Learning to listen – learning to comprehend


Listening requires, more than anything, curiosity. Kate Murphy

In the previous text, we looked at listening comprehension. We made several theoretical claims, proposed a few hypotheses, and left some implications. We also realized that dealing with something theoretically is quite different from developing a concrete methodological procedure. Such a procedure should aim to develop pupils' thinking and cognitive abilities, including their concentrated observation, noticing, factual understanding, and more complex comprehension of the text they hear.

The following methodological model is constructed to lead to the development of specific thinking activities that are applied during or after listening.

Analyzing the heard text - creating a new text

1. Listen carefully to the beginning of the song.

2. Concentrate on the lyrics of the song, write them down.

3. First listen (up to 2:24)

4. What content does the lyrics of the song show?

5. What information does the text provide about the character speaking in the lyrics?

6. Why do the lyrics of the song rhyme?

7. How are the words that rhyme in the text related?

8. Check the spelling, edit the form of the text.

9. Write a continuation of the text (2 or 4 verses).

10. Second listening (the whole song).

1. Listen carefully to the beginning of the song.

The instruction to listen attentively to the song serves both as a challenge to focus on listening and as an indication that the subject of listening will be a piece of music. Shifting the focus to hearing may not be easy – one can enhance auditory attention by closing their eyes, but this would disrupt the plan described here. The instruction also explicitly states that only part of the song will be involved, which might be unusual for the first time and could raise the question: "Are we not going to hear the whole song?"

2. Concentrate on the lyrics of the song, write them down.

Since our plan involves pupils working with digital text, it is logical that they first need to engage with the text and its content. Pupils should work with a text to which they can return – the resulting image of what they have heard should be available. Only then can the text function as a checkpoint to ensure that what we have heard and understood aligns with the actual content. In digital listening to a song, as in digital (and non-digital) reading, we can revisit the text as needed. It is possible to pause the recording and conveniently switch between listening and writing. Stopping and re-listening creates time for analytical processing of the text, ensuring that pupils can think more concretely and precisely about it. The 'write it down' instruction allows for a record of what is heard to be created in writing, verbally, or using other codes, such as a series of emoticons or pictograms. However, we will maintain the focus on the text, ensuring it remains the center of the pupils' attention.

3. First listening

This listening phase lasts less than two and a half minutes, during which the lyrics of the song are recorded. If necessary, the digital recording can be played a second time, purposefully paused, played again, replayed, and recorded further. The lyrics can be recorded individually, in a group, or in a working team. The result is a manuscript recording of the digital text—it may be incomplete because not all lyrics were recorded, or it may be complete but with spelling errors and no verse breakdown. Nonetheless, this process should be sufficient for pupils to construct the content of the text in their minds.

4. What content does the lyrics of the song show?

At this stage we move on to the factual aspect of the text - what the text says. Yes, we go straight to the content of the text. This is because a text is created, first and foremost, to serve as a vehicle for certain content. And without the content of the text, which is formed by listening, it is not possible to increase the scope of comprehension, and so not to increase its level.

Clearly, one can also ask the common question: what happened? But this example demonstrates the weight of the wording of the question itself. The question is not easy - it is made up of four full meanings (content, text, song, image) which form the premises of the question: that the text can represent something, that it can capture the whole of the content, and that this whole of content can also be present in the lyrics of the song. In conversation with pupils, further questions could confirm that they have grasped the factual content of the text, corrected any misunderstandings, and verified that the basic points are identical for all pupils. Examples of such questions include: In what time does the action of the text take place? In what place does it take place? How many characters does the text depict? How many characters are speaking in the text? How many characters in the text are listening? Does the text show only one event?

5. What information does the text provide about the character who is speaking in the text?

The relatively uniform content of the text is now clear. As a good start for deeper work with it, it may be a good idea to draw pupils' attention to the key actor in the text, that is, the one who speaks and who communicates the content of the text to the listener - of course, learning more about the speaker means inferring some information about him - and solely from what is heard in the text, which is then recorded and mentally displayed. While the speaker is often referred to as a lyrical hero, it's not necessary to burden students with theoretical jargon. The crucial point is to encourage them to think deeply about the relationship between the speaker and the content – between who speaks and what is spoken. This approach allows for a more profound exploration of the text, prompting questions like: What has the speaker said about himself or herself? What did he say about other characters? What did he describe in his own words? Was he only describing the setting? Which feelings did he capture in his speech? What was the likely source of these feelings? To whom was he speaking? In what ways is the speaker's speech special?

6. Why does the text rhyme?

When it comes to rhyme in school, we usually ask questions like, "How is the text rhyming?" We often check if the pupil can correctly identify whether the rhyme is associative or alternating. However, we rarely ask about the objective reasons for the phonological correspondence. Yet, this could be a compelling topic to explore – especially for a generation that has grown up with the rhymes of hip hop, rap, hard rock, folk, and performance poetry.

This type of question could challenge students to delve deeper into what they like and seek out as listeners. Moreover, framing the problem this way might spark curiosity in an unexpected place: among teachers. Even teachers can learn a lot here, as students likely have a wealth of experience with rhyme, richer than we might expect. It can be assumed that pupils can think about rhyme in more complex ways than simply identifying the rhyme scheme in a stanza. They certainly know more about rhyme: How does a particular rhyme get explained, for example, by a pupil called Petra with Tupac on her T-shirt, who tries rapping in her spare time? How does the pupil Peter with Kurt in his ears, who is just trying to write his own song, understand a particular rhyme?

7. How are the words that rhyme in the text related?

This approach could also keep both pupils and teachers engaged. There may be some surprising moments. For example, the rhyme "rosenka ~ očenká" can spark engaging discussions about the relationship between these two words within the context of a sentence or text. The meaning of the rhyme, as a relationship between two words, is up to the pupils – they make the connections through their experiences and personal interpretations. They have the freedom to explore these connections as long as they can justify their discoveries. The question is formulated in such a way that it explicitly leads to unravelling the relationships between words in rhyme, to direct and indirect connections, to understanding the context and to grasping the meaning of the text.

8. Check spelling, edit the form of the text.

It is possible that some people will rewrite the whole text because it is cluttered or difficult to read. It is possible that some will not even change a comma because they consider the text to be orderly and correctly spelled. However, everyone will undoubtedly edit the text when they transfer their manuscript to a digital environment. Spelling rules apply there as well, and the text can be formally edited digitally. It can be expected that the next task - the creation of a new text - will be more readily done in the digital environment than on paper. Incidentally, writing text on paper can serve both as effective spelling practice and for its sub-diagnosis. Let's face it, dictation, which pupils usually listen to and transcribe purely for control reasons, does not work in the same way as text that pupils have written down and then understood more deeply. If teachers wanted to monitor the level of spelling in pupils' texts on an ongoing basis, they could easily do so with texts produced as a result of listening comprehension.

9. Write a continuation of the text (2-4 verses). Create a suitable title for it.

The level of comprehension can also be measured in the creativity score. In doing so, it is still true that the core of the learning journey is directed towards the development of comprehension. The creative activity - creating a new text on the basis of a heard text – has an instrumental function, serving both as a means of pupils' cognitive development and as a source of knowledge about that development. In the continuations of texts, it is possible to see at what level the pupils have understood the text, at what level they have thought about its content and form. By creating a heading, the pupil's continuation of the text is formally separated from the initial text – a new text has been created.

10. Second listening (the whole song as a sound background).

The last step in this phase of the learning journey should be the pupils' stepping out to self-expression, i.e. to express what and how they have learned, how they felt during the learning process and what they perceive now that they know what they have learned. Pupils now listen to the whole song while forming a new lyric. This listening process does not need to disrupt students; rather, it serves as a reminder of their understanding of the song and informs their creative process in writing new lyrics.

All of the cited dispositions and components of the EduQ educational application were defined and described by a team of authors led by Darina De Jaegher.

All rights reserved EDUAWEN EUROPE, Ltd.

Karel Dvořák PhD. – DaCoSiDe expert tasked with the creation of A2/B1-level methodological guidelines and certification tools


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