Cambridge University Press 2006 This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2006 Printed in the United States of America Book layout services: Page Designs International
TableofContents 1 2 3 4 Introduction? 1 Activation of prior knowledge for improved listening comprehension? 2 Systematic presentation of listening for main ideas, listening for details, and listening and making inferences? 5 Stimulating integration of real-world cultural information for students to know and share? 7 Presentation of extensive listening tasks leading to personalized speaking? 9 References and Further Reading 11 Introduction Two themes will wind through this discussion. The first is the necessity of supporting students’ learning.
Listening in another language is a hard job, but we can make it easier by applying what we know about activating prior knowledge, helping students organize their learning by thinking about their purposes for listening, and if speaking is also a goal of the classroom, using well-structured speaking tasks informed by research. Another theme will be motivation. Because listening is so challenging, teachers need to think carefully about making our activities successful and our content interesting. Both themes are united by a focus on the students.
We need to capitalize on the knowledge and interests they already possess. Then we need to help them apply that knowledge and those interests so they can become effective listeners. 1 1 Activationofpriorknowledgefor improvedlisteningcomprehension One very important idea for teaching listening is that listening courses must make use of students’ prior knowledge in order to improve listening comprehension. To make this idea clear, this section introduces several concepts from the cognitive view of language learning, including schema, scripts, and topdown/bottom-up processing.
This section also considers the similarities and differences between listening and reading, and then looks specifically at why the activation of prior knowledge is perhaps even more important in listening than in reading comprehension. Finally, there is a concrete example of activating prior knowledge in listening materials. We have known at least since the 1930s that people’s prior knowledge has an effect on their cognition. Prior knowledge is organized in schemata (the plural form of schema): abstract, generalized mental representations of our experience that are available to help us understand new experiences.
Another way to look at this phenomenon is the idea of scripts. For example, everyone who has been to a restaurant knows that there is a predictable sequence of questions involved in ordering a meal. In the United States these have to do with whether you want soup or salad, the kind of dressing on the salad, choice of side dishes, etc. Even if you do not hear a question, perhaps because the restaurant is too noisy, you can guess from your place in the script what the server is probably asking.
Unfortunately, this script does not transfer perfectly from country to country because the routine is slightly different in each place. However, when traveling in another country, and eating in a restaurant, you can make certain assumptions about the kinds of questions that will be asked. If food has been ordered but drinks have not, and the server asks another question, you might fairly predict that the question is about the choice of drinks, based on your prior knowledge of what happens in restaurants. Indeed, successful language earners often can be separated from unsuccessful language learners by their ability to contextualize their guesses and use their prior knowledge in this way. The idea of prior knowledge is one part of the cognitive model of language processing. That model says that when people listen or read, we process the information we hear both top-down and bottom-up. Top-down means using our prior knowledge and experiences; we know certain things about certain topics and situations and use that information to understand.
Bottom-up processing means using the information we have about sounds, word meanings, and discourse markers like first, then and after that to assemble our understanding of what we read or hear one step at a time. 2 Teaching Listening I like to use as an example of the two kinds of processing my experience buying postcards at an Austrian museum. I speak no German. Having calculated that the postcards would cost sixteen schillings, I walked up to the counter and gave the clerk a twenty-schilling note. She opened the cash register, looked in it, and said something in German.