Teach English in Yuxi Zhen - Taizhou Shi

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Listening section in any English exam is considered to be the easiest for some and to be the hardest for the others. Why do these opinions split so much and how to make listening effective for teaching English for exams? The answer is in the top-down and bottom-up listening skills. In real life when students are talking to their friends in the bar they rely on their top-down listening, while if they need to write down the address or mobile phone number they use bottom-up listening skills. Successful performance in the exam depends on the ability to combine these two types of processing. Therefore, it is our responsibility as teachers to plan the lessons based on activities, which work on each strategy. To improve students listening performance presenting the situation could be a start where learners have to predict the responses to the questions. It will help my students to realize that listening is not only based on getting each from the recording but also using their logic. The next thing a teacher has to do is to make learners to focus on predicting the possible answers. The simple exercise, which is quite often ignored, leads to poor performance, as students have not got used to doing it. Predicting the content of a listening activity beforehand, using information about the topic or situation, pictures, or key words will enable learners to develop their top-down processing skills, by encouraging them to use their knowledge of the topic to help them understand the content and locate the correct parts of the listening text where answers to questions can be heard in the listening sections. Here are some that activities can develop top-down listening skills (resources to be used: past papers of the exams) • Students generate a set of questions they expect to hear about a topic, and then listen to see if they are answered. • Students generate a list of things they already know about a topic and things they would like to learn more about, then listen and compare. • Students read a list of key points to be covered in a talk, then listen to see which ones are mentioned. To improve bottom-up skills that are aimed at listening for details “dictogloss” activity could be one of the solutions. The idea if the exercise is to listen to sentences (resources: e.g. sentences from the recordings) and to write down how many words there would be in the written form. While the task might sound easy, for learners the weak forms in normal connected speech can make it problematic. While the second listening students will have to write sentences and compare with their partners before open class checking. By comparing their version with the correct sentences, learners will become more aware of the sounds of normal spoken English and how this is different from the written or carefully spoken form. This will help them to develop the skill of recognizing known words and identifying word divisions in fast-connected speech. Another task that could be applied is a game “Get my card”. Students are given three cards with common misspelled words in English exams like TOEFL, IELTS, KET, PET, etc. Leaners mingle and say the words that you have to groupmates. If a student spells the word correctly, he/she gets the card. The person with the maximum number of cards wins the game. This activity will help students to memorize common misspelled words and improve score because of correct spelling. Besides mentioned activities, students should be introduced task types that they might face with in the exam. It is essential to practice all of them as candidates might be confused and lost if they have not done some tasks before. In conclusion, in a real life and an exam students combine both strategies, therefore, a typical lesson should involve a three-part sequence, consisting of pre-listening, while-listening, and post-listening, and contains activities that link bottom-up and top-down listening. The pre-listening stage prepares students for both top-down and bottom-up processing, through activities involving activating prior knowledge, making predictions, and reviewing key vocabulary The while-listening phase focuses on comprehension through exercises that require selective listening, gist listening, sequencing, etc. (e.g. tasks form past papers). The post-listening phase typically involves a response to comprehension and may require students to discuss the topic (e.g. typical questions from the speaking exam) or produce a piece of writing.