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ELLLO Teacher Podcast

Listen to the creator of elllo, Todd Beuckens, discuss things happening in education and hear interviews with movers and shakers in the field.

Episode #5 - Teaching Listening

Naheen joins the podcast to discuss the various skills related to teaching listening: bottom-up, top-down, intensive, extensive and note-taking.

Naheen Madarbakus-Ring is a lecturer at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business in Japan. She has taught in South Korea, the UK and New Zealand. Naheen received her PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington (NZ). Her research areas include listening strategies, curriculum design, and material development. 

You can find her related work on listening at the following sites:

Listening SIG Links

Website - https://jaltlistening.wordpress.com/
FB - https://www.facebook.com/groups/489940378896137
Twitter - https://mobile.twitter.com/listeningsig
JALT Page - https://jalt.org/groups/sigs/listening


Todd: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I am here with Naheen and she is a professor in Japan. So Naheen, can you just quickly introduce yourself?

Naheen: My name is Naheen Madarbukus-Ring and I'm currently working at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business. I've been in Japan for about two years now, and I completed my PhD in Listening last year so I'm really enjoying all the free time.

Todd: I bet. I bet. I'm really excited to have you on the podcast because I thought we would talk about different types of listing skills and go over the terminology, what do they actually mean. The first time I met you, actually, you were doing a presentation on note-taking and so that's kind of a big one. We'll maybe finish up talking about that. First, let's go through some terms and if you can explain them. The first two are top-down listening and bottom-up listening. We hear that a lot. What actually is the difference between the two?

Naheen: Yeah. I mean, I think that they are quite common terms across the field in teaching. But when we think of top-down and bottom-up in listening, it relates, first of all, bottom-up listening to the word level or comprehension of the text that we hear. So we're looking at the words, we're looking at the meaning, we're looking at the single units. This could be extended to shorter phrases, but just basically units of meaning with that word focus. Whereas top-down looks more at contextual meanings and focuses more on the situation, the pragmatics, the situation as to why the speaker is talking to another person. So bringing in all that kind of background knowledge and all of that kind of components or conventions of just social conventions of having chats, really.

Todd: Okay. So can you give us an example of an activity or task for each?

Naheen: With bottom-up, it's anything which you want to focus on at word level so that could be something really simple, starting out as just giving your students a word list. You could also introduce compounds or chunks, which are commonly heard, so things like going to become gonna, want to become wanna, just so and then our students can kind of get used to those sounds and hearing them in conversation. But you could also look at different phrases in terms of collocations, words which go together, and also different idiomatic language, which could be the difference between formalities, informal and formal conversations. For your top-down, you're probably looking more at the context or the situation. You could use photographs or images to introduce a different idea of what that topic is. You could ask students to think about the title and think about if they've read or listened to anything related to that topic before so then they can bring in their own ideas of what this particular recording's going to be about. Or you could also just kind of put all those things together and get them to make a prediction. So if it's a listening from a textbook, or if it's a listening from a particular online resource that you usually use, then they can kind of predict what's going to come up in listening.

Todd: Okay. Oh, those were some really good examples. Also, there are the focus on intensive listening and extensive listening, and there seems to be a problem. It seems like with the extensive listening... Well, first of all, please, you're the expert. Please explain what's the difference between intensive listening and extensive listening.


Naheen: Intensive listening tends to be what we... I kind of divide it up in terms of intensive listening is mainly what we can do in the classroom. Extensive listening is mainly what we can take outside of the classroom. It's not that clear a division, but that's one basic way to kind of look at it. But intensive listening looks at listening for things which are for a reason or for a meaning. So basically a lot of our course-related listenings would be quite intensive when you are listening out for an answer, when you are doing a listening for a particular exam or test practice. Whereas extensive listening is more for fun and that's just kind of building up your own confidence in your own time as a student and listening to what you want and listening to things that you want to listen to, rather than textbook listening, for example.

Todd: Yeah. Anybody who's a producer of extensive listening content, like I am with ELLLO, the problem that we have is that we cannot keep intensive out of it. All of my listenings have a multiple choice quiz and I kind of don't like having them there, but I feel that we have to have it. Teachers want it, that's for one. Teachers insist on having the quiz and we have this problem where, even though it's extensive, we feel like we have to quantify or assess or give some assurance that students did the listening. So anything that starts out as extensive eventually becomes, in some ways, intensive. How do you feel about that problem?

Naheen: I mean, there are different ways to measure extensive. One thing that I have done with extensive listening is just set a kind of listening project, if you like, so listening portfolio, and learners were able to, just over the course of five weeks, so our rather intensive courses are only seven weeks long. So for five of those weeks, they have to complete a listening journal and that goes into a listening portfolio. They don't have to complete any activities as such. It depends which website they choose. So if it is one of like the British Council or Breaking News, English types of websites, where they can do a practice, then maybe they do, but they can just listen to it. What they do then is just complete a journal and, as you say, to have that progress, to have that quantifiable element to it, I ask them just really basic questions, like how much did you understand and then they write down a number. How much did you enjoy this today and then they write down a number so then they can compare that week on week. That is a way to keep an extensive record without it getting too kind of graded or assessment-focus, I guess. But that kind of brings in the metacognitive aspect and by that, I mean, asking students to reflect on what they've listened to and to think about their progress and to think about their difficulties because, and then again, each week they can look back and think, "Okay, well, that was really difficult last week. What can I do this week to make that better or feel better about that?" So, in terms of making extensive listening with a bit of intensive listening factor, you can kind of use journals and ask students to kind of use it to improve their own learning that way, rather than to find out did they get seven out of 10 right in the actual listening comprehension.

Todd: Right, exactly. I actually have a video, I'll put it in the description box, that shows how to do this. I totally agree with you. The easiest way to do it is just create a Google form. Then on the Google form, have the students submit it every time they do a listening and do, depending on their level, 15 to 30 words summary, and then a 15 to 30-word reflection or opinion based on it. The students really liked it. They can choose and listen to whatever they want. They can go to YouTube. Of course, they can do listenings on ELLLO or TED Talks or wherever, Voice of America and it works. And it's so simple. It is so simple. The Google form can go into a Google Sheet and it's very easy to sort, see all the listings. It's so simple. Anyway, I have a video that shows how to do it. I think it's 10 minutes long. It's a bit long, but it shows you how to do it step by step so I'll put that in the thing because I'm a big proponent of extensive stuff, not the intensive stuff. I think that intensive is vastly overrated, so to speak.

Naheen: No, I think that you make an important point there, like the summary and opinion, is not a way to check that they've been doing something, but it's a good way to develop those other skills. And although we're still doing this thing if you are in a multi-skilled environment, such as English for academic purposes, and that is also giving them some writing practice or some summary practice, which will lead into other assignments as well.

Todd: Yeah, and the thing is you can tell they did it. That's what I love about it. Like they'll write a really good summary and a really good opinion and just by glancing at it, you're like, "Yep, that's real," or, "Oh, that's fake. They didn't." The students then can share, so they have to post the link of what they saw and then all the students have access to the same spreadsheet. All the students can see everybody else's work. Then you could have the students do little reports when they come back to class. They have to talk about what they saw in short discussions, recommend the videos to other students and it's just so easy. It's so easy so I'm a big proponent of that.

Naheen: It's a good way to kind of share other resources within the class as well, if they have access on the spreadsheet to the other links.

Todd: Yeah, definitely. Okay. So then we have one last thing, which is note-taking and this kind of leads into that. This is something I struggle with as a teacher. I'm not very good at teaching note-taking and I know you've presented on it, done research on it. So can you please share your thoughts?

Naheen: Yeah. I've done a few projects which have involved note-taking so this has been both in-class and also as just a homework project so it fits either component, really. But ultimately, you're breaking down the note-taking and you are teaching week by week, just a different element of note-taking. With note-taking, I think that you can divide it up into different sections. So if you don't have a very long listening section in your lessons, this can be done in about 20 minutes each week. What I do is divide up the skills so over a course of say, five weeks, students can learn how to build on their note-taking skills. In the first week they kind of look at cues, which are based on listening prompts so the main idea in a listening. We, as teachers, can have a look at transcripts, for example, and take out those keywords, which they need to listen out for, which would essentially be each section of a listening text. In the second week, you can have a look at trying to ask students to focus on keywords and main details. So this is taking them away from writing complete sentences, which I think second language learners tend to do. We don't have time, even in our L1 to write down every single little thing that we hear so getting them to think of this idea of just writing down keywords and writing down just the main ideas is a way that we can kind of help train them in writing notes. The third idea would be looking at abbreviations or using different kind of commonly used words. We have different symbols for numbers, for example. For increase, we usually use an arrow that goes up, for decrease an arrow that goes down. So using all of those common abbreviations and symbols is also a good way to get them to write notes much, much faster. The last idea would be to use figures or drawings or images, tables, those kind of things in their notes. A lot of people don't like to ask their students to draw, but I think that it's a very, very good idea and it does save a lot of time, obviously, in terms of when you are listening, you've got so much going on. So just being able to kind of note down like a stick figure person for people or what have you is going to be much quicker than writing the word. So just building up whatever type of note-taking skills, which are going to cut down the writing time help them to focus on the listening is a good idea. Then as we talked about with summary and opinion, you could also have a week of how do we then use our notes to write a summary or to write an opinion. That can be as little as 20 minutes each week in a class whenever you have time to do it and that really helps them to kind of build up their skills.

Todd: I like the point about the drawings. With the emoji generation, I suppose you could have them even draw like little emoji-type symbols because they have so many little icons that represent something so that's a really good point. On the same note though, what do you think about scaffolded note-taking activity? I have a book that's about note-taking and I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I think that the scaffolded task where, for example, they get some words and then a blank word and they have to fill in the blank, or they get maybe a bullet point and what are the three key points, I sometimes wonder that actually maybe that hurts them more than helps them because it focuses on just hearing a couple things, not actually building their skill to hear more and filter what's important and what's not. How do you feel about those tasks? I

Naheen: I think it depends what the course requirements are. That sounds more like you're building up towards the end of the test or something that would come up in a TOEIC or ELS reading or listening so you're filling out information. I tend not to give as much scaffolded information in my note-taking. It's a blank sheet which, as you can imagine, can be a little scary for a student, first of all. But it also does give them more flexibility to write down what they want and to understand what they hear without the pressure of, "Oh, I missed that bit. Was that important? Do I need to listen to that bit?" Because ultimately, if we go back to thinking of what we do in extensive listening, you just want the student to listen and to not have that pressure of I need to understand every single little thing. It's just getting used to listening in a different language and being able to understand what they want at their leisure, to begin with. So I tend to avoid it, but I understand that there might be some course requirements where it's needed.

Todd: Yeah, actually you hit the nail on the head. I mean, for the book, there's a quiz or a test based on the lecture. So I guess that is important because it shows the main key points that are going to be on the test. But for me, for listening, one thing I love is just I give them a grid and so some type of grid or table and I do it by time. I'm like, "Okay, so we're going to do the first minute. In this block, just write notes for one minute. Then in the next block, just write these notes for the next minute and the next minute." It seems to help. Then you could stop, let them breathe, share what they heard, listen again and just fill in the square and try to fill it up, make it more packed. So I love grids. I can go on and on about grids and tables, but not a table like a blank, the blank slate, and everybody can bring in something that's different.

Naheen: I think that you could also use the grid as like a poster thing as well so you could combine now two ideas almost. So you've just gotten the notes of what you heard and then in groups you can then fill out whatever the table is afterwards. So the students can look at what answers they need to look for before and after listening and then help each other to kind of complete it. So yeah, there's a lot of things you can do with it.

Todd: Okay. Then another thing is on that note, like how do you encourage students to write? We're in an era of the keyboard and we're kind of losing the art of pen and paper. It does seem like some students really struggle having to write with a pencil and take notes. Do you think we're going to see a future where we do note-taking based on a computer and not a pencil? Or are we already seeing that transition?

Naheen: I mean, with a lot of our lessons being online, sometimes we don't really have a choice so we do need to think about, do our students need to write on the keyboard, or are they going to write on paper? I try to get them to write on paper if they're in the classroom so a lot of my note-takings have actually been they hand in what they've written at the end of the lesson. I think that it is possible to do notes with a keyboard, but obviously, you're bringing in other factors like how confident are they at typing? How confident are they typing in another language? So if you can give them the option, if you don't mind which one they do, then for example, I do dictations in classes and I give my students the option. So they can write it in their notebook or they can write it on their computers, on their phone and I'd say it's about 50-50 when they've got the option. So in situations like that, when they can choose, let them. I think with longer note-taking so if they're listening to something which is like four or five minutes, then they're probably going to be better off just writing because that's going to be quicker than trying to find the letters on the keyboard.

Todd: Yeah, it's real. I mean, both are problematic, aren't they, as long as if we have to go back to the basics and teach keyboarding skills, typing speed and also writing speed, because I do see that students struggle, different students. Each student is unique. They might struggle with one or the other.

Naheen: That's why those other tips, they're using abbreviations, they're using images, getting them to draw, I mean, you can store information as quickly that way.

Todd: Yeah, totally. All right. Naheen, thanks so much. You had so many great bits of information. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and I hope to have you on again soon.

Naheen: Thank you. And thank you again for inviting me. It's been good to see you again.

About the Teacher

Todd Beuckens is an ESL teacher with over 25 years of classroom experience. He has an M.A. in Learning, Design and Technology from San Diego State University. He is currently based in Japan and is the creator of the following sites.


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