Developing Listening and Speaking Skills

Here is a great suggestion from an ESL tutor in Georgia who works with a small group of 3 learners.  The activity could be used successfully during one-to-one or small group tutoring sessions.

“I’m a volunteer at a local library here who helps some advanced ESL students with their English.  I don’t actually have a conversation class, per se, but what I do is help them develop their ability to understand fast speech.  We also work on their pronunciation as well.  A more detailed description of what we do follows.

First, in preparation for the class, I go to to find a fairly short video clip.  Then I write out a transcript of what they say in the video.  Then at the beginning of our class we watch the video one time (maybe twice), then I read the transcript with the students.  I’ll read the first sentence (or the first part of a long sentence), make sure they know all the words, then ask each student to repeat it after me.  Each students reads it in turn.  When they read, if there is a glaring weakness in their pronunciation I’ll point it out.  If they have a question, I’ll answer it.  I’ll also point out any peculiarities in the pronunciation of a word or phrase if there’s something peculiar about how that word or phrase is pronounced.  For example, some three-syllable words are pronounced as two-syllable words, such as “family,” “chocolate,” “different,” “camera”, etc, and that a stop (the “t” and “d” are the most common) in the middle of a consonant cluster is often silent, such as in the words “softball” and “Christmas”).

Anyway, we’ll go through a couple of paragraphs like that, sentence by sentence, then read the entire section as a whole (me first, then each student in turn), then we’ll listen to that part of the video a couple of times.  Sometimes, if there are two actors in a scene from a movie, two of my students will read the lines of each of these two actors.

We’ll then return to the transcript and go over the next few paragraphs in the same way.  After we’ve read all of the sections of the transcript and listened to them on the video, then we’ll go over the entire transcript once more.  Then we’ll watch the entire video in its entirety (and sometimes more than once — whatever the students want).

Then the next time we meet, I’ll play all of the videos that we covered in the previous lesson one more time.

The videos and transcripts that I use during the class are all available online at the following link:

This link takes you to the first blog entry, which is the introduction.  The videos there are short.  To see more blog entries with longer videos (there are more than 40 videos and transcripts on the blog now), just click on the link to the right that says View All Entries From My Blog.”


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