them, they don’t need to work so hard to apply the strategies. Once she had the episode, she asked two questions: What stops them underrstanding? What will help them understand later?
First, they always listened with no task, then worked together to co-construct the text with other students. They then moved on to focussing on a particular decoding strategy, which students were then able to apply in later lessons. By using short excerpts in small chunks you have time to pause and get students to consider the language in more detail. For example:
Decode past perfect v. past simple when listening, first as a gapfill with a section they were familiar with, then listening to the next part of the story and saying what they heard.
Say why a speaker would choose one particular phrase, or why they would repeat it.
Listen to his description of a problem. Draw it on mini whiteboards.
The storyteller talked about English/French attitudes to each other, so Marie asked them to research it, after which the students understood the jokes better.
Vocab was a problem, especially familiar words in a new context, so she got students to listen and complete a sentence, then think about the meaning.
What are the benefits of using an ‘adventure in episodes’? There’s no need to reset context or activate genre knowledge each time. Prediction is a natural part of listening to such a story. The students were really motivated to find out what happened next. Intensive decoding work really bore fruit – they were invested in doing detailed intensive listening work. It also developed their autonomy.
I really like this idea, especially for summer school or 121 lessons, though I think it could take quite a lot of work to prepare. It reminds me of my French teacher introducing us to the French musical version ofRoméo et Juliette, with us listening to one song each week and trying to follow the story. You could also use the BBC Short Cuts or Listening Project podcasts. Of course, once you have it for one adventure, they don’t date much, so you should have it for the future. If teachers share this kind of thing on blogs, you could have examples to draw from. If you choose to do this, please share the link below!
Listening using smart devices: effects on student interaction and autonomy (Clive Shaw)
The conventional classroom layout has speakers at the front, but Clive wanted to know what happens if we change where students/teachers are in the room. If the teacher is in control, it’s not easy to monitor, and students don’t have much of an opportunity to work on their own listening strategies. It’s also difficult for students to transition from the controlled environment of the classroom to the unguided environment of the lecture hall (Clive works in EAP – I think this is true all the time, and this prompted by IATEFL Harrogate presentation).
Clive investigated how listening from a smartphone changed the dynamic, encouraged autonomy and gave students the opportunity to employ strategies. He designed the materials based on two sources: taken from YouTube or by creating his own recordings. To get the recordings to the students he used TubeChop for YouTube and Audioboom for his own recordings, then a link shortener (my preferred one is bit.ly). Recognising that these took longer to prepare than coursebook audio, Clive deliberately selected easy-to-prepare tasks, for example two-column notetaking.
The biggest difference in the classroom was the seating plan:
Each group had one phone, and the weakest student was normally in control of it. Clive found out that students became more aware of listening strategies they employed when using smartphones. Students were more able to use context/syntax to decode problem areas as they could play it again as many times as they wanted to. Students were also encouraged to make their own decisions about when and how to review extract.
I’ve always played with seating arrangements, but it had never occurred to me to do it with listening extracts before. This seems like a great way of helping mixed-ability groups in particular, and also helps students to get used to background noise when listening, something we don’t do enough of.
Tweets from other sessions
#iatefl2017 Give Ls TIME to hear a sound. Then tasks to notice the sound. McKinnon & Meldrum. No pressure to produce.
It’s a very long time since I wrote one of these (nearly 3 years to be exact)! On Wednesday 14th January 2015 I took part in my first ELTchat for about a year, and since my topic was chosen, it’s only fair that I did the summary too 🙂
If you’ve never come across ELTchat before, it’s a weekly hour-long conversation which takes place on Twitter (almost) every Wednesday, alternating between 12pm and 9pm UK time. At the end of the chat, one lucky person takes the transcript and summarises the discussion. All of the summaries are then added to the amazing summaries index, which goes back to October 2010. These are the people who took part in this chat (no underscores, so check the transcript for their proper Twitter handles!)
What are authentic materials?
There were many aspects to the definition of authentic materials. There’s a bit of repetition, but you can pick and choose the parts that make up the best definition for you:
Anything written for any purpose other than language instruction;
Not designed for linguistic purposes (no input flood/specific language point);
Things to consider when choosing authentic materials
The function/purpose of the text, not just the language included in it.
Is it interesting/motivational for your students?
What will they learn from it?
What do the learners need to be able to produce themselves? Can you find real examples of it?
Can the learners provide them for you?
With ESP (English for Specific Purposes) materials, do you need to know the jargon/terminology, or can your learners explain it to you?
Will the students’ knowledge of the content make it easier for them to access the text?
They don’t have to be perfect. Materials with mistakes can be just as useful for students as ‘perfect’ ones, particularly if they’re documents that the students may encounter, e.g. in-company documentation.
It’s not a magic bullet – the text and tasks still need to have relevant content and be at an appropriate level.
Ways of using authentic materials
Exploit language to develop vocabulary, raise awareness of grammatical patterns/collocations/connected speech etc.
Encourage students to personalise chunks of language taken from the text.
Correct the mistakes/improve the text.
Analyse the text structure and/or style (text/genre analysis).
Develop skills in the same way as you would with non-authentic materials (e.g. coursebook texts).
To promote discussion about the content of the text.
As warmers for writing lessons (videos from BBC Breaking were particularly recommended)
Top-down: start from the context and move towards the language.
Bottom-up: start from the language and move towards the wider topic.
For enjoyment! Extensive reading/listening practice.
Show examples, then let students create their own.
Match pictures of food to items on the menu.
‘In a restaurant’ role play.
Focus on the connections between the messages and the development of the conversation.
After working with the examples, students post their own reviews on the websites.
Choose the most suitable candidate for a job.
Write a story based on the characters whose CVs you have.
Email your students with a problem you have. Get them to reply, then screenshot/print the replies and work on the language in them. They’re responding to a real text you’ve written. [Note from Sandy: I did something similar by asking friends on Twitter/facebook to tell my pre-intermediate students their problems so they could solve them – SS loved it!]
Points of debate
Should you pre-teach vocabulary?
It may be easier for students to access the text if you do, and some ‘blocking vocabulary’ (things which are vital to understanding the text) may be important so that students have an idea what’s going on in the text and don’t get too depressed.
If you don’t pre-teach, it reflects real-life conditions more and may help them to develop coping strategies. Giving students the chance to look up vocabulary might be more useful to them than pre-teaching it, as would priming them for the content/ideas in the text rather than specific vocabulary (activating schemata – alerting the students to prior knowledge they may have of the topic).
Consider your aim: are you using it primarily for the content, or as training in how to approach authentic materials?
Should you choose materials to fit your aims or just things which take your fancy?
One idea was that it’s important for the teacher to be interested in the materials, otherwise it might be difficult to put together a ‘super duper’ lesson! Although our training is there to help us make boring stuff more exciting 😉
We need to consider what materials students need to access outside class and base our choices on this.
Should you adapt or simplify the materials?
Adapting or simplifying the text removes the authenticity of the language. It is also time consuming. Managing to understand a text without knowing all the words is a vital skill which students need to develop. You can train students to use paralinguistic features, such as images or layout, to help them understand the text. Being able to understand unadapted materials can be very motivating for students.
On the other hand, simplifying the text can help students to access it in the first place, and you can build up to exposure to the original once they are familiar with the content. This could help beginner/elementary students in particular. If students become frustrated with the material because it’s too difficult, they may just stop trying to understand it. Audacity is a useful tool for slowing down audio through changing the tempo.
You could also choose ‘usable excerpts’ from a text, rather than using all of it. Examples might be a short section of a longer video, or a couple of paragraphs from a longer article.
Is authenticity important in the tasks too?
i.e. Should the texts be used in a way which is faithful to real life?
Authentic tasks can be more motivating for the students, perhaps because the purpose of the tasks is clearer to them. However, they may require extra tasks (scaffolding) before you get to the authentic tasks though to ensure students are prepared sufficiently. There is also the argument that language work is a necessary part of what we do in the classroom in order to aid learning. On the other hand, authentic texts sometimes have a ‘magic’ of their own and help to motivate the students without language work.
Using materials like menus in atypical ways could add an interesting twist for students. Examples of tasks include using the menu to practise reading prices, rather than just for ordering food, or an information gap with different information blanked out for each student. The intended use of the text in real life doesn’t need to be paramount.
Can you use authentic materials with lower-level learners?
Yes! Grade the task, not the text. Give them achievable targets, for example, identifying the names of the main characters in a short story could train learners to notice the use of capital letters for names. Another activity could be reading a DVD case to find the length of the film and whether the actors have won any awards.
Support can also be provided in the form of pictures, pre-teaching vocabulary and/or a summary of the text beforehand. With audio materials, you can repeat it as many times as necessary. Pausing helps learners to assimilate the text, and you can discuss what SS have heard and what they think will come next.
Bear in mind, though, that sometimes the text is just too difficult for the students. Widdowson suggests that authentic materials may be too challenging for lower-level students, but those living in English-speaking environments have to deal with them, so as teachers we need to help them.
Is it worth it?
The general consensus was that when used correctly students really enjoy authentic materials, even if they don’t understand it all. You’re exposing learners to real patterns of language which they can use. Those teaching in English-speaking environments thought it was particularly important to use authentic materials with their students as this is what they encounter as soon as they leave class.
Links and further reading
Pinterest or wikis were suggested as ways to collate authentic materials.
A few days after I arrived in Sevastopol, Lea Sobocan posted this on facebook:
I have a request for my PLN – more specifically for the segment of you who have experienced living in another country/culture.
I’m currently discussing moving to another country/immigration with my students and I’d really appreciate any thoughts, feelings, difficulties and joys to be found in living abroad. Preferably in audio form, but whatever works for you.
Some of the people I’ve spoken with saw immigration to another country as something you just get up and do and they seem to be certain everyone will greet them with open arms. I’d like to offer a more balanced view and a first-hand account of someone who had this experience.
Any help, in form of text, audio clip or similar will be greatly appreciated.
Lea had helped me before by recording a clip about her favourite TV show, so I thought it was only fair I return the favour. I recorded this audioboo about moving to Sevastopol, then promptly forgot about it:
A few days later I was surprised to get a message from Claire Hart telling me that she had created a series of activities around my two-minute recording. I asked her to share the result with you, and I think you’ll agree, it’s a pretty good lesson. Thanks Claire!
How Claire used the recording
Killing a bit of time before the first class of the day, I found myself reading my Twitter feed. One of the tweets that popped up was from Sandy Millin. It was a link to an audio recording she had posted on Audioboo where she talked about her experience of recently relocating to Sevastopol, Ukraine. The class I was about to start teaching was a C1 group who had asked for practice listening to British people speaking because they tend to find their British colleagues difficult to understand. I’d been using excerpts from BBC television series and BBC world service podcasts with them over the previous weeks, but Sandy’s recording seemed to provide a refreshing alternative to that.
I decided to take a chance and improvise an activity around Sandy’s recording with just 2 minutes to go before the class started. This was a bit of a challenge, but I found that having to think on my feet rather than going through a pre-planned, pre-rehearsed routine made me more present and alert. What was striking is how surprised the learners were to learn that Sandy is a real person and she’s talking about experiences that she has really had. I suppose this just goes to show how learners get used to listening to people playing fictional characters having scripted conversations with each other. When I told them that I actually know Sandy, their enthusiasm shot up even more. I’ve used this recording with several groups at a range of levels and, interestingly, all of them seem to have understood more of what Sandy said than they usually understand when we listen to a recording designed for English learning. Even my A2 group could accurately recount the key points that Sandy made and include some of the detail.
The “real-ness” of this activity was particularly palpable when I used the recording with a group of eight, five of whom have moved to Germany from either Turkey, Hungary, Russia, Poland or Romania. When I asked them to consider why people would move to a foreign country, what difficulties you can face when you make that move and how you can overcome them, the non-Germans in the group were able to tap into their real experiences and share those with the others. When I asked them to write short texts evaluating the benefits and difficulties of moving to a foreign country, what I got back from them were honest and touching accounts of how hard moving to a foreign country can be, but how it can help you to find a better quality of life. They put a lot of effort into writing these texts because the topic was important to them. Even the learners who haven’t had the experience of moving to another country themselves, seemed to have a lot of empathy for Sandy and were keenly interested in what is going on in her life.
The lesson skeleton
1. Look at the statement “I’ve just moved to Sevastopol”
What have I done?
When did I do it?
2. Ask the learners if they know where Sevastopol is. Can they find it on a map of Europe? What do they know about Ukraine? Which countries are its neighbours? What languages do they speak there? What food do they eat? Have they ever visited this part of the world?
3. Show them information about the population of Sevastopol, its climate and its landmarks and ask them to say what questions this information gives you the answers to. You can also use this as an opportunity to practise saying long numbers, comparing temperatures or discussing what sights they enjoy visiting.
4. Ask them if they think Sevastopol would be a good place to go on holiday to. Why/ why not?
5. Ask them to brainstorm reasons why someone would move to Sevastopol. Then ask them to speculate about why Sandy, an English teacher who is originally from England but who’s lived in a few different countries, would move to Sevastopol.
6. Listen to the recording and give them level-appropriate questions to answer. A lower-level question could be: What words does Sandy think you should learn first when you move to another country and why? A higher-level question could be: What difficulties did Sandy face when she arrived in Sevastopol and how has she been able to overcome them?
7. As a follow-up or homework task, you can ask the learners to write a text on the benefits and difficulties of living a foreign country.
This presentation has slides connected to each of the steps in the lesson skeleton:
(You can download it by clicking ‘slideshare’ and logging in – it’s free to create an account, and you can link via facebook if you want to.)
What I’ve learned here is that if you make a recording where you honestly describe interesting, unusual or important experiences in your life and share it through sites like Audioboo, you can produce meaningful authentic audio material that learners will respond really well to because it’ll resonate with them and their lives. The response I’ve received to using this recording has been extremely positive and my learners are now keen to know what Sandy does next.
Claire Hart teaches general English, business English and technical English to university students and business people in Southern Germany. She frequently presents on topics such as using authentic materials, mobile learning and teaching technical English at ELT conferences. She’s also a course book and teacher’s book author and an online materials writer, specialising in business English and ESP materials.