(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*
This amazingly simple technique revolutionized how I teach listening skills and completely liberated me.
(To see a video in which I demonstrate this technique, see Best Technique to Teach ESL Listening Skills (in Classes and for Tutors!) Part 2: Using Videos)
After watching a good movie or a documentary on PBS or listening to an interesting segment on NPR or a TED Talk, I often thought, “My students would really like that. Too bad their listening skills aren’t high enough.” It was especially frustrating when I was teaching adult students because it was such a challenge to find mature content that they could understand.
Then I learned about this technique. By using this, my students at almost any level can understand and enjoy any movie, documentary or program/podcast that I share with them.
I’ll explain more details about using the technique with movies, but here is a brief summary: Basically, the students are not trying to understand the narrator or actors. Instead, they listen to their instructor tell them (at their listening level) what is being said or even describe in English what they just saw. Every 10-60 seconds (or more, depending on the students’ level), the instructor stops the video/program, and explains what they had just heard or saw at a discourse level that they can understand.
For example, this came from an NPR segment about recycling. This is what the students heard the person in the recording say, “They also gave the volunteers cans of soda and after the volunteers had drunk the soda, the cans went in the recycling when the cans were intact. But if the cans were dented or crushed in any way, the volunteers ended up putting those crushed cans in the trash.”
The instructor stopped the recording and told them what they had just heard at a level that they could understand, “The researchers gave some volunteers some cans of soda. The volunteers drank the sodas. After they finished drinking all of it, some of their cans looked new. But some volunteers squeezed (instructor pantomimes squeezing the can) so it looked bad. Do you understand? Then the volunteers had to throw away their cans. If the cans looked good or new, they threw them in a recycling bin. But if the cans didn’t look new or looked bad, the volunteers threw them in the garbage.” All this input is at their level. And the information is probably new and interesting for the students.