Saturday, April 21, 2012

Is it possible to teach listening?

One of my main reasons for flipping my classroom was to have more time to work on listening comprehension with my students. We have done tons more listening, with CDs, videos, movies and Google Voice. My students have improved their listening skills close to 30% more than my students last year. Much of that has to do with how much more practice these students are getting, and I am doing a better job choosing level appropriate listening selections.

However, there are still so many struggles. For our latest listenings, we did two selections that accompany the story, Rosa, that we read. This is nice because now the students are familiar with quite a bit of new vocabulary found in the selections. This is a tougher listening, and does require the students to understand the listening, not just listen for key words. Although on the whole the students did well, I was amazed by one of the questions where the students obviously grabbed on to a phrase they heard rather than use their brains. The question asks something along the lines of "what did the narrator want to do with technology". Most of my kids chose the answer "return to prehistoric times" when the answer was really "slow down the speed to be able to enjoy life". When the first two or three I checked had that answer, I chuckled a little, but when I realized it was the majority of them, I started thinking about how to fix the issue.

Now, if I had come up with an answer, I would have quickly sold it to the highest bidder. I did look back through my notes from past CCFLT and ACTFL conferences and tried to find some possible solutions. One presenter that I saw about a year ago discussed how we teach everything, but throw the students in the deep end when it comes to listening. I thought I had been doing a better job, but realized that I am focusing so much on the listening, that maybe I forgot about the THINKING! I encourage my AP students to think about the answers they are choosing and do they make any sense. I obviously forgot to teach that lesson with my 3's. Reverting to prehistoric times is not what any person in their right mind would want to do, so they should have been able to eliminate that answer right away.

So, the big question, what to do now? I decided I am going to give them the answers again and look at just the answers. Which ones seem to make no sense? Is there an answer (or two) that seem to go together and are closely related? Is there an answer that seems very far fetched or implausible?

Then we are going to do the listening again and see what answers they choose. (They did the listening the first time about 2 weeks ago, so I doubt they will remember their answers!) Hopefully they will do a better job. We might also look at the transcript and listen to it again to see where things are going wrong.

Listening is in my mind, the MOST important part of communication, why is there so little time dedicated to HOW to teach this most valuable skill? Maybe because it is so very hard to teach......ideas? .....suggestions?