Visit the HANDOUTS page for copiable materials that can be used in conjunction with this site.
Tips for Teachers
Many comments from teachers have prompted me to describe how teachers can integrate these activities into their own classes and how these quizzes can be used even under the most basic of circumstances.
To begin with, the site was mainly designed for (1) self-access learning where students do the listening activities on their own, and (2) teacher-directed learning where the teacher asks students to complete certain exercises as a means of supplementing their classroom objectives. I should point out that the main objective isn't to test listening, but to help students how to learn to improve their listening, and this goal can be accomplished in part by doing all of the activities in each conversation.
However, without a general pedagogical framework focusing on objectives and outcomes, students might not be able to maximize their learning potential while using this site. Of course, students can come and go as they please (and the site wasn't designed to be a rigorous learning tool), but teachers and students will gain more if they have a plan in mind before they start studying.
The listening activities have been organized by approximate level of difficulty based on rate of speed, vocabulary, content, ambient noise, idiomatic expressions, and other factors; however, this is never an exact science. Because I have tried not to overly predigest the content for the consumption of the language learner, the materials can be challenging for very low students. In fact, the Easy level is designed for false or high beginners on up who have already studied some English, and not for true beginners.
Perhaps one of the most important steps that we can do to ensure the greatest success among lower students is to do the pre-listening exercises. Doing this step will help students prepare themselves to receive the message in the listening conversation by making predictions about the material they will hear.
Since the Internet is a very vast place, learners need guidance on where to go and what to do when they get there. The same is true of this site. A number of people stumble on to this site as they search the Internet and then do the exercises on their own. On the other hand, a number of learners hear about the site from their teachers and may be encouraged or assigned to use the site.
In the latter case, students often don't know how to proceed once they get here. To improve students' first experience with my site, I suggest the following steps:
Give your students a tour of the site and lead them through some of the exercises. If you are in a lab with an LCD projector and screen, then you could just project the site on a screen and then show students what to do. I suggest you use some of the handouts HERE that contain screen shots of the site.
Introduce students to the Pre-Listening Activities which are used to help students generate ideas and vocabulary that may appear in the conversation. This is a directed learning technique that focuses students' attention on a specific topic and builds their expectations of what they might hear in the conversation.
Furthermore, many of the Pre-Listening Activities include a picture for stimulating discussion about the topic of the conversation, as seen in this example (from the listening quiz, Car Repairs). Questions and discussion could involve helping students develop critical-thinking skills (e.g., determining cause and effect relationships, hypothesizing, making inferences, and drawing conclusions) rather than just simple straightforward answers (e.g., "What color is the man's car?"). Such skills are not only needed for the new generation TOEFL iBT, but also everyday interaction with people in academic and work environments. Thus, possible questions (using modals of speculation---might, must, couldn't, has to, may, etc.) with this picture could include:
Where is the man in this picture? (He might be lost in the desert. He wanted to impress his date with his navigation skills and left his map at home. / He must have run out of gas going to visit relatives in the country.)
Where is the man going? (He might be looking for a gas station. / He's carrying his suitcase to the nearest house to call for help.)
What might be wrong with the man's car? (He could have had a flat tire with no spare to fix it because he took the spare out to make room for his barbecue grill. / He may have been in an argument with his girlfriend, and she told him to walk.)
What is the man carrying? (He's carrying a gas can. / He couldn't be carrying his winnings from Las Vegas. He would have flown back home in that case.)
Why doesn't he use a cell phone to call for help? (He can't get reception on his phone. / The cell phone battery might have died. / The cell phone stopped working when he dropped it into the swimming pool at the last hotel. / He must have left it at the last gas station in the restroom because no one in his right mind would travel through the barren desert without one.)
Review the questions in the Listening Section before you click the Play Audio button. This will also help students use their prediction skills to guess the topics they might hear.
Click on the Play Audio button, listen to the recording, and answer the questions. Be sure to check the Media Players page to learn how to control the software for better learning options including the audio playback speed. Then, click on the Final Score button and check your answers.
Review the transcript and study the key vocabulary for the activity. Pay careful attention to how each word is used in the sample sentence.
Do the Vocabulary Activities to see how the key words in each conversation can be used in different situations. This helps students recycle the vocabulary in different ways in preparation to apply it in the speaking activity (See example HERE).
Use some of the HANDOUTS to keep track of your listening scores and key vocabulary introduced in the conversation.
Many of the listening activities on my site focus on building students' receptive skills, but to make this language part of your natural communication skills, students need be involved in productive and critical-thinking activities. In this section of many of the listening activities, students can engage in different conversational activities to apply what they have learned. Furthermore, there are topics linked to my blog HERE .
Online Investigations :
One of the hot topics over the years have been the emphasis on teaching students how to become critical thinkers. Now, critical thinking ISN"T about thinking negatively about something; rather, it is the ability to think logically by examining and analyzing information before making quick judgements. Too often, teachers teach students what to think, but not how to think; people aren't born with the ability to think logically. It must be learned, often through direct instruction. Unfortunately, teachers and parents often do not do enough to help their students and children learn these concepts. Furthermore, simple multiple-choice or fill-in-the blank questions are good for some learning tasks, but because the answers are already determined, they don't teach students how to become independent learners and arrive at new conclusions on their own.
One common problem I see in working with international students is that they tend too overgeneralize and stereotype people and conditions quickly without all the facts. They don't know the importance of suspending judgement until sufficient and quality information is available to form valid statements about a topic. Typical statements people make are any of the following:
Americans eat too much junk food.
Exercising is the best way to lose weight.
Children are better language learners than adults are.
People are homeless because they are on drugs.
Now, at first glance, these statements might appear to be true, but if we examine the statements more carefully---by suspending judgement until more information is available and qualify our statments---we will learn to understand what elements of the statements are fact or fiction.
In response to this need, I am adding a series of tasks to each listening activity during 2010 that require the learner to investigate a related topic on the Internet. These tasks can be used in not only listening/speaking classes, but they would work very well in reading and writing classes. In using such critical-thinking activities, it is my hope that students will become better critical thinkers in their daily lives and in their studies.