Design a listening – speaking task. You need to clarify the level of the students (e.g. how many hours they have learnt Chinese, how many characters they have mastered, etc.), the purposes of the exercises, how you are going to operate these exercises and the reasons why you design and operate the task like this.
In the teaching of spoken language, the views of listening went through different phases. Earlier views considered listening as the mastery of discrete skills such as recognizing cohesive structure in texts or identifying key words in a text etc. Later views introduced the notions of bottom-up and top-down processing and emphasized the importance of prior knowledge and schema in comprehension. At the same time, the understanding of the role of the listener developed into current views which encourages his/her active participation in listening, applying strategies to assist, monitor and evaluate his/her own listening. (J. C. Richards, 2008)
Speaking takes place in real time, it’s produced in response to the speech of the person we talk to. This shows its contingent nature. In language teaching, speaking ability increases along with the learner’s other abilities in the foreign/second language such as vocabulary, listening skill, knowledge of culture etc.
Mandarin is a spoken language, so its learning process is also in line with general rules of language learning/teaching. However, as Mandarin has unique features as a language system, which includes five tones and changing tones in certain circumstances, it’s important to take these features into consideration while designing a listening – speaking task. The following is a listening – speaking task I tried to design for Mandarin teaching.
Listening – speaking Task Cover Sheet
Time: 50 minutes (2 sessions)
Class Level: Later Beginners to Lower Intermediate
By the end of the lesson, the learners will be able to:
1. Grasp Location Words and Place Expressions.
2. Exercise listening to gist and details.
3. Ask for directions and ask questions politely.
1. Improve reading skill.
2. Group/pair cooperation
The learners already had knowledge of Location Words and Place Expressions from Lesson 8, which will help their comprehension of the listening material.
1. Students might be confused with the direction words.
2. Form: how to ask questions.
3. Pronunciation: tones and intonation of some words.
The students are 12 adults who come to study in the evening. They have one lesson every week which lasts 2 hours. Some of them travel to China for business trips. The text book they use is Contemporary Chinese I (2003). They’ve spent roughly 60 hours so far to learn Mandarin. They have a good command of 325 Chinese words and expressions, 244 Chinese characters, 22 grammar items and 23 communicative, thus have a basic command of Mandarin.
The students have learnt in lesson 8 about Direction Words and Places Expressions. This lesson intends to provide them a chance to use the words in real situations. After the lesson, students will be given a sketch map to practise at home by using these direction words to describe how to get from one place to another. In the next lesson, some students will tell the class about their homework.
1. A self-designed conversation based on Lesson 8 of Contemporary Chinese I.
2. A live activity designed by the author.
Exercise I: How can they get to the Summer Palace?
Time: 20-30 minutes
Purpose: Listening for gist and details. Review what the students learnt in Lesson 8 in the textbook about Location Words and Place Expressions.
Preparation: A tape recorder with the following conversation.
男: 好啊。不过，我不知道怎么去那儿，你呢? 女: 有人告诉我可以坐汽车去，但我忘了是多少路了。 男: 我们问一下吧。
男: 请问，我们要去颐和园，应该坐多少路车? 路人:
路人: 不远，你下车后往左拐，过马路，就能看见颐和园的大门了。 男: 如果骑车去，行吗?
Procedure: 1. Give students an exercise sheet, with following questions.
(A) True or false:
tāmén xiǎng zhīdào zĕnme qù yíhéyuán
a. 他们想知道怎么去颐和园 ()
yíhéyuán bù yuǎn
b. 颐和园不远 ()
(B) Answer the following questions:
a. Can they get to the Summer Palace by taking bus 379?
b. Which direction should they turn to get to the Summer Palace after leaving the bus? c. Why can’t they go to the Summer Palace by bike?
2. Explain to the students that the conversation is about asking for direction, and review the Location Words and Place Expressions of Lesson 8, provide the new vocabulary Summer Palace (颐和园). 3. Play the tape once, ask the students to do the exercise sheet. 4. Go through the questions, let the students discuss if their answers are different from each other. 5. Ask the students to pay more attention to some of the details related to their answers. Play the tape again. 6. Go through the questions again, give the right answers. 7. Tell the students that they are going to give details about the direction after the listening, so make notes if necessary. Play the tape for third time. 8. Ask students to work as a group to give details of direction so you can draw a map on the board to show how to get to the Summer Palace. 9. Check the answer by listening to the tape again.
Reasons for the design and operation of this exercise: This exercise is designed to provide an opportunity for the students to use all-round skills including listening, speaking, reading and writing. By giving tasks in steps, students will gradually understand the listening material to a thorough extent. This will hopefully enable them to use what they learnt in a fluent way.
Exercise II: Guest speaker (G White, 1998, P52)
Time: 5 minutes in one session, 15-20 minutes in the next session
Purpose: To listen for gist and details; to give the students the experience of listening as an audience.
Preparation: 1. The teacher dresses up as a Guest speaker.
2. The Guest Speaker writes a brief note for the class, giving a few details about interesting places he has been to. The note can be completely fictitious to make it more fun. E.g. 2005 I went to the Moon for a holiday
Procedure: 1. Hand out the copies of the note to the class, put the students in pairs, and ask each pair to think of one question they would like the Speaker to answer. Then the students choose the best 4 questions to be written down. The teacher/the Speaker should not know these questions. 2. Ask the students to think of a list of topics for the Speaker which will be most likely to produce the answers to the questions. Write the topics down. e.g. ‘transportation’, ‘places’ etc.
3. Give the list of topics to the Speaker. These will provide guidelines for him in preparing the talk. If the Speaker can prepare some photographs or slides during his talk, it’ll be more interesting. 4. With the students, practise polite ways of asking questions. Also review vocabulary related to touring and food etc. 5. In the next session, the Speaker gives his talk. The students should listen to see if their questions are answered. 6. If some of the questions have not been answered in the talk, the students could ask the Speaker in a question-and-answer session after the talk.
7. After the Q&A session, go through the questions with the students and check the answers.
Reasons for the design and operation of this exercise: This exercise is designed with the intention to train the students to listen to a live talk, as well as speaking spontaneously. To help the students to achieve the best result from this exercise, in the pre-listening phase, the teacher prepares the students for both top-down and bottom-up processing through activities involving handing out the note, reviewing vocabulary, making predictions (preparing the list of topics) and familiarizing the polite ways of asking questions (so to create a more natural language environment).
During the talk, students therefore can listen for comprehension by gist listening, selective listening, sequencing etc. In the post-listening phase, questions are asked by the students to elicit answers, and then answers are checked to ensure that students have good comprehension of the talk. This exercise also encourages the students to work together by discussing what questions they want to ask and how to decide the topics accordingly after deciding the questions. This provides a good chance for students to practise words and phrases they grasped so far, especially Direction Words and Places Expressions.
Homework: At the end of lesson, give each student a sketch map with banks, post office, bus station, and a park on it. Divide students into three groups, each group will be given a task to describe how to get somewhere from a place. Next lesson, each group will have one student come to the front to tell the whole class. This is to encourage further use of Direction Words and Places Expressions.
J C Richards (2008), Teaching Listening and Speaking From Theory to Practice, Cambridge University Press http://www.cambridge.org/elt/teacher-support/pdf/Richards-Teaching-Listening-Speaking.pdf
G. White (1998) Listening, Oxford University Press
Zhongwei Wu (2003) Contemporary Chinese I, Sinolingua