Speaking and listening is one of the three key areas of ESOL and can form an individual qualification in its own right with Pearson’s ESOL Awards.
What skills does an ESOL learner need to demonstrate?
Speaking and Listening generally assesses the learners over two tasks: a listening task (Listen and Answer Questions and a spoken discussion task (Engage in Discussion). Within those two tasks there are a range of skills. Here are the skills needed for Entry 3 Speaking and Listening.
- Follow the gist of straightforward verbal communication
- Obtain relevant detail from straightforward verbal communication
- Follow straightforward verbal instructions correctly for a given purpose
- Use appropriate language in context according to formality
- Present information using an appropriate structure for a given purpose
- Provide a verbal account of relevant information for a given audience
- Convey relevant detail during verbal communication
- Contribute constructively to discussion on straightforward topics
We can see here that ESOL learners need to develop a number of skills in order to be successful, not just in the assessment, but in their everyday lives in the UK too.
Supporting ESOL Learners
Learners’ Speaking, Listening and Communicating skills need to be developed in the classroom environment in the same way that reading and writing skills do. This can be done both discretely and by embedding activities into lessons that focus on reading and writing skills.
These can focus on awareness raising and improving specific skills.
Learners may well need support on turn taking and polite interruptions, asking questions and follow up questions and developing their listening skills.
Examples of Discrete Activities
To give the learners the opportunity to ask questions for clarification.
- Learners are put into pairs.
- One writes, one runs.
- On a piece of paper on a wall at the other side of the classroom, write the following example sentences:
- Look at the two boys over there. They’re very happy. Their friends are happy too.
- The learners then read the sentences and run over to their colleagues and dictate the sentences back to them. The winners are the first to finish with no mistakes.
- The writer needs to be able to ask the runner questions to ensure that the words are spelt correctly and that their answer has no mistakes.
This is also an ideal opportunity/activity to practice proofreading skills and specific language/grammatical areas too.
Follow Up Questions
To give the learners the opportunity to develop questioning.
To the whole group the tutor makes a simple statement such as I like dogs.
Then each learner, in turn asks a question, but the question needs to be based on the previous answer. e.g.
- T - I like dogs.
- L1 - Have you ever had a dog?
- T - Yes
- L2 - What type of dogs did you have?
- T - When I was growing up I had poodles.
- L3 - Why poodles?
- T - Because I was allergic to dog hair and they were a breed that doesn't lose their fur
- L4 - Are you allergic to anything else?
- T - Yes, feathers.
- L5 - How did you find out you were allergic to feathers?
- T - My parents and grandma had budgies and they set off my asthma, and so on.
The aim is to make it the longest possible line of questions. After a couple of goes (not in the same lesson), you can then get learners to do it all by themselves.
The Importance of Listening
This activity shows the importance of listening, or the sense of being listened to, for the speaker.
- Pair the learners up and send one half out of the room. Tell them they are going to describe their best holiday ever.
- Go back in the room and tell the learners who will be listening to raise their hand every time they stop listening intensely to the story.
- Tell both groups that there can be no verbal interaction between them other than their stories.
- Monitor as they come back in and tell their stories and see how hard it is when the other person raises their hand without them knowing why.
- After feedback discuss the importance of actually listening and how it affects the speaker.
- Repeat the other way round and change the stories to their favourite hobby and the reason to raise the hand to being something they agree with.
This shows the learners to be more aware of how the listener affects the quality of the story telling.
Dictogloss is an ideal activity for practicing grammatical formats and for developing skills for the listening and answering questions of the assessment. The Bell Foundation provides a guide on how to carry out a dictogloss activity.
- The teacher reads a short text on a familiar topic at normal speed
- The learners listen and take notes
- The teacher repeats the reading
- The learners form pairs and share their notes
- The teacher reads the text a final time at normal speed
- The learner pairs form fours to produce a final written version of text. The aim is to get as close to the original as possible.
To support learners you can also use visuals to help them engage with the text.
These give the learners the opportunity to practice their skills and develop their confidence. Speaking, Listening and Communicating activities can, and arguably should be, embedded into every session. Here are some ideas for this.
Start of the session
The tutor / assessor demonstrates good positive interaction when welcoming the learners, including polite introductions and questioning
Ask the learners to paraphrase instructions before activities to improve listening skills and their ability to summarise verbally.
Learners can discuss the topic of a reading activity and make predictions regarding what they are about to read. Learners then read to check their predictions.
If learners are reading a text, they can star an interesting part of what they have read. They can then discuss in pairs what they starred and why they think it is interesting.
Learners engage in a group discussion on the topic they have read about as an extension activity, possibly responding to a tutor devised question.
Pronunciation is a key skill for ESOL learners and should be incorporated into lessons when introducing new grammatical constructs or vocabulary. While not popular, sometimes it is important to include drills with learners. This can vary from simple group listen and repeat moving onto individual drills when learners are more confident to more complex exercises where the teacher gives words and the learners make sentences. E.g.
Practising the present continous tense the tutor might say Chris, cinema and the learner would respond with Chris is going to the cinema.
As a teacher of ESOL, I found the book Introducing English Pronunciation by Ann Baker to be invaluable, especially the glossary at the back of the teachers book that gave a list of common pronunciation errors by language. This was ideal when teaching a class with a mixed background of first languages.
On that note there is just time to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Skills team at Pearson. We look forward to working with you in the New Year.
Chris Briggs - Product Manager Post 16 English, Maths and Digital Skills