viernes, 2 de octubre de 2009

Skills and Strategies for Proficient Listening by Pat Wilcox Peterson

Theories of language Comprehension

Listening is the primary channel for language input and acquisition:

It is important to take into account the primacy of listening in the process of comprehension, retention of information, and acquisition of second language competence.

“Learning to speak a language is very largely a task of learning to hear it”. Nida (1957)
“Reception should precede production because reception enables production”. Nord (1981)

Listening comprehension is a multilevel, interactive process of meaning creation:

Many levels work simultaneously to understand the incoming speech. The higher level processes (top-down) involves the listener’s expectations and understanding of the context, the topic, and the nature of the world. On the other hand, the lower level processes (bottom-up) starts with the listener’s attempt to decode sounds, words and phrases.

Going beyond, those sounds itself carries an implicit meaning; the listener in this stage uses his/her own knowledge of the language to recognize words, meaningful sounds units, syllable boundaries, etc. (Perceptual stage)

In the next stage the listener decode the sounds into meaningful units of language and stores them in his/her short term memory (Parsing stage)

The listener links the new information with existing information (Schemata) in his/her long-term memory. When a match is made between the old and new information, comprehension occurs. (Utilization stage)

In proficient listeners, higher and lower level processes compensate each other, the lack of information at one level is supplemented by the other.

Schemata: “Data structure for representing generic concepts stored in memory” Rumelhart 1980.

According to Carrel and Eisterhold there are two kinds of schemata: Content schemata and formal schemata. Content schemata are based in cultural knowledge, topic familiarity, and previous experience with a field.
Formal schemata have to do with people’s knowledge of discourse forms: types of texts, structural organization, etc.

Models of the comprehension process:

The listener does not receive meaning, but rather constructs meaning. The constructed message differs somewhat from the intended message and is influenced by context, purpose for listening and the listener’s own prior knowledge.

Principles for Listening Comprehension in the classroom:

*Increase the amount of listening time in the second language class. (Listening should be the primary channel to introduce new material).
*Use listening before other activities.
*Include both global and selective listening.
*Activate top-level skills. (Provide advance organizers, script activators, or discussions; encourage top-down processing of information)
*Work towards automaticity in processing. (Include recognition and retention of the material)
*Develop conscious listening strategies. (Let them notice how processing operations interact with the text)

Skills and strategies

It is important to differentiate between listening process, listening skill, and listening strategy.

The comprehension process (listening process) is constituted by some simultaneous, interactive operations. These operations are made up of various subprocesses (recognizing words, recalling relevant schemata, etc.), the skills.
When the comprehension process breaks down, the listener becomes aware of the need for repair and seeks an appropriate strategy for comprehension.

At lower proficiency levels the urge to translate is so natural that is recommendable to explicitly encourage students to avoid it.

Types of Strategies:

The categories of strategies are metacognitive, cognitive and socioaffective. Metacognitive strategies involve planning, monitoring, and evaluating comprehension. Cognitive strategies are used to manipulate information. eg. Rehearsal, organization, summarization, etc.
Socioaffective strategies are important when the listening is two way and meaning can be negotiated between speaker and listener. eg. Cooperative learning, negotiation of meaning, etc.

Strategy use varies with proficiency; the more advanced learners use a greater number of strategies than beginners.

Effective learners select strategies depending on the processing phase. In the perceptual phase they use focused, selective attention; in parsing the prefer top-down strategies; and in the utilization phase, they draw on personal experience and world knowledge.

A Developmental view of listening skills

Characteristics of the beginning-level student in listening:

*Lack adequate bottom-up processing skills
*Perception of new language as undifferentiated noise (not yet able to segment the speech stream)
*Not familiar with rules for word formation, inflections, or word order.
*Vocabulary practically nonexistent.

Suggestions to improve listening input:

*Global listening should be short (one to three minutes of duration)
*Teachers’ monologues are most effective at this level if they are delivered in a simplified code.
*Try to add new material gradually.
*Global listening exercises delivered to large classes, offers an option to use the class time wisely.
*Selective listening exercises focused on structures or sounds are easy to prepare.
*Listening discrimination tasks can focus on tenses, word order, or new vocabulary.

Techniques for global Listening:

Global listening is the presentation of new material. Until students are skilled readers, it is the best to present new material orally.
Texts for global listening should be short, and must be preceded by a prelistening activity. The theme and situation of the story should be presented visually.
Use new vocabulary supported by the context of the classroom, so meaning is clear.
In this stage the listening should include pauses; teachers should not slow their speech, because students’ short-term memory capacity is too limited.
Short phrases can be held in working memory until the next pause; during the pause, the phrase is analyzed, interpreted, related to the rest of the message, and comprehended.

Selective listening techniques:

These techniques consist on bringing some of the new contrasts and patterns into conscious awareness through selective listening exercises.

An exercise is classified as bottom-up if focus is on form and the exercise deals with one of the structural systems of English.

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between intonation contours in sentences
*Discriminate between phonemes
*Recognize syllable patterns, number of syllables, and word stress
*Be aware of sentence fillers in informal speech
*Select details from the text

Top-Down Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between emotional reactions
*Get the gist or main idea of a passage
*Recognize the topic

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use speech features to decide if a statement is formal or informal
*Recognize a familiar word and relate it to a category
*Compare information in memory with incoming information
*Compare information in memory with incoming information.

Profile of the Intermediate level learner:

*Listening is important at the time of increasing their vocabulary and structural understanding.
*Need practice in word recognition.
*Can retain longer phrases and sentences
*Can listen to short conversations or narratives of one or two paragraphs
*They are able to find the main idea and some supportive details
*Ready to practice more discourse level skills
Techniques for global listening:

*Students need to hear authentic (Authentic: very good teacher-made or adapted materials) texts with reduced forms, fast speech features, dales starts, hesitations, errors, some nonstandard dialects, and a variety of different voices.

Techniques for selective listening:

*Students need to focus their attention on the systematic features of the language code.
*According to Gilbert, some pronunciation training has an important place in the listening class.
*Students are in time to teach explicitly some strategies of interactive listening (how to use one’s knowledge of formal grammar to check the general meaning of a spearker’s statement and how to use one’s background knowledge to predict and direct the process of comprehension).

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Differentiate between content and function words by stress patterns
*Find the stressed syllable
*Recognize words with reduced vowels or dropped syllables
*Recognize words as they are linked in the speech stream
*Recognize pertinent details in the speech stream

Top-down processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between registers of speech and tones of voice
*Identify the speaker or the topic
*Find the main ideas and supporting details
*Make inferences

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use word stress to understand the speaker’s intent
*Recognize missing grammar markers in colloquial speech and reconstruct the messages
*Use context and knowledge of the world to build listening expectations; listen to confirm expectations.

Profile of the advanced learner:
-Students at this level:

*Have cognitive and academic language proficiency
*Listen to the language to learn about the other areas
*Can listen to longer texts such as radio and television programs and academic lectures
*Have an extensive vocabulary which includes topics in current events, history and culture
*Can deal with certain degree of abstraction.

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use features of sentences stress and intonation to identify important information for note taking
*Recognize contractions, reduced forms, and other characteristics of spoken English that differ from the written form
*Become aware of common performance slips that must be reinterpreted or ignored
*Become aware of organizational cues in the lecture text
*Become aware of lexical and suprasegmental markers for definitions
*Identify specific points of information

Top-down processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use knowledge of the topic to predict the content of the text
*Use the introduction to the lecture to predict its focus and direction
*Use the lecture transcript to predict the content of the next section
*Find the main idea of a lecture segment
*Recognize point of view

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use knowledge of phrases and discourse markers
*Make inferences about the text.

lunes, 27 de julio de 2009

A lesson for Secondary Students

Here is the link to download our work about the episode called "Popcorn panic"

Perez, Sabrina
Nicola, Pablo Javier

viernes, 24 de julio de 2009

The Penguins of Madagascar

Hi there!!
It's a pity that there are only three summaries and some of you have had no time to read them and leave your comments. Anyway, those who keep working needn't be held back.

Using the information from the summaries, view the cartoon "Popcorn Panic" and then plan a brief class. You can work in pairs.

Post the class here or email it.

viernes, 10 de julio de 2009

Planning Lessons by Linda Jensen

“A lesson plan is an extremely useful tool that serves as a combination guide, resource, and historical document reflecting our teaching philosophy and our goals for our students” (Linda Jensen).
Lesson plans are particularly important for newly teachers and beneficial for those teachers who have been teaching for years.

Why we plan?
When teachers are preparing a lesson plan they have to bear in mind what to teach, in what order and for how much time. A lesson plan is also a valuable paper that can be useful when teachers have to prepare quizzes, midterms and final exams.
As teachers expect students to come to class prepare to learn is necessary to provide the example and come to class to teach.

When and how we plan?
To make an appropiate lesson plan teachers need to develop a macro and micro planning. It means that teachers have to begin with a reflection of a philosophy of learning and teaching (macro level) and then, finish with a specific lesson (micro level).
When the texts and the syllabus have been selected, the next step would be the planning for the year or term. It’s a great idea that newly teachers consult their collegues and supervisors about those designs.

What a lesson plan looks like?
There is not only a specific way in creating a lesson plan. It depends on the teacher’s preferences and experiences. For instance; many teachers use notebooks for each class, some other use note cards or loose sheets of papers which can be distributed among students. Nowadays, even computers are use by many teachers.
A lesson plan has three phases: A beginning, a middle and an end.
First, the majority of the plans start with a description of the class and students. Teachers also find important to note what they have explained and what will be necessary to be explained for a future particular lesson. Goals and objectives need to be included as well as a variety of texts, equipment and materials.
Teachers should pay attention in noting any homework so that later they can collect them and return to their students at the right time.
Second, it refers to the lesson’s content. This includes all the activities carrying out during a lesson, time management and class management.
For the presentation and practice stages is necessary to begin with a diagnostic activity. Then, the teacher have to bear in mind how to connect those previous activities with the new ones and how these activities could motivate the students.
Lastly, the teacher should evaluate if students have learned all the new material.
Time management can be unpredictable both for novice teachers and the experienced ones because they cannot anticipate how long an activity will take. In one hand, activities are underestimated in terms of length. Here, the teacher have to decide what part of the lesson should be skipped, shortened or saved for the next class. On the other hand activities are overstimated. Generally, newly teachers become very nervious when they have ten minutes left with nothing to do.
Seating arragements befohand help the teacher to save time because it’s more efficient than moving students around randomly.
Third, a lesson plan contains some comments that end the lesson. For instance; a review of the lesson and the homework for the next class.

Basic principles of lesson planning
A good teaching lesson need to have coherence, variety and flexibility.
• Coherence: On the macro level, the different kinds of lessons need to be connected with each other. On the micro level, students have to understand the goals of each activity ( They benefit best when activities are interrelated)
• Variety: Lesson plans should not follow the same pattern everyday. On the macro level, a variety applies to topics, language and skills. On the micro level, everyday lessons should vary its activities, materials involved and the pace of the class.
The classroom organization also have to change in terms of whole-class, small group, pair and individual activities.
• Flexible: Good teachers have to know when and how to change an activity regardless of what a lesson plan says.

In conclusion, in order to make a successful lesson plan, teachers have to take into account the principles of second language learning and teaching and the needs of students and the institution.

"Syllabus design" by David Nunan

Download Link:

jueves, 9 de julio de 2009

The Use of Media in Language Teaching by Donna M. Brinton

Media facilitate language learning for structured and non-structured learners, and contribute with learning in almost any learning style.
Media helps teachers taking the real world into the classroom, and makes tasks more meaningful and thus, more exiting.

There are many classifications of media, the more general one classify media into mechanical (related to technological innovations) and non-mechanical (daily life objects; these objects must be adapted by the teacher according to students’ level of proficiency and needs). Other classifications are: technical (costlier)/non-technical (user friendly), software (consumable)/hardware (equipment), authentic/not authentic, commercial/teacher produced, used alone/multimedia.

We have to take into account which purpose the media will be used for, select one media, and then think about the advantage that kind of media has (each media have unique advantages), and what sort of adaptation have to be made to reach students’ needs and capacities.

Media should be viewed as an important part of the lesson, if not the most important one. It motivates students because it presents language in a communicative and meaningful context; it also provides cultural richness input.
Media help students to process information and teachers to avoid excessive explanation, and provide a real context in which the task will be developed.

Framework: (a guide for teachers, not a step-by-step guide)

1) Information and Motivation stage: Topic and background information is presented.
2) Input stage: Teacher ensures comprehension of items presented
3) Focus stage: Students practice the task and manipulate items until they feel confident.
4) Transfer stage (communicative oriented): Students offer personal comments or share experiences related to the topic.
5) Optional feedback stage: Recording of students is used to guide assessment

At the time of choosing media we have to be aware that instructional media will be found in almost infinite variety of forms and can play equally varied roles.
Taking this into account, at the time of selecting what kind of media will be used in our classes we have to consider:

*The type of concept to be presented.
*Students preferences (age, interests, learning styles, &c.)
*Teacher preferences (teaching style, equipment familiarity, &c.)
*Availability of software and hardware.
*Physical circumstances of the classroom or lab.
(Availability and teacher creativity will be the determining factors in selecting what media will be used)

Finally, we have to use media to vary and make classes less monotonous, media help us to reinforce the points we want to make and provide a real context to work about; it is a source of input, media also help to individualize instruction and appeal to the variety of cognitive styles in the classroom. Media involve students integrally in the learning process and facilitate language learning by making it a more authentic process.

viernes, 3 de julio de 2009

Tips for Summary Writing

Presentation with basic elements of summary writing"

Skills and revision questions for College Summary Writing

Reading assignment

Summary Writing:

Summarize one of these articles, idealy one each:
"Guidelines for Language Classroom Instruction" by Crookes and Chaudron
"Syllabus Design" by David Nunan
"Lesson Planning" by Linda Jensen
"Textbooks: Evaluation for Selection and Analysis for Implementation" by Patricia Byrd
"The use of Media in Language Teaching" by Donna Brinton
"Content Based and Immersion Models for Second and Foreing Language Teaching" by M.A. Snow

Guidelines: 1)Choose the article and let us know.
2)Publish your summary (you may be requested to edit your post for language mistakes or content)
3) Add your own reflection on the text and the topic.
4) Read the other summaries and comment on the content and previous comments by your partners. You may also ask clarification questions.
5) Get a great mark for your work!!!


Hi there!
I'm terribly sorry I couldn´t talk to you before classes were called off. Anyway, if you are willing we can try and make the most of it.
To begin with, this is a closed blog, than means that (... or so I'll try)you'll all have a chance to publish but none can do it unless you've been invited.
In the next hours I'll publish some tasks, to see how it works and so you can all give your opinion on how to carry out our discussions in the cyberspace.

Glad to get your comments,

PD: Thanks a million for the offer, Nico; if I need help, be sure I'll let you know. And thanks to Pablo who's sent all your addresses.