Higher Languages Institute
Presented by: Abd Al-Rahman Al-Midani
Course Professor: Dr. Ali Soud Al-Hasan
November 24, 2013
Practical English Language Teaching
What is Listening?
Background to Teaching Listening
Principles for Teaching Listening
Classroom Techniques and Tasks
Listening in the Classroom
Language Skills: the mode or manner by which language is
used (Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and
Applied Linguistics, 2010).
Language skills are: Listening, speaking, reading, and
Categorization of Language Skills:
• Listening & reading
• Speaking & writing
• Listening: it is an active, purposeful process of making sense
of what we hear.
• It is not passive because it involves processing & connecting
what we hear to our previously acquired knowledge.
• It is the process of creating the meaning, “(M)eaning is not in
the text, but is something that is constructed by listeners based
on a number of different knowledge sources.” Buck (1995).
• Listening is not the process of word deciphering; it is
understanding the whole meaning behind the words.
Background to the Teaching of Listening
• Starting from the 1800s, interest in using children’s
acquisition of their mother tongue as a model for foreign
language teaching grew resulting in the emergence of
Gouin’s Series Method that featured oral & action
presentation of new language.
• This method was significant because it was the first in which
listening played a major role in language teaching
• Later, the Direct Method promoted the teaching listening
comprehension & that introducing new bits of information
should be presented orally.
• After World War II, Audiolingual Method dominated foreign
language teaching. Influenced by the Behavioral Psychology, it
highlighted the role of MIM/MEM of new structures which
were presented orally as was with the Direct Method.
• In the 1970s, the Communicative Language Teaching stressed
the importance of listening under the influence of the input
hypothesis of Stephen Krashen.
• The input hypothesis says, “for language learning to occur, it is
necessary for the learner to understand the input language
which contains linguistic items that are slightly beyond the
learner’s present linguistic competence.” (Richards, et al. 1985)
• Listening was important because it is a major source of input.
3. Principle of teaching Listening
1) Expose students to different ways of processing information:
bottom-up vs. top-down.
• The distinction between the two ways of processing is based on the
way leaners try to understand a text:
Bottom-up processing: learners start from the component parts such
as words & grammar.
Top-down processing: learners start from their background
• How Bottom-up processing operates:
are you as time a at word one , slowly English process you When •
.word individual each of meaning the catch to easy is it , now doing
of meaning all over the understand to difficult very is it , However
• On the other hand, top-down processing starts from the
listeners’ life knowledge.
• Learners need to integrate both means of processing; they
have to adopt interactive processing (Peterson 2001) by
means of pre-listening activities such as brainstorming
vocabulary or inventing a dialogue related to the given
• Two points of caution:
According to Buck (1995), pre-listening & listening
activities must be balanced, and we need pre-listening
activities to “do two things: provide context for
interpretation and activate background knowledge that will
Tsui and Fullilove (1998) suggested that learners need to
make use of their top-down knowledge but keep
reevaluating information to avoid missing new information
that contradict their knowledge. Learners need specific work
on bottom-up processing to become less reliant on guessing
from the context.
2) Expose students to various types of listening:
Listening for specifics: it involves catching concrete
information such as names & dates.
Listening for gist/Global listening: it has to do with identifying
the main ideas of some text or putting a series of events in the
• These two types do not exist in isolation; we keep moving from
the one to the other.
Inference: it’s listening to the implied meaning “between the
lines”. Listening for inference occurs simultaneously with other
types of listening.
• Although abstract, inference must not be postponed to
the intermediate level & above because learners use
inference extensively when they lack much vocabulary &
3) Teach a variety of tasks
• Listening tasks should not demand too much production
on part of the learner.
• Listening activities should be short because listening
depends on the working memory. According to Just &
Carpenter’s capacity hypothesis (1992), when learners of
foreign languages listen to some text, they not only
process the text, but also language itself.
• Long texts may cause overload for the students.
4) Consider text, difficulty, and authenticity
Texts: Spoken texts are very different from written ones.
They are full of false starts, incomplete sentences &
Text difficulty: the most common difficulty learners
encounter is related to the speed of speaking. It is useful to
have pauses between the sentences to slow down the
listening process and allow learners to listen more
• In addition to speed, Brown (1995) talks about “cognitive
load”. This cognitive load is dependent upon six factors:
The number of individual or objects in a text.
The clarity of distinction between these individuals &
Simple spatial relationships are easier to grasp than the
The order of events.
The number of inferences the listener has to make.
The information in the text is consistent with the listener’s
Text must be derived from real life situations.
Speed of speaking must be natural as average people speak.
Brown & Menasche (1993) suggested looking at two aspects
Task authenticity: tasks must be simulated & minimal/
Input authenticity: the input must be genuine, altered,
adapted, simulated, and minimal/incidental.
5) Teach listening strategies
• Rost (2002, p. 155) identifies some items as strategies used by
Predicting: this fits into pre-listening activities.
Monitoring: good listeners notice what they understand and what
they do not understand.
Clarifying: good listeners ask question to clarify ambiguities.
Responding: good listeners reply to what they listen.
Evaluating: good listeners check the soundness of their
4. Classroom techniques and tasks
• Dictation with Difference: traditional dictation is usually a
bottom-up activity. Learners do not need to think of the gist of
the text. To avoid this shortcoming, a different dictation can be
introduced through the means of filling in the clozes.
Example: A* long road went * ____ a * ____ forest.
• Do-it-yourself: Modifying materials to add “listening for
specific information”: the textbook may overuses certain types
of tasks; therefore, some of them can be modified using these
Bits and pieces.
What I want to know?
Dictation and cloze.
• Listening for gist
• Do-it-yourself: adding gist tasks
Some books delve into listening for specifics exercises. There are
some ways to add gist listening:
What is the order
• Listening between the lines: Inference tasks
• Do-it-yourself inference: places to start working on inference.
Focus on emotions
Look for background information
5. Listening in the classroom
• Listening is always preceded by a pre-listening task which
activates the top-down and bottom-up schema. Each listening
activity is follows by speaking activity.
• “Your story” Dictation: the students work with adjectives. In the
pre-listening task, students work in pairs. This focuses on the
meaning rather than only grammar.
• In the pre-listening task, students match cartoons with names of
symptoms of illnesses which are provided by the teacher. This task
activates the background knowledge & teaching vocabulary
simultaneously. They use their top-down knowledge to be in touch
with vocabulary & phrases i.e. bottom-down information.
• After that, the listening activity starts.
• Following the listening activity, students brainstorm ideas that they
do to remain healthy using the pre-listening and listening activities.
• Inference: When students work in pairs, they have time to analyze
and understand what they heard.
• When these activities are done in pairs, it will be easier for the
students. Students listen in different ways and focus on different
parts, By working in pairs, they understand what they heard more
• Listening is an active purposeful process that utilizes bottom-up
items of language and top-down schema.
• Pre-listening activities can be useful means to integrate the two
way of processing.
• Exposure to variety of tasks enables students to become more
• The chapter provides examples of how these tasks can be used or
modified to utilize them in the classroom effectively.