Thursday, December 3, 2009

Speaking and Listening

Today we start with a resource for teaching listening skills. I had some fun today listening to podcasts. I visited the website where anyone can download files on a steadily growing number of subjects. Podcast Number 529 concerned insulting people, which promised to be interesting. It was. It featured a dialog in which a man and a woman were reacting to some rude behavior from teenagers. It taught idioms such as get on your nerves, give as good as you get and catch your attention. After the slow reading of the dialog, the moderator teaches all of the idioms. Finally the actors read the dialog at normal speed. The dialogs can be downloaded as MP3 files, burned onto CDs for between-lesson listening and, for the really technically endowed learner, loaded onto an iPod. For speaking skills we have a website full of conversation questions, the International TESL Journal. For instance, click here to see questions that can keep a conversation going on the topic of Christmas and the end of the calendar year. The first questions can be answered with a yes or no, such as these:
  • Did it snow last year at Christmas?
  • Did you believe in Santa Claus when you were a child?
  • Did you enjoy last Christmas?
But they go on to be more open ended, for example:
  • Where do you think Santa Claus is from?
  • Where will you go on Christmas Day?
  • Who do you expect to receive presents from?
  • If you are not a Christian, does the intense focus on Christmas in the U.S. make you feel bad in any way (e.g., ignored, dismissed, angry, etc.)?
That last question makes me think that some of the questions may need a little reworking to sound more conversational. For instance, 'Did this year's Christmas bother you, with all the advertisements and noise?' The answers, though, may be surprising. Santa has many different names (Sinterklaas, Pére Noel, etc.) and a variety of origin stories. Other cultures have other holidays that celebrate generosity and human closeness. Wishing you great conversations and heaps of generosity, I and Literacy Network thank you for teaching someone.

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