Term Paper, 2012
10 Pages, Grade: 1,3
1.1. The Theory of Listening
2. Textbook: Password Green 3
2.1. Strategy Page: Listening
2.2. Practical Example
3. Conclusion and Evaluation
5.1. Strategy Page: Listening (incl. Practical Example: Exercise no. 1)
“Listening is a very complex process [and] the most widely used language skill
in everyday life.” (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 72)
This paper deals primarily with the analysis and the evaluation of a listening exercise taken from a textbook series called Password Green. Password Green 3 is an English textbook for students in Germany who attend the seventh grade of a Gymnasium (i.e. secondary school). Further, the theory of listening (comprehension) (as provided by: Andreas Müller-Hartmann and Marita Schocker-v. Ditfurth (Introduction to English Language Teaching) and the educational magazine Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch: Hörverstehen) as well as the Syllabus (Lehrplan English Sekundarstufe I / Gymnaisum) and the Educational Standards (Bildugnsstandards erste Fremdsprache Mittlerer Schulabschluss) will be taken into consideration. With the help of these stated sources the practical example will be analysed. Moreover, the term paper aims to illustrate to what extent the exercise applies to the theory and the requirements of Educational Standards and Curriculum. Additionally, the evaluation from a teacher´s perspective will discuss under which conditions the exercise may be used or what risks and chances the analysed task can entail. It is important to mention that this term paper lays focus on my own opinion towards the analysed practical example and therefore does not reflect the opinion of any of the authors found in the list of secondary sources.
Listening is defined as one of the four major language skills, the other three skills being reading, writing and speaking (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 57). Consequently, the development of listening skills is absolutely essential. Although it is classified as a rather receptive skill (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 57), listening is everything else but a passive process (Kieweg 2003: 19). Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth refer to Buck who describes listening comprehension as
“a very complex process in which different types of both linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge are involved. On a very general level it can be described as an active process of constructing meaning which is carried out by applying knowledge to the incoming sound.” (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 73)
The two types of knowledge Buck speaks of are named “the bottom-up view and the top - down view” (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 73). To put it simply: Whereas bottom-up listening is achieved by segmenting and decoding sounds (i.e. the ability to
separate a text/speech/etc. into individual words and filter certain pieces of information (e.g. the age of a person or the name of a street) with the help of the knowledge of the language), top-down listening is, above all, about understanding the meaning of the message in any kind of text/speech/etc. (i.e. understanding the context with the help of using world knowledge). One may say that these two models operate together which is why “the process of listening is also sometimes referred to as an interactive process […] or as parallel processing […]” (Müller-Hartman and Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 75). Thus, the ability to handle both processes is one of the major aspects that tend to ensure a successful listening. To put it in a nutshell, listening comprehension plays a central role in the development of the foreign language communication skill. For this reason, the development of listening skills has to be regarded as a process which lasts for several if not all years of study.
The textbook is divided into 6 units and focuses on aspects of British and American culture and language (i.e. teaching cultural knowledge and intercultural understanding). On top of that, each unit consists of a so-called Strategy Page which purpose is to teach a certain skill (e.g. listening, writing or reading). As a matter of interest, I decided to have a closer look at this Strategy Page that also provides two listening exercises. Due to the fact that the Syllabus defines listening comprehension as a basic requirement for general understanding and as an elementary part of teaching foreign languages, I favour these Strategy Pages and think of them as a sensible addition to the textbook and other teaching materials.
Apart from two listening tasks the Strategy Page offers following: tips and suggestions, listening activities to improve not only one´s listening but also speaking skill (e.g. pronunciation) and, moreover, questions (e.g. What must you do while you are listening? or How can you get ready before you listen?) that can be discussed and completed with the teacher in class. As both, the Educational Standards and the Curriculum, demand for the successful handling of complex and complicated “utterances” of any kind (e.g. listening for details (i.e. “intensives Hörverstehen (von Details); selektives Hörverstehen (von einzeln ausgewählten Details)”) or understanding the general context (i.e. “extensives Hörverstehen (global); extensives und selektives Hörverstehen (global und in einzeln ausgewählten Details)”)) (Lehrplan Englisch als erste Fremdsprache (Klassen 5 – 9/10) 2000: 82-83), it is the teacher´s task to point out and teach different listening strategies. Students have to be made aware of the fact that different listening exercises aim for different learning objectives
and therefore train various abilities. Further, teachers are responsible to state that understanding and translating every single word or sentence in a listening exercise is not absolutely necessary (i.e. not letting discourage themselves and thus maintaining a positive learning atmosphere in the classroom). It is important that students recognize listening tasks as a whole concept, preparing them to be able to handle complex listening/hearing situations. Despite its shortness (only 1 page), the Strategy Page presumably aims to trigger exactly the aspects I have mentioned above. It is a useful and sensible addition to the textbook and gives students an understanding of listening exercises as well as listening strategies. In my opinion, the Strategy Page is supposed to achieve the students understanding for the concept. As a result, students may tend to be more motivated and encouraged and no longer perceive listening exercises as repetitious and discouraging activities. Essential condition for this result is, of course, a qualified teacher who knows how to work with this material.
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