Micro-listening skills (Part 2) – More micro-listening tasks for the foreign language classroom

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As a follow-up to my post ‘Micro-listening enhancers you may not be using in your foreign language lessons’ here is a new list of micro-listening enhancers I frequenty use in my lessons.

  1. Parallel sentences

I usually read out – or record myself or a native-speaker reading out – ten or more sets of two semi-identical sentences, which differ only slightly, at native speaker speed. For instance, in the example below the difference will be ‘vers’ (around) vs ‘à’ (at). The students have to identify the differences and note them down on mini-boards. I am not at all bothered with the spelling of the target word.

Je suis allée au cinéma vers huit heures

Je suis allée au cinéma à huit heures  

  1. Sudden stop

I give students a transcript of a listening text, then play or read the text at native speed, suddenly stopping when I feel fit. The students write on mini-boards the last word I uttered.

  1. Spot the wrong sound

I pronounce a target language sentence or short text making sure that I make a typical L1 transfer phonetic error. For instance, in the sentence below, I would pronounce the ‘h’ the English way. The students need to identify my pronunciation mistake.

J’habite en Malaisie

  1. Spot the correct transcription

The teacher reads out a sentence at near native speed. The students are provided with a gapped version of that sentence and with three near-homophones (words that sound very similar). The task is to choose the correct option.

Teacher says : J’y vais avec lui

Students see (on screen/whiteboard) : J’y vais avec _______

Options to choose from : Louis – lui – l’huile

  1. Sound-tracking

Students are given a short target language text. The teacher reads a sound, for instance /wa/ (as in ‘moi’) and the students, under time conditions, have to scan the text in search for any letter or combination of letters that refer to that sound and highlight them.

  1. Silent letters (group work)

Students are given a set of sentences and, working in group, take turns to read them out to each other, circling the letter they think will not be voiced. The teacher then provides the answers to confirm or not the students’ assumptions.

  1. Break the flow

This is a classic. Students are presented with sentences (on whiteboard/screen) written out as shown below, with no spacing between words. The teacher will utter the sentence two or three times at native speed and the students will have to rewrite the sentences with the appropriate spacing

What students get: Jenefaispasdesportcarjesuisparesseux (=I do not do sport because I am lazy)

What they are meant to do: je ne fais pas de sport car je suis paresseux

  1. Anagrams

Students are given a set of anagrams of words they have never come across before which the teacher will pronounce one by one two or three times. Based on the target sound – which will have been practised beforehand – the students will have to rewrite the words in their accurate form. I like this exercise because, when the words are truly unfamiliar, it does require a good grasp of TL phonology and inferential skills.

  1. IPA practice – back-transcription

This is meant as training in the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA. After much work on phonological awareness and practice and teaching of the IPA equivalent of each target sound (e.g. oi = /wa/; en= / ɑ̃ /) the students are presented with a list of phonetic transcription of words which I usually get from www.wordreference.com. Their task is to write them back in their normal graphemic form.

What students are given: [mwa], [pɑ̃dɑ̃], etc.

The correct answers: moi, pendant, etc.

  1. IPA practice – IPA transcription

This is best done after extensive practice with the previous activity and with the IPA symbols in general. The teacher utters a series of words and students write them out on white boards using the symbols provided. Sheets with the target IPA symbols can be given to students as scaffolding. A tip: do not deal with too many symbols at any one time and keep the words as short as possible