Active listening (a lesson plan version 2.0).

Posted: August 4, 2015 in Lesson plans, Lessons and activities
Tags: , , ,

This post is different from what I normally do, because it’s a variation of a lesson that has already been posted to this blog.

A couple of months ago I posted a lesson on Keeping a conversation going. The lesson was part of a short course for IT professionals on entertaining a customer and it worked really well helping the learners to come up with ideas while making small talk and raised their awareness of strategies for active listening (body language, backchanneling, reformulation and so on). One problem was that the video used in the lesson was very technical, so it wasn’t really suitable for learners outside the world of IT. It was also very short and featured only a very limited range of examples. As a result, my students were still struggling with the pronunciation of backchannels by the end of the lesson, ‘overpronouncing’ them. This week I needed to teach that topic again, so I adapted the worksheet, using a video that can be interesting for non-IT people, and is packed to the brim with examples for the learners to analyze.

I’m very sorry for the overlap, but it seems like I still find spoken language, and ‘active listenership’ in particular, too much of a teaching challenge to let it go. This feature of language has always been challenging for my students, and at the moment I don’t have on my shelf any resource books on speaking based on authentic listening extracts, or at least recordings that don’t scream ‘recording studio’. For instance, there’s the fantastic Handbook of Spoken Grammar, but the audios there don’t sound that natural. (I’m sure there must be some great resource packs, and I know there have been some great coursebooks like Touchstone, but I’m limited to BE coursebooks, so I would be very grateful for pointers to resource books or materials that can be used stand-alone).

Just two years ago, when I was doing my Delta Module 2, I was craving to at least get some transcripts of authentic, unscripted interaction, and so I was buying up books that contained transcripts of authentic interviews (Exploring Spoken English, one amazing book where those transcripts are also painstakingly analyzed, can be bought second hand for a penny – and amazon also allows one to flip through its pages).  Now, just two years later, there’s no need to buy up books to get transcripts: hundreds of hours of transcribed interviews are available on Youtube, mostly on Google channels. So for now I’m creating my own materials, for what they’re worth.


Levels: B1/B2
Length: 90 minutes
Materials/equipment:

  • an editable Worksheet
  • a projector or a laptop to show the video
  • a deck of cards (if you don’t have cards, print them out and cut them up from the last page of the worksheet)

If you don’t have Microsoft Word, download the .pdf from Slideshare:

The video:

The extracts for the speech analysis task (Task 6):

Extract 1 (11:23-11:46). Small ‘I’m listening’ words:

BRIAN GRADY: And you know, we don’t try to be pushy, but, you know, we want to expose and make things easier for people to do. [Sure, sure] Made With Android is about finding people outside of Google, doing things that nobody expected them to do with a phone. [Right] And.. so we found out that there’s a lot of people– there’s a community out there. People that, because of the extensibility of the Android operating system, [Sure. Sure.] are able to make incredible…

Extract 2 (11:46 – 11:50). Echoing.

applications that do crazy things, like

LAURENCE MORONEY: Like flying a weather balloon.

BRIAN GRADY: Flying a weather balloon, or opening

Extract  3 (11:48 – 12:01). Small ‘I’m listening’ words, echoing, reformulating and building on what the speaker said

BRIAN GRADY: Flying a weather balloon, or opening your apartment door when you’re at the top of the stairs and your bags are full of groceries. [Yeah!] I don’t know how you do that. Your hands are full of– but anyway. There’s things like that.

LAURENCE MORONEY: The things that people will think of that we can’t think of, right?

Extract 4 (12:38 – 13:07) Small ‘I’m listening’ words, reformulating and building on what the speaker said

BRIAN GRADY: Yes. We want non-commercial applications that are about fun, [OK] or hobby lifestyle kind of stuff, [Right] new connecting new things that people hadn’t connected. We want it to be an open source project. [Right] And we want to be able to, not only entertain people and inspire people with the video, but also provide them with the code, [OK] the applications, and maybe they’ll go out and do something else with it.

LAURENCE MORONEY: So somebody can pick this and run with it for themselves. [Yeah] Like I could actually go and get a weather balloon myself, now, and start doing what these folks do.

Extract 5 (13:07 – 13:17). Small ‘I’m listening’ words, echoing key words, short emotional comment (It’s cool), laughter.

BRIAN GRADY: You go to casadeballoon dot club, [OK] which is this group’s website.

LAURENCE MORONEY: I love the ‘dot club.’

BRIAN GRADY: Dot club. [It’s cool] I like the ‘casadeballon’. [laughter] But anyway,

Extract 6 (13:46 – 13:50) Emphatic agreement.

LAURENCE MORONEY:  I guess, the more exotic the locale, the better?

BRIAN GRADY: Absolutely.

Extract 7 (13:56 – 13:59) Echoing, emphatic agreement.

LAURENCE MORONEY: OK. I’m more a Tahiti guy myself.
BRIAN GRADY: Tahiti?
LAURENCE MORONEY: Yeah, …
BRIAN GRADY: Well, I hear

Acknowledgement. The role play for Task 2 was suggested by my colleague Anastasiya Chernetskaya – thank you Anastasiya, it’s simply ideal here!

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