I’m putting together some activities to help students understand more fluent English speech, ready for a seminar on listening skills I’m running next weekend. One of the activities is micro-dictations of common questions spoken at as normal a speed as possible. It can be difficult to find things like this ready-prepared, so I’ve recorded some and embedded them here:
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.
- Ask the students to cover the board with as many verbs as they can think of. They should stick to the infinitive/first form, and will probably do this without prompting
- Elicit any corrections to spelling/form.
- Leave a pile of squares of paper/post-it notes on a desk. Ask students to write the past simple form of each verb on the pieces of paper, one verb per piece, then stick the past form on top of the present form on the board. When they have finished, all of the infinitive verbs should be covered by all of the past forms.
- Circle any incorrect past forms, including where students have written a past form for a different verb (thinking specifically of fall-felt here!). Ask students to correct them.
- Write a separate list of only the problematic forms on the board, and ask students to copy it into their notebooks. We endedd up with 8 verbs from a total of about 40, including feel-felt, think-thought, fall-fell, show-showed, hear-heard
- Drill the pronunciation of the pairs.
- In pairs, ask students to write a short story including all of the past forms. This took my students 10 minutes.
- Create a gallery of the stories/Ask students to read them out.
I made up these activities during an hour of a cover lesson with B1 Intermediate students today. One of them said at the end, completely unprompted, “That was a useful lesson”, so I thought I’d write here so I could remember it in the future!