It was great. I got inspired by his workshop, so I tried to apply his idea to my class right away. So satisfied with making a good one, in spite of harder-working to prepare it. Thanks a lot!
I worked with Peadar during the KOTESOL conference in Seoul in October 2010. Peadar has fantastic ideas that he uses in the classroom, comics and magic just being a few. He’s an interesting person to talk to and I’m sure that his students are just as impressed with his ideas as I am.
Sharon Couzens de Hinojosa, October 17, 2010
Active Listening in the Classroom
“Do gapfills really assess listening?”
I had never stopped to think about that question before. The gapfill format constantly shows up in my ESL textbooks and materials. I’ve made dozens, thinking the exercise will commit the students to listening attentively.
At the May 7th Daegu KOTESOL meeting, Peadar Callaghan proved me (and others) wrong in his excellent seminar, “Active Listening: Moving Beyond Filling in the Blanks.”
As an exercise, he gave us a gapfill in a made-up language, and asked us to fill the blanks. Most participants got full marks for transcribing the syllables we heard, but could we attach meaning to them? No. Gapfill activities may prove that students have good hearing, but they don’t assess comprehension. It’s too bad, since they show up in every ESL textbook on the market, often without further comprehension questions.
Luckily, Peadar gave us some great answers to the question:
How can we best engage and assess students’ listening skills?
Most Korean classrooms are kitted out with computers and sound systems, and teachers should take full advantage. Teachers can use simple software to create their own listenings, or have students make voice recordings on their cellphones (you know they’re all carrying one). With a few mp3 players and students’ own headphones, teachers can also make listening stations around the classroom, where students can hit replay as many times as they need.
Rethink assessment tools
Don’t rely solely on tasks like gapfills or dictations, where students can simply transcribe the sounds they hear. The students should demonstrate that they understood the listening too. Peadar gave a great “Wanted Poster” example, where students listen to physical descriptions of 2 people, and must draw the faces described. The task is easy to assess, and students can focus on listening without having to worry about their spelling or writing skills.
Some other examples were mind maps and pro/con lists, where students process and organize the information they heard in a new format.
Activate multiple skills with retelling
This was one of my favourite tips from the seminar. Half the students are given a text to read, process, and retell to a partner, who writes down the information. The text is too long to simply memorize, so the student must re-explain the content in their own words. This engages reading, writing, listening and speaking. It also lets the teacher step back and have the students do all the talking with one another.
The task can also be done with pictures. Student A sees a picture, and explains what they see to Student B, who must draw what is being described. I used this activity to review physical descriptions with my students, with great success.
The youngest attendee at the 2013 KOTESOL National Conference, kicking back between sessions.
She would like to say that she most enjoyed ‘Mr. Pathar’s class’ (Peadar Callaghan’s ‘Graphic Organizers’) because ‘It made her feel good to answer some of the questions’ and it was ‘fun when he said “Even a little girl can understand my class!”…’ (She may have misquoted him slightly there, but the idea came through)
Thanks, KOTESOL, for treating everyone there, right down to my nine-year old daughter, like a VIP!