Does anyone know how to do extensive listening?

Recently, my colleague asked me for my collated list of Extensive Listening (EL) links, which prompted a short discussion on EL, and how to do it. This quickly highlighted the fact that we had two different ways to think about how to do EL. Unlike Extensive Reading (ER) we are all on the same page (pun intended), but the opposite is true for EL.

The problem with EL is that nobody ever figured out an elegant way to do it. I’ve written about EL before, after someone asked me how to do it (Blyth, 2015), which followed on from my ELT Journal article (Blyth, 2012), but I could only give generic advice. The big problem that listening teachers have, ever since the audio-lingual era, is that we’ve been too busy to do anything but borrow ideas from reading pedagogy (Field, 2008). EL is probably no different. We just uncritically adopted ER principles.

With ER, I provide my students with the following information, which is based on Day & Bamford (2002):

Rules: Extensive reading must be 1. Fun or interesting; 2. Easy; 3. You choose your own book, magazine, blog, anything; 4. Read lots; 5. Talk about it. Research suggests that you should know about 98% of words to have effective comprehension of the text. Choosing: for every 100 words, you should know 98 so it’s ok if you don’t know 2 words, but if more than three or four unknown words you should choose a different book…

So which of the above criteria can be applied to EL?

  1. Fun or interesting
  2. Easy
  3. Choose your own
  4. Listen lots
  5. Talk about it

But not “6. How to choose an EL text your level”. Listening texts are also invisible. With an ER book, you can look at it briefly and decide if the book is worth further investigation or not. Vision provides information up to 1000 times faster than any other sense. In contrast, students cannot know if the EL text is at, above, or below their level until they had already committed to putting on the headphones, pushing the play button, and waited to get a handle on the contents. With a book students can quickly see the level information, the number of headwords, the word count, size of font, number of lines per page, the thickness of the book, the type of pictures, and the usage of images too, among many other cues. In contrast, a listening text is a mystery bag, or like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to get”, until you start listening. This mystery element is the part that has always troubled me, and perhaps my students.

So far, there are a number of assumptions to get out of the way before we can get to the final question, “Is there a better way to do EL?”.

  1. Is extensive listening even needed?
  2. Is it effective?
  3. What is the current system of EL?
  4. Is the current system working?
  5. Is there a better way to do it?

The above questions deserve far more attention than what I can afford here, but brief answers are attempted just the same. Firstly, EL is indeed needed. For instance, Field (2008) argued that students on study abroad and similar programmes often struggle. They might be tested on their grammar, and placed into a class level based on their test-taking competency and grammar knowledge, but not their listening skills. Consequently, these students, especially those from the Far East, tend to do badly in class because they cannot access their grammar teacher’s verbal instruction, and so they blame themselves rather than the level placement apparatus. Another way to answer the first question is from a Vygotskian perspective: practice makes perfect. Research in brain science, suggests the more a certain set of neural pathways are used, the more connections are made, which results information being able to flow more efficiently  (Burton, 2013). That is, the more practice students get in listening, the better they will become.

Secondly, is EL effective? Masters and PhD students of Renandya & Farrell (2011) clearly demonstrate this. Students who did extensive listening outperformed students who received only listening strategy instruction. I argued in support of this point that strategy instruction is merely teaching students to compensate for a lack of skill, rather than teaching the skill to plug the gap (Blyth, 2012). Chang and Millett (2014) provided additional evidence that practising EL results in improved listening performance than no EL practice (or at least ER alone).

Thirdly, what is the current system of EL? On this point, I cannot give a clear answer, to which Chang & Millett say, “The practice of EL in L2 teaching is a relatively novel idea and its theoretical framework is undeveloped, so not many language teachers have the knowledge to carry it out” (2016, p351). Everyone seems to have their own idea on what and how to define EL, and how to implement it. So, to define what “4. Listen lots” means, as in, how much is “a lot”, cannot be done. What texts can be used? For Chang and Millett (2016) EL is listening to graded reader audio CDs. For Rob Warring (What is EL?), it is listening to a variety of (ungraded) web based texts like those listed on my Listening page.

Fourthly, despite the lack of clarity for the third question, EL is still more effective than teaching listening strategies. It still seems that any kind of practice is better than no practice.

Fifth and finally, is there a better way to do EL? I would like to begin discussion on this point. To me, the mystery bag element has to be dealt with. To begin with, how can we define the “mystery bag”? Firstly, grading; how can a student know if a particular or group of similar listening texts are level appropriate for him or herself. Secondly, what does level appropriate mean? What are the key features that make a listening text appropriate, whilst others inappropriate? Secondly, how much listening is needed on a weekly basis; assuming that a week is an appropriate increment of time to manage listening practice. On this point, my boss had his idea of the minimum time for students to listen, whilst I had mine. Mine demanded that students do at least thirty minutes a week, but they could choose a five minute text, and listen to it six times; or a fifteen minute text, and listen to it twice; or two or three different texts, but still total listening experience must be at least thirty minutes. Obviously, the number of times of practice matters, as argued earlier. However, what is the optimal length and number of times to listen?

Establishing standardised metadata

Publishers of graded readers have, in their various ways, admitted that certain metadata are needed. As mentioned earlier, information about the number of headwords, word count, CEF level, genre, and more all help the student decide if the book might be level appropriate for them. At the moment, most EL texts lack such information, except where it might be listed as “easy”, “medium”, or “difficult”, based on the curator’s judgement. Consequently, in the interests of making things easy for students, I would propose a similar system. I would hope that these criteria I’m suggesting not be the new standard, but be discussed, tested, and modified based on an informed position. Then, after rigorous testing, will the most appropriate ones be used. The metadata to consider are:

  1. CEF level
  2. Genre & topic
  3. Nature of text: authentic, genuine, or contrived.
  4. Length of text
  5. Words per minute
  6. Number of speakers
  7. Number of words outside of the 2,000 most common word range
  8. Number of academic and technical words from the AWL
  9. Number of idioms used
  10. Script availability: Yes / No
  11. What native-like phonological features are present?

Conclusion

It is hoped that future research on EL can begin to address a number of key issues. Firstly, what is an optimum length of listening time per week, and optimum number of times to listen to each text. Secondly, what is the best practice for doing EL, specially for an education environment where accountability (and grades) are concerned? Thirdly, what metadata are most useful for students to help them decide if a text is appropriate for their current listening level. Which also implies another question, what is a “listening level”?

References

Blyth, A. (2012) Extensive listening vs. listening strategies: Response to Seigel. ELT Journal, 66 (2), pp. 236-239.

Burton, R. (2013) A Skeptics Guide to the Mind. St Martin’s Press.

Chang, A. and Millett, S. (2014) The effect of extensive listening on developing L2 listening fluency+ some hard evidence. ELT Journal, 68 (1), pp 31-40.

Chang, A., and Millett, S. (2016) Developing L2 listening fluency through extended listening-focused activities in an extensive listening programme. RELC Journal, 47 (3), pp. 349-362.

Day, R., and Bamford, J. (2002) Top Ten Principles for Teaching Extensive Reading. Reading in a Foreign Language. 14 (2), pp. 136-141.

Field, J. (2008) Listening in the Language Classroom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Renandya, W., and Farrell, T. (2011). ‘Teacher, the tape is too fast!’ Extensive listening in ELT. ELT Journal, 65(1), 52-59.

Homework Quarter 2

Q2, Lesson 10, 17th & 18th July

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-7, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue. Review dialogue of unit 7.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Extensive Reading reports due on the 27th July in class (can be submitted earlier).
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Speaking test topics:

  1.  RRW Intro unit 3, p40
  2.  RRW Intro unit 4, p48-9
  3.  RRW Intro unit 2, p22
  4.  About your extensive reading
  5.  About your extensive reading
  6.  RRW Intro unit 5 p60-1

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review grammar videos, and see the Grammar Page.
  • Complete revisions to article. Due Monday 10th.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Final Report, Portfolio and Extensive Reading reports due in class, 24th July. Can be submitted earlier.
    • Portfolio to include all writing tasks in Q1 & 2 (tasks 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6), any three blog entries, and final report (task 6).
    • See the sample final report in the the sample portfolio (here).
    • Include all drafts (tasks 1-5), Self-reflections, and Topic Research Sheets.
    • Extensive Reading reports to be stapled and submitted separate to the portfolio.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-12: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 12: vocabulary, article, discussion questions, and research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Work on your final report. Compare an early to recent video recorded conversation. See the course info packet for details. Due 12pm, 31st July in the World Plaza (open from 10.30 to 12pm). Can be submitted any time before the 31st.
  • Speaking test is one article randomly chosen from units 7 to 12.
    • During speaking tests:
      • Prepare for your speaking test
      • Review pronunciation & vocabulary
      • Work on your final report
      • Do Word Engine study
      • Do extensive reading
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

 

Q2, Lesson 10, 13th & 14th July

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-7, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue. Review dialogue of unit 7.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Extensive Reading reports due on the 27th July in class (can be submitted earlier).
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review grammar videos, and see the Grammar Page.
  • Complete revisions to article. Due Monday 10th.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Final Report, Portfolio and Extensive Reading reports due in class, 24th July. Can be submitted earlier.
    • Portfolio to include all writing tasks in Q1 & 2, any three blog entries, and final report.
    • See the sample final report in the the sample portfolio (here).
    • Extensive Reading reports to be stapled and submitted separate to the portfolio.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-11: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 11: vocabulary, article, discussion questions, and research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Work on your final report. Compare an early to recent video recorded conversation. See the course info packet for details. Due 12pm, 31st July in the World Plaza (open from 10.30 to 12pm). Can be submitted anytime before the 31st.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

 

Q2, Lesson 10, 6th & 7th July

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-7, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue. Review dialogue of unit 7.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review grammar studied, and see the Grammar Page.
  • Complete revisions to article. Due Monday 10th.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Review Reading 5, The Glass Ceiling, page 41 of the course info packet, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-9: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
    • Will video record conversations about the unit 10 articles on the 10th & 11th July.
    • Bring your USB memory stick so you can make a copy of the video
    • Use the audio recorder on your smartphone to make a backup of the conversation.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 11: vocabulary, article, discussion questions, and research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Q2, Lesson 8, 3rd & 4th July

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 16, 18, 19, 20,
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-7, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue. Review dialogue of unit 7.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review grammar studied, and see the Grammar Page.
  • Review the How to Write an Opinion Paragraph video, at the Writing Page.
  • Watch English Grammar In Use u113 video on the Grammar page.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Review Reading 5, The Glass Ceiling, page 41 of the course info packet, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-9: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 10: vocabulary, article, discussion questions, and research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Q2, Lesson 7, 29th & 30th June

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 16, 18, 19, 20,
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-6, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Prepare for the pronunciation quiz on Monday. See the pronunciation page for audio and videos.
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review grammar studied, and see the Grammar Page.
  • Review the How to Write an Opinion Paragraph video, at the Writing Page.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Read Reading 5, The Glass Ceiling, page 41 of the course info packet, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
    • Do your own research. Choose a business, and learn about it’s origins, and what makes it special. Fill in “Writing task Topic research sheet”, p57, and fill in for this topic. You will submit this with the self-reflection, the topic research, and copies of references.
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-9: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 9: article, discussion questions, and research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Practice and prepare for the Phonological & Intonation Skills Check, see the Pronunciation page.
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

 

Q2, Lesson 5, 22nd & 23rd June

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 9, 16, 18, 20,
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-6, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review Reading in the Real World: Intro, unit 5, Future of Water. Update your a short summary, review problem sentences, and add notes to answers for discussion questions.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Reading 4 (p33), The Body Shop, read, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
    • Do your own research. Choose a business, and learn about it’s origins, and what makes it special. Fill in “Writing task Topic research sheet”, p57, and fill in for this topic. You will submit this with the self-reflection, the topic research, and copies of references.
  • Read Reading 5, The Glass Ceiling, page 41 of the course info packet
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-8: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 8: article, discussion questions, and research task. The research task can relate to anything from this unit (not just the article).
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Practice and prepare for the Phonological & Intonation Skills Check, see the Pronunciation page.
  • Please do this survey question https://goo.gl/zuVJ6Y if you have time.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Q2, Lesson 4, 19th & 20th June

Note: My Friday classes may have make up classes on this Wednesday. Check Porta for updates.

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 16, 24, 27
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-6, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Review Reading in the Real World: Intro, unit 5, Future of Water. Update your a short summary, review problem sentences.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Reading 4 (p33), The Body Shop, read, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
    • Do your own research. Choose a business, and learn about it’s origins, and what makes it special. Fill in “Writing task Topic research sheet”, p57, and fill in for this topic. You will submit this with the self-reflection and the topic
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-8: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 8: article, discussion questions, and research task. The research task can relate to anything from this unit (not just the article).
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Practice and prepare for the Phonological & Intonation Skills Check.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Q2, Lesson 3, 15th (& 16th) June

Note: My Friday classes may be cancelled. Check for updates on Porta later today or early morning.

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 16, 24, 27
  • English Firsthand 2, review units 1-5, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue.
  • English Firsthand 2, preview unit 6, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Reading in the Real World: Intro, unit 5, Future of Water. Update your a short summary, review problem sentences.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Attend World Plaza at least once a week. It is open from 11am to 6pm, on the second floor of the R building.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Reading 4 (p33), The Body Shop, read, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
    • Do your own research. Choose a business, and learn about it’s origins, and what makes it special. Fill in “Writing task Topic research sheet”, p57, and fill in for this topic. You will submit this with the self-reflection and the topic
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-7: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 8: Vocabulary, pronunciation, article, and discussion questions.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Practice and prepare for the Phonological & Intonation Skills Check.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

 

Q2, Lesson 2, 12th & 13th June

We may be in a different classroom for this Quarter. Please check Porta for updates and info.

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 16, 24
  • English Firsthand 2, review unit 5, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Reading in the Real World: Intro, unit 5, Future of Water. Photocopy, check vocabulary, make a short summary.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Reading 4 (p33), The Body Shop, read, check vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
    • Make a photocopy of “Writing task Topic research sheet”, p57, and fill in for this topic. You will submit this with the self-reflection and the topic
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-7: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 7 research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • If you can, set your phone system into English.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

 

Q2, Lesson 1, 8th & 9th June

We may be in a different classroom for this Quarter. Please check Porta for updates and info.

Communication Skills

  • Conversation Strategies, review units 1, 3, 16
  • English Firsthand 2, review unit 5, pronunciation, grammar target, dialogue
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Reading in the Real World: Intro, unit 5, Future of Water. Photocopy, check vocabulary, make a short summary.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Continue extensive reading, about 4,000 words by each Thursday.
  • Reading 4, The Body Shop, read, check Vocabulary, make notes for a one minute summary.
  • Typing practice.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review Orbits units 1-7: Vocabulary, pronunciation, dialogues, culture notes, conversations strategies, and articles.
  • Listen & do Orbits unit 6 dialogue, and read the article at home.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 7 article, discussion, & research task.
  • WordEngine study. Get more than 150 correct responses each week before Sunday evening.
  • Attend World Plaza some times each week. It’s open from 11am to 6pm.
  • App Store, look for language learning apps for your smartphone or tablet. For instance Babbel, Learn English Magazine (by ESL Pod), Busuu, and others.
  • Enjoy life 🙂