working with listening transcripts 1


Today I would like to share a couple of ideas on one of the most overlooked -and useful- things we can do in the classroom: working with listening transcripts. They tend to be considered as reference material for the students to check -if anything- at home to, perhaps, look up words they may not know from it.

However, they are very useful not just as reference material. There are quite a few things that we can do as language teachers with them in the classroom setting. In this first blog post I will be focusing on exploiting them in a generic way in relation to what the students understand from the listening passage. In the next blog post to come I will be referring to the work on listening from the inspiring figure of John Field and I will be blogging about the things that the students don’t understand and how transcripts can be used for students self-assessment and for teachers to establish intervention strategies.

Idea number one. Knock on wood. After the students have listened to a listening passage from their textbook and regardless of the kind of comprehension questions they may be faced with, find the transcript and start rephrasing it by saying things that are accurate according to what they students heard but also by changing others that are not true to the story. Every time the students hear something that is not true, they should knock on their desks and correct you. Here is a sample from Empower A2, Cambridge University Press. Free sample from the publisher here.

And this is how things could unfold:

Both of them went on a Road Silk trip and both of them enjoyed it. Both of them went by train and by bike [knock knock “he went by train and she travelled by train, bike and coach”]. He caught the train from Turkey [knock knock “he caught the train from Russia”] and travelled through central Asia. He sometimes changed trains [knock knock “the same train all the way”]. The trains were very comfortable. She was surprised to hear he paid 35,000 dollars [knock knock “25,000 dollars”] for the trip but he said it included everything, the train, the food, everything.

This adds an element of fun but the most important things transpiring from this exploitation is that it supplies important information that the students might have missed which will help understanding, if you decide to play the extract one more time, and also gets the students really engaged in the activity. Once the students are used to this, you can let them work in pairs and one student will take the role of teacher.

Idea number two. Syntactic priming. Syntactic priming is the process that takes place when we make predictions upon hearing certain grammatical patterns which guide us to guess the string of words that are more likely to be uttered next based on our previous encounters with those patterns. Basically we are constantly building sentences based on what we hear, which are next confirmed or then reformulated. We hypothesise. We fill gaps. This is one of the reasons why listening -far from being a receptive process- is very much an active skill. Check my blog post on syntactic priming here. Get your students into pairs and have one student in each pair look at the transcript. This student will start reading the transcript but every time there is a noun, she will have to stop and say “err” instead for the partner to elicit the missing noun. If the partner doesn’t know or guesses the wrong word, a hint can be given or just simply the word in question and the student with the transcript in sight will keep on reading until the next noun is encountered.

For instance, and with the same listening sample:

  • My .err… [mum] said you went on a Silk err… [Road] err… [trip].
  • Yes, it was a wonderful err… [trip]. Really fantastic.
  • How did you travel?
  • By err… [train], of err… [course]. The only err… [way] to do it.
  • Well, not the only err… [way]. I went there last err… [year] and I travelled by err… [train] and by err… [coach] and by err… [bike].

This also works well with verbs. For instance:

  • Very. Just like a hotel on wheels. It err… [had] anything I err… [needed.
  • Great. And how much did it err… [cost]?
  • I don’t err… [remember] exactly. Not too much for a trip like that. About 25,000 dollars?

Zero prep.

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