Listening Journals are a project/concept I have been toying with for the past few years and have been putting into practice into all my listening classes. I have presented the idea to colleagues in numerous settings and the ideas have been well received.
The basic premise is that students need both extensive and intensive listening practice. Extensive listening practice involves students listening to interesting, enjoyable and meaningful listening texts at or around their level. Intensive listening practice, in terms of listening journals, is exploiting these texts to practice important bottom-up listening skills (e.g. decoding). The journals in their various permutations set students on weekly or daily listening tasks that involve both aspects of listening while giving them a space for metacognitive reflection.
I still enjoy the idea, and my students have derived great benefits from it, but in my mind, it had become stagnant and disorganized as I had applied it in my classrooms. After talking with a colleague, I decided to restructure and simplify the format of it as a way to make it easier for students to complete and easier for me to assess. In addition, I think this idea makes it easier for other teachers to adapt.
For this redux – this re-visitation to my idea – I designed an actual printed journal (you can download it below) for my students that contained the template structure of the journals, as well as the possible listening sources they could choose from (chosen to be appropriate for their level).
Here is an overview of how the journal works. Parts one and two cover the extensive listening experience. Part three represents the intensive practice while part four is for reflection.
1. For each journal entry, students need to visit one of the websites below and choose something interesting to listen to.
The following websites I found suitable for intermediate to upper-intermediate level students. My listening resources page certainly has more sites for a range of levels.
2. Students should listen as many times as they want, focusing on understanding the main ideas and details. If students want to, they can preview the script in order to deal with any unknown or problematic vocabulary. After reading the script, students are to provide a short response. A response means a response to the context of the listening text such as a short opinion or an explanation of what they learned. A response is not a summary, though a summary is acceptable if that is one of your class goals.
3. Students now use the text to complete intensive listening activities. One of the websites listed above (www.esl-lab.com) already contains activities on most of their listenings (quizzes and gap-fills). The other websites do not, but all contain the transcript. I have demonstrated to students how to take the transcript and produce an interactive gap-fill with a simple online tool. I focus on gap-fill activities because they require students to practice their decoding skills, focusing on processing sounds to hear distinct words and therefore better training their ears for listening. Other activities such as transcription or note-taking can also be used.
Furthermore, I have students write down new vocabulary as part of their activities. Among the various difficulties with listening (decoding, accent, speed, linked words, stress, etc.), vocabulary is often considered hindrance to understanding. Building their vocabularies is an important part of the listening experience.
4. Finally, I have created a simple form for students to reflect on their listening experience and skills. I used to use a more complicated series of questions for this section, but due to the level and student feedback, I have reduced my emphasis on this area. Still, it is an important area. Students need to be able to judge their listening skills, including their strengths or weaknesses. This allows them to find tune their future listening practice. Although I provide a simple form, students still need to be instructed on how to complete it and the reasons behind it.
In implementation, I have set this to be an independent project that needs to be completed throughout the term. I have set a specific number of journals as the goal (20) and have set three collection dates to assess student’s progress. This gives the students more autonomy in terms of completing them and makes assessing this project easier.
The purpose of this post was to explain my slimmed down version of one of my favorite and (in my opinion) most effective projects. I consider this Listening Journals 2.0. Below is the example journal as I have given it to the students. Feel free to download and adapt it as you see fit.
(Please note this file uses legal sized paper. It is printed double-sided as a “booklet” through the Adobe Acrobat print options.)