IH Journal of Education and Development

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How To Teach Listening

Reviewed by Lucia Berenguer, IH Montevideo

When we teach a language, we should tackle the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). Taking into account all of them, which one do you think is the least valued? Which one has the smallest number of available resources? Which one is generally the most difficult to learn? If your answer to any of these questions is “listening”, then you should look into what Nunan calls “the Cinderella skill”, and nothing is better to do so than this book. You will open it to find a thorough list of contents that will take you directly to what you need. As the title shows, the book explains and exemplifies how to teach listening nowadays and why it is vital in classrooms to do so, in an organized way, illustrated with stories and anecdotes that make the reading more dynamic. It begins by giving a brief account of the different changes that have taken place in the teaching world concerning listening and also gives quality reasons to listen, along with myths that you will hear more often than not. It moves on to describe the features of a good text and the strategies that can aid learners to become better listeners. Moreover it states the different sources of listening, not only the worldwide known teacher talk, textbook recordings, songs and videos, but also guest speakers, student talk, radio and the Internet. In addition to this, it suggests numerous activities and ideas to design a task. Whether you have access to the latest technology or you just rely on your voice as the only source of input, there are activities and tasks that cater for both. What you might be expecting when reading this book is the focus on the listening sequence, on the ways of teaching listening and the activities, what could be described as the practical core of the book. The listening sequence is divided into three stages: pre-listening, post-listening and while-listening, exploring each of them comprehensively in an independent chapter. It gives useful and concrete ways of making the most of them and looks at reasons for taking up this sequence. Novice teachers will be stunned at the vast number of suggestions and ideas it presents. To date, we all know we need to bring to the classroom new, surprising and diverse listening passages. But many teachers are somehow faced with a course book they dislike in one way or another; others do not have enough time to look for extra material or do not have resources available. What can we do then? JJ Wilson proposes adapting published materials, from making the activity simpler or more challenging to personalizing it and changing the focus. Needless to say, thanks to technology, we are immersed in English language, surrounded by English signs, movies, songs, ads, slogans, news. We just need to open our eyes a bit more and realize English is everywhere. So let’s take advantage of this fact and bring it into the classroom. How can we do so? Once more, the book gives suggestions in order to aid teachers accomplish it, such as listening and rating You Tube videos or brainstorming words related to the topic of a song. Any teacher having a stake in growing as a teacher can give this book a try, which was shortlisted for the 2008 Ben Warren International House Trust Prize. Yet again, the “How to …” series enlightens us with knowledge of the teaching world only written by those who feel and come in contact with how classrooms work.

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