There is a trend in recently published textbooks, both in Israel and abroad, to incorporate learning strategies. Research has shown that this can contribute to the success of the EFL student. (Ehrman, M. 1996) Although the learning strategies have been dealt with, there has been almost no reference to the learner styles that they reflect. All learners use strategies, but not necessarily ones that will improve their English.
In our work in the field, we have seen
many students struggle with listening comprehension exercises. They
donít seem to use the right strategies. Consequently, we found ourselves
trying to analyze their difficulties, in order to facilitate their learning.
We noticed that not every student handled listening comprehension activities
in the same way. We were looking for a methodology that would help
all of our students to succeed in this aspect of their studies.
Attainable Dream 1: ESL/EFL teachers recognize the real importance of listening comprehension and commit themselves to teaching it explicitly.
We cannot expect our students to pick up listening comprehension along the way - by osmosis. We have to train our students because in listening more than in any other skill the listener is at the mercy of the speaker with regards to pace, intonation or manner. The student has no control over what is going to be said. In 1983, Krashen and Terrell wrote that listening comprehension plays a fundamental role in second and foreign language acquisition and is critical to the communication process.
Attainable Dream 2: Teachers recognize that listening is an active process, and that good listening is a matter of interpreting.
Competent listeners cannot be passive. They are actively processing and interpreting what they hear.
Attainable Dream 4: Teachers see their role as being far more significant than merely providing comprehensible input.
The teacher is a strategy trainer - a person who helps foreign language learners use strategies from their native language and trains them in additional strategies. This process enables the students to listen more effectively.
Attainable Dream 6: Teachers and material
designers recognize that we listen to different things in different ways.
Language learning styles are the
general approaches students use to learn a new language. These are
the same styles they employ in learning many other subjects and solving
various problems. The four central dimensions of language learning styles
are: the analytic-global aspect, sensory preferences, intuition-sensory/sequential
learning, and the orientation toward closure or openness. (Oxford,
R. And Scarcella, R. 1992)
Consequently, we analyzed our work with her views and concepts in mind. In so doing, we realized that we had not taken into consideration the individual needs of the students who attend our classes. Her lecture on learner styles and learning strategies had a profound impact on our work. We painstakingly reviewed activities we had created or used for our EFL students. We tried to determine which learner styles and learning strategies were embedded in them.
Strategies are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communication ability. Appropriate learning strategies result in improved proficiency and greater self-confidence in many instances. (Oxford, R. And Scarcella, R. 1992)
As a result of this reflection, we
realized that a variety of learning strategies could be found in the activities
we had already created or used. Now our goal is to reach the different
types of learners and present them with a wide range of learning strategies
when training them in listening comprehension. This reflects Oxford
and Scarcellaís ďTapestryĒ approach to listening instruction. (Oxford,
R. And Scarcella, R. 1992)
This is one way of doing a "strip story" as a listening comprehension activity"
Stage I - Pairs of students create
3 questions about the Olympics.
Stage II - Each pair receives one part (or strip) of the story on the Olympics. Each "strip" is read aloud in front of the class. The rest of the group listens for answers to their questions.
Stage III - Some of the questions and answers are written on the board or overhead projector for the whole class to review.
The Centennial Olympic Games, began in Atlanta, Georgia on the evening of July 19, 1996, with a grand ceremonial opening. It was the hundred (100th) anniversary of the Olympic Games.
There was a march-past of all the competing nations and a "swearing-in" of all the athletes to play fair and in the true spirit of the Olympians.
The Games lasted for 17 days.
This was the biggest Olympic Games ever, with about 11,000 athletes including 3,400 women, from 197 countries.
Athletes competed in 37 different sports through 271 events!
About 3.5 billion people watched some part of the Olympic Games on television.
The Olympic rings are the official symbol of the Olympic movement.
There are five connected rings of the colors blue, yellow, black, green and red.
The rings are set on a white background, designed by Baron Coubertin in 1913.
These rings represent the union of the
5 continents. At least one of these colors is found in the flag of every
In contrast to the strip story activity
is "Aerobics"from Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn, (Hoter, E.
and Rabbe, L. 1989). This activity provides general pictures for the visual
and global learner to concentrate on. It also includes a vocabulary
exercise to help the analytical learner. This activity includes almost
all learner styles.
Come on, you lazy people! You need some exercise! Let's get rid of all that Fat and get those muscles working! Let's go!
Stand up straight, legs apart, hands by your sides. Breathe in slowly-2-3-; out-2-3-; breathe in-2-3-; out-2-3-; in-2-3-; out-2-3-.
Now lift your left arm slowly above your head and stretch your arm towards the sky: and stretch-2-3-; stretch-2-3-; come on, stretch those fingers-2-3-; higher-2-R-;
Stretch-2-3-4; bring your arm slowly down to your side. Lift your right arm slowly up above your head: and stretch-2-3-4; stretch-2-3-4; towards the sky and stretch-2-3-4; stretch-2-3-4. Bring your arms slowly down to your sides.
Lift both arms above your head. Stretch the right arm to the sky-2-3-4; right-2-3-4; now left-2-3-4; right, left, right, left, stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch - and bring your arms slowly down to your sides.
Stand tall, legs apart and breathe in - inhale-2-3-; out-2-3-; inhale-2-3-; exhale-2--.
Tummy in, legs apart and bend from the waist - try to touch the ground with your hands: push-l-2; push-l-2; don't bend those knees, and push, push.
Now push your hands through your legs: push-2-3; and push-2-3; don't bend the knees, and push, push, push, push.
Slowly straighten your body. Stand straight, legs apart,
hands by your sides. Breathe in - inhale
- slowly-2-3-; out - exhale-2-3-; in-2-3-; and out-2-3-.
Finally, we usually organize our analysis
as in the following table, which helps us to keep track of the various
elements for future reference.
|Reviewing Present Simple and Past Simple and Question formation||Analytical and Auditory||Analyzing
Guessing intelligently when listening
Learning to Listen - Listening to Learn Unit 1
|Instructions||Commands in Present Tenses||Analytical and Global, Auditory and Visual, Kinesthetic||Practicing naturally|
Ehrman, Madeline E. (1996). Understanding second language learning difficulties. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Gefen, R. (1985) Teaching listening comprehension in schools. English Teachersí Journal - Israel (31). Israel: Ministry of Education and Culture.
Hoter, E. and Rabbe, L. (1989). Learning to listen and listening to learn. Tel Aviv: Open University of Israel.
Krashen, S.D. and Terrell, T.D. (1983). The natural approach: language acquisition in the classroom. New York: Pergamon Press.
Mendelsohn, D. (1995). Listening comprehension: disturbing realities and attainable dreams. English Teachersí Journal (Israel) 48. Ministry of Education and Culture, Jerusalem, Israel.
Oxford, R. (1990) Language learning strategies: what every teacher should know. New York: Newborn House/Harder & Row.
Oxford, R. and Scarcella, R. (1992) The tapestry of language learning: the individual in the communicative classroom. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.
Ur, Penny. (1984). Teaching
listening comprehension. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Winitz, H. (Ed.) (1981). The
comprehension approach to foreign language instruction. Rowley, MA:
Gail Shuster-Bouskila is
Academic Coordinator of EFL for the School for Languages at the Open University
of Israel in Tel-Aviv. She teaches EFL in the Israeli school system.
She worked in the field of curriculum development at the Jerusalem Pedagogic
Center and was a CALL Counselor for the Ministry of Education.