Listening is one of the most important skills for mastering a foreign language. At the same time, it is also one of the most difficult to achieve. Not only does listening require knowledge of the vocabulary and grammar used in the transcripts, but it also necessitates the ability to quickly recognize the spoken speech and react to it. Consistent practice is essential in sharpening these skills. Different exercises exist to train various aspects of listening. The most efficient method of sharpening the listening skills is doing extensive and intensive listening exercises.
Intensive listening is directed at the improvement of comprehension of details. As such, the questions will require the learners to correctly point out the grammar, vocabulary, or sounds they will hear in the recording (Hoa, 2020). Sample Plan A is an example of a primarily intensive listening exercise. The first exercise is filling the gaps with the phrases and words pronounced by the speaker. The second exercise is putting the given words in the right order, which can be accomplished by knowing the corresponding grammar or correctly hearing the speaker. Both of these exercises require the students to watch out for particular details in the transcript that would indicate the correct answer, which is the goal of intensive listening.
Extensive listening is also related to comprehension, but it trains the language learner to understand the entirety of the speaker’s message. Unlike intensive listening, the focus shifts from grammar and vocabulary specifics towards the overall comprehension. Most often, it is accomplished by posing the question regarding the content of the transcript (Hoa, 2020). In the case of Sample Plan A, extensive listening questions are absent. However, the students do engage in extensive listening when getting acquainted with the transcript for the first time and using it as a reference for creating discussion questions.
Listening Sequence in Sample Plan A
Unless a person is an experienced language speaker, they will have difficulties perceiving the information delivered in a foreign language. This is the reason why the most effective approach towards listening is dividing the practice into three steps: pre-listening, actual listening, and post-listening (Córdoba and Rangel, 2018). Combined together, these steps allow the student to process and memorize most of the vocabulary, sounds, and grammar heard.
During pre-listening, the learners become acquainted with the topic of the actual listening. An example of a pre-listening exercise would require the students to remember the vocabulary relevant to the topic and review the grammar, which will appear in the transcript. Sample Plan A does not have such an exercise, as the recording is played at the beginning of the lesson. A better approach would be to warm up the audience by stating the topic to them and asking questions, which would refresh the corresponding vocabulary in the learners’ memory.
The while-listening step is the activity done during the playback of the recording. At this stage, students take notes or complete a specific objective laid out by the teacher. In the case of Sample Plan A, there is a sixty seconds long recording, during which the listeners complete the missing phrases in the transcript given to them. However, another exercise can be added, which would have the students choose a correct answer about the content of the transcript, thus utilizing extensive listening practice.
Post-listening is critical because it connects the knowledge gained from the speaker to the actual language knowledge of the learners. Sample Plan A emphasizes the post-listening exercise above all, as it encompasses three exercises, which task the students with discussing and writing about the information presented in the recording. Moreover, homework is also based on the recording. As a result, there is no shortage of post-listening practice.
The Use of Schema in the Reading Lesson Plan
Reading is the most important skill in mastering a foreign language because it allows the learner to work with dictionaries and process written information. As the most valuable information exists in writing, reading is the only way to access it. However, information does not have any meaning in itself. Instead, the meaning is generated by schemas. A schema is defined as a “data structure of general ideas stored in memory” (Xie, 2017, p. 67). Activating schemas allows the mind to understand and comprehend the information. As a result, the teacher’s goal is to find a way to activate the appropriate schemas in the memory with reading exercises.
In essence, schemata are similar to using associative learning. Each person has a combination of personal experiences and knowledge. Making connections between the new material and the already existing knowledge helps the learner memorize the new facts, rules, and other types of information. Therefore, in order for the lesson to activate the appropriate schemata, the teacher has to link the material to the learners’ personal experiences. It can be accomplished by asking specific questions related to personal life, by drawing associations, or by writing an essay, where the topic of the lesson is reflected in personal experiences.
The reading lesson plan is structured around comprehension by association, which is the prerequisite for activating schemata. At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher has students review the verbs describing senses. Then, the students get acquainted with a famous blind and deaf Helen Keller and her teacher. At this point, the schemata are activated because prior to this, the students recalled the verbs describing senses. Following the presentation, the teacher posits several questions, requiring the learners to talk about their own experiences or knowledge of teaching people with disabilities. Once again, the schemata are activated, and the information about Keller obtains meaning in the minds of the students.
Changes in the Sample Reading Plan
The first change that would benefit the lesson is enhancing the warm-up to include the vocabulary terms, such as remarkable, refuse, defiant, and other words, which the students are expected to learn over the course of this lesson. It should be noted that these words may seem challenging when encountered for the first time, and the text contains the. Without the proper pre-reading activity, where students learn these words, they will experience difficulties with properly comprehending them within the framework of the larger text. Therefore, having the definitions of these words written on the board while the students read the text will help them understand what they mean without interrupting the reading.
The second change involves modifying the post-reading practice. Most likely, there will be mistakes concerning the use of the newly learned words, which may manifest in the form of misspelling, mispronouncing, or failing to remember the meaning. The teacher can write such mistakes on the board and then ask the students to correct these mistakes while completing their homework. Allowing the students to recognize the mistakes and correct it on their own improves their memories and prevents similar mistakes in the future. As a result, not only will the learners get acquainted with the story of Helen Keller, but they also will successfully comprehend and be able to use the new vocabulary.
Córdoba Zúñiga, E., & Rangel Gutiérrez, E. (2018). Promoting listening fluency in pre-intermediate EFL learners through meaningful oral tasks. Profile Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 20(2), 161-177. Web.
Hoa, L. B. (2020). Listening portfolio: A combination of extensive and intensive listening. Center for English as a Lingua Franca, 95-106.
Xie, X. (2017). The influence of schema theory on foreign language reading comprehension. The English Teacher, 9. 67-75.