All posts by Andrew

English language teacher and researcher working in Nanzan University, Nagoya in central Japan, and researching with the University of Canberra, Australia. He specialises in teaching and researching listening and pronunciation. He also teachers undergraduate student-teachers TEFL.

Homework for Quarter 3

Announcement

WordEngine needs to be updated before it can work on iOS11. Please wait before upgrading to iOS11 or do your study on a real computer. WordEngine is a 32bit application, but iOS11 will now only run 64bit applications. 

Communication Skills

  • Review Conversation Gambits units: units 1, 3, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20.
  • Review English First Hand 2: units 1-7
  • Prepare Reading in the Real World Intro: Unit 7 Anti-smoking Laws.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 4,000 words a week.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Literacy

  • Review Business email structure
  • Write your own business email, attempting to purchase something for your shop.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 3,500 words a week.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review pronunciation, conversation strategies, and vocabulary from Orbits units 1-12.
  • Preview Orbits unit 13 Culture Note and Conversation Strategies.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 13 article Credit Cards & Internet Security.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • World Plaza will probably reopen from 2nd October.
  • Enjoy life 🙂

Class party

Sometimes Andrew’s classes will have a class party. If we have a class party, it’s for four reasons. One, students have worked hard and have achieved a lot, and should be rewarded. Two, to practice and rehearse attending office and staff parties and events. Three, to develop informal social-linguistic skills. Four, get experience in how to host informal events at work.

Usually, the parties will be in the morning, so they will be brunch parties; half breakfast, half lunch. If you can, bring food or drink to share at the party. You may need to bring paper plates, plastic knives, paper cups, whatever. Please avoid buying cheap sugary food from convenience stores, because most people prefer healthier options. Not everyone has time to prepare something, and not everyone has the money to spare to make or get something. Consequently, if you can, bring extras; if you cannot contribute this time, please bring extra next time. Don’t know what to bring? Google search “brunch food” or “brunch recipe” for morning parties, and “healthy snack recipe” for afternoon parties. Please avoid sugary foods.

What to do & rules for class parties:

  1. DO NOT bring smelly or difficult-to-clean-up food & drink. Imagine if it spills, can it be be cleaned up easily?
  2. Use only English. If Andrew hears any Japanese being spoken, the party will end immediately, and he will give everyone grammar worksheets to do.
  3. Move some tables to the middle of the room, and push all the chairs to the sides. Put the food and drinks (opened) onto the middle tables. Keep bottles in the centre.
  4. Small talk with people. Talk about summer plans, an extensive reading book, part-time work, club activities, about the food at the party, about an article we discussed in class, anything.
  5. Do not stand silent talking to no one; always mingle. If Andrew sees anyone not mingling the party will end immediately, and he will give everyone grammar worksheets to do.
  6. Small talk with people you don’t normally talk to. Avoid talking to friends and your normal class partners.
  7. Selfies with friends is ok, but ask first. Also, if you post photos to social media, ask first and ONLY say nice things about people.
  8. ALL the food must be eaten. Otherwise, it makes cleaning up difficult.
  9. Clean up. Find an empty bag so everyone can use it as a rubbish bag. Clean up any spills immediately. EVERYONE must help clean up in the last ten minutes.
  10. If the party goes well, we may have another.

OC & CS classes: During speaking tests

Don’t waste time during speaking tests. Use the time wisely. Use ONLY ENGLISH. You can adjust the air conditioning any time as needed.

  • Practice & prepare for your speaking test
  • Review articles & vocabulary
  • Review conversation strategies / conversation gambits
  • Review pronunciation (especially of key vocabulary)
  • Do Word Engine study
  • Do your extensive reading
  • OC classes: Bring your laptop and work on your final report
  • OC classes: Do Orbits Unit 12
  • If we have a class brunch party, plan what you will bring. Remember that not everyone can bring something.

Battle for the Net is today!

Today is a very important day for the internet. Net neutrality is vitally important to us, and to you. The concept relates to our digital rights as published by the Global Trust Centre. Net neutrality, they say, is our access to information (see Rights and Responsibilities for Citizens in the Digital World). Net neutrality was never really embodied in law in many countries around the world, as it was just assumed by default, but it was enshrined in law in some countries including the US. However, some governments have censored the internet and the most famous is the “Great Firewall of China”. The United States government is considering ending net neutrality, and allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to slow or even block traffic from particular websites. This is effectively allowing commercially decided censorship in the United States. The ramifications are that websites like Winjeel.Com could be blocked if US based ISPs wanted to demand a ransom. Ending net neutrality would also set a dangerous precedent, where other countries may follow suit.

Consequently, the Fight for the Future and Demand Progress digital rights groups, and over 70,000 internet-based companies are protesting the US process of ending net neutrality. If you support net neutrality, I strongly urge you to add your name to this petition on the Battle for the Net.

Giving compliments

You cannot give compliments on looks alone. You should also compliment people for other things like their skills, achievements, and effort. Sometimes it’s even wrong and insulting to ignore people’s achievements, skills, and effort. The resources mentioned in class:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/kissthemirror?src=hash

Here are some ideas to get you started. Please use these, and more, in class.


Ideas of compliments to give.
Ideas of compliments to give.
Also, for the ones that were a bit…  Could say, “Wow! Your vocabulary is great. I guess you’ve been using WordEngine a lot”, and “Your conversation skills have really improved. I guess you’ve been going to the World Plaza a lot”.

OC Class: During pronunciation checks

For my oral communication classes. While other people are doing their pronunciation checks, do not waste time doing nothing. Do the article discussion.

1. What to do: For the first one or two partners, start from question one. From your third partner, choose any question to begin with.  If there are any difficult points, ask your partner for help, and help your partners understand the article more. This topic could be used in the final speaking tests, so do practice this sincerely.

Changes: Change partners every ten minutes. After five partner changes, do the next activity.

2. Preparation: Use this time to properly prepare for unit 10. That means checking vocabulary pronunciation for the Dialogue list, and writing the pronunciation and simple-English meanings for the Article list. If you finish early, do your WordEngine study.

Note: Next unit we will do video recordings so you can prepare for your next final report. You should also have done extra research, so you can have more interesting conversations.

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.