I was doing a flickr search for Creative Commons licensed images of Listening and found a few gems and have included a couple for them in this post. Aside from being “vintage” and interesting on a lot of historical fronts (cassette tapes! records! wow!) I think they also depict quite nicely how listening has been “taught” in the L2 classroom in the past.
Teaching Listening has been up until now, I think, a misnomer. Teachers don’t teach it as much as they create exercises around it, exercises that last only a few minutes or are assigned as tasks for homework. These exercises are more like spot checks, dictation, comprehension checks… and very teacher vs learner centric. Success is how well you hear what is being said.
But I would argue that is only part of what listening should be about in our classes. Listening needs to be about hearing, yes, but then also about creating meaning and responding and interacting with others. That’s the hard work of listening that we tend to ignore or overlook when we teach it.
We need to include our students in the selection of listening materials. And we need to use that interest to help them engage more fully in the materials…to listen more deeply. To use listening as a catapult to other important tasks like writing and speaking and even reading.
“If learners are involved in what they are doing, if they are more conscious about the underlying processes of learning, then learning will be more effective….Students should be involved in the structuring and restructuring of their understanding of the language and for building their skills in using the language”–Gary Buck: “How to become a Good Listening Teacher,” A Guide for the Teaching of Second Language Listening
Listening practice is a prime opportunity for teachers to engage their students’ wants, needs, and desires in the learning process. But we need to make time to teach listening…it can’t be just a throwaway activity as it has been in the past. Listening is hard work and should be seen as such. But that burden could be lessened if the students, I believe, were engaged in the choice of the materials as well as the time and strategies needed to explore them.