Any elementary or English teacher can tell you that English Language Arts is typically broken down into four strands: Reading, Writing, Language, and Speaking & Listening. Most educators focus the majority of their explicit instruction on the Reading, Writing, and Language strands, while embedding the Speaking & Listening strand throughout the day. Because of this, Speaking & Listening is often not explicitly taught. In addition, many teachers assume students have the skills needed to demonstrate mastery of Speaking & Listening standards. Unfortunately, this is often not accurate and students usually struggle with listening comprehension the most.
In my classroom, I teach listening comprehension skills through direct instruction that provides time for guided and independent practice. Students are taught to focus on listening comprehension using the “Listen 3 Times” strategy. My students are shown how to use this strategy, through teacher modeling, multiple times before they independently practice. Our classroom routine follows these three steps:
- Step 1. Read the comprehension questions prior to listening to the passage. Next, listen to the passage without taking notes.
- Step 2. Listen to the passage again, while taking notes that help answer the questions. After the second listening opportunity, use the notes to answer each comprehension question.
- Step 3. Listen to the passage a third time and double-check each answer for accuracy.
I first implemented this strategy last year after discovering the test scores of students from the previous year were extremely low in the area of listening. After implementing the strategy my test scores rose significantly! With explicit instruction and clear strategy, my students were successful and showed mastery in this area.
Thankfully, there are multiple Ed Tech options that can help educators explicitly teach listening skills, especially the “Listen 3 Times” strategy, to their students. Three of these options are ReadWorks, Listenwise, and Adobe Spark.
ReadWorks is a free online resource that provides reading comprehension and lesson plans for K-12 educators and students. Most passages have an audio option that I used for the listening part of my lesson. I would play the audio without allowing students to see the text. Most passages also have comprehension questions that can be printed and/or assigned to students. I never assigned the questions online for this type of instruction because I wasn’t able to remove the text that went with the audio.
Listenwise is a website that provides standards-aligned podcast lessons for students in grades 2-12. Each podcast is approximately 2-6 minutes in length. Teachers who join for free get access to daily current event podcasts (with limited discussion questions) and the ability to share audio to Google Classroom. In order to access all podcasts and the curriculum that goes with them, teachers need to purchase a subscription for $299 (one subject) or $399 (all subjects). I personally could never afford the subscription, but the opportunity to use the audio as a whole and on Google Classroom fits perfectly with the “Listen 3 Times” strategy.
Adobe Spark is a program that teachers and students can use to create visual stories. Educators can create their own audio to help students listen to different passages. This gives educators the opportunity to have maximum flexibility in their audio choices. Unfortunately, there are a few disadvantages to this EdTech option. First, you have to create your own materials which can be time-consuming. In addition, the visual “story” is created using slides. Each slide can only hold 30 seconds of audio, so you need to time your audio appropriately to fit full sentences/paragraphs on each slide. Even though Adobe Spark might not be ideal for all teachers when providing listening instruction, it has many other amazing uses I’ll expand on in a future post.
I hope you find one of these options useful for you and your students. Do you have more ideas on how to use EdTech to enhance listening instruction? Please share them in the comments.