Nan-I Junior High English Textbooks
Chesna J. Braniger
• Fulltime editor at Nan I
Textbook Company for
1.5 years.
• PhD candidate in
Philosophy at Southern
Illinois University.
• Study Chinese and
Western Philosophy.
• Worked as an academic
editor in 2 previous jobs.
• Came to Taiwan on an
scholarship in 2009.
• Have lived in Taiwan for
over 3 years.
Teaching and Testing Listening
• In what follows, we consider how to develop teaching
practices to prepare your students for this section of the
High School Entrance Exam.
• We consider how students acquire listening skills and
how we can assess these skills.
• I will also offer many testing examples throughout the
• Much of the research used throughout this presentation
was done by 劉慶剛教授 from National Taipei University.
Teaching and Testing Listening
We assess a person’s competence by observing one’s performance.
Observing the Performance of the Four Skills
Principles of assessment
1. reliability factors that affect students’ performance—a bad
night’s sleep, illness, an emotional distraction, test anxiety, a
memory block, etc…
So teachers need to triangulate their measurements by considering two
or more performances and/or contexts before drawing a conclusion.
2. We must rely as much as possible on observable
performances in our assessment of students.
So how can we observe the students’ skills?
Observable Performance of the 4 Skills
Observable skills
What can and cannot be observed through observation: (Brown, 2004, p. 118)
Can the teacher directly observe the:
no (unless video
Receptive and Productive Skills
Receptive skills: processes of internalizing that produce products that
are not observable. But there are results that are observable: spoken or
written responses to a reading or listening exercise.
*The products of listening and reading are in the brain. We can only
observe the result of the meaningful input in the form of spoken or
written output.
Productive skills: As externalizations, speaking and writing allows us
to hear and/or see the process as it is performed. Writing also produces
a permanent object and by recording speech events, a permanent object
is produced by speaking.
Results: All assessment of listening and reading must be made on the
basis of observing the test takers speaking or writing (or non-verbal
behavior) and not on the listening or reading itself. So, all assessment of
receptive performances must be made by inference.
Listening: The Basics Stages
Listening is often underemphasized or treated as a component of
speaking. But we do much more listening than speaking. Listening
comprehension is a necessary component of ESL classrooms.
Basic stages of Listening (Brown 2004, 188-119)
(1) You recognize speech sounds and hold a temporary “imprint” of
them in short-term memory.
(2) You simultaneously determine the type of speech event
(monologue, interpersonal dialogue, transactional dialogue) that is
being processed and attend to its context (who the speaker is,
location, purpose) and the content of the message.
The Basics Stages
(3) You use (bottom-up) linguistic decoding skills and/or (top-down)
background schemata to bring a plausible interpretation to the
message, and assign a literal and intended meaning to the utterance.
(4) In most cases (except for repetition tasks, which involve shortterm memory only), you delete the exact linguistic form in which the
message was originally received in favor of conceptually retaining
important or relevant information in long-term memory.
Each of these stages represents a potential assessment objective
(Brown 2004, 188-119)
Assessment Objectives
Potential Assessment Objectives:
(1) comprehending of surface structure elements such as phonemes,
words, intonation, or a grammatical category
(2) understanding of pragmatic context
(3) determining meaning of auditory input, and
(4) developing the gist, a global or comprehensive understanding
With these four stages in mind we can also derive four commonly
identified types of listening performances and consider these in
terms of assessment tasks and procedures.
Assessment Tasks and Procedures
Types of Listening Performances
(1) Listening for perception of the components (phonemes, words, intonation,
discourse markers, etc.) of a larger stretch of language.
(2) Listening to a relatively short stretch of language (a greeting, question,
command, comprehension check, etc.) in order to make an equally short
(3) Processing stretches of discourse such as short monologues for several
minutes in order to “scan” for certain information. The purpose of such
performance is not necessarily to look for global or general meanings, but to be
able to comprehend designated information in a context of longer stretches of
spoken language (such as classroom directions from a teacher, TV or radio news
items, or stories). Assessment tasks in type of listening could ask students, for
example, to listen for names, numbers, a grammatical category, directions (in a
map exercise), or certain facts and events.
(4) Listening to develop a top-down, global understanding of spoken language.
This kind of listening performance ranges from listening to lengthy lectures to
listening to a conversation and deriving a comprehensive message or purpose.
Listening for the gist, for the main idea, and making inferences are all part of
extensive* listening.
What Listeners Should be able to Do
[Hughes (2003, 161-162)]
How do these types of listening performance inform our assessment objectives?
They help us to establish different kinds of tasks that can be used to constitute our
assessment objectives. Notice the types of listening performances move from
bottom up, so will the tasks listed below.
For lower-level diagnostic tests:
1. discriminate between vowel phonemes;
2. discriminate between consonant phonemes;
3. interpret intonation patterns (recognition of sarcasm, questions in
declarative form, etc., interpretation of sentence stress). (p. 162)
Global operations include:
1. obtain the gist;
2. follow an argument ;
3. recognize the attitude of the speaker. (p. 161)
Specific Tasks
1. obtain factual information;
2. follow instructions (including directions);
3. understand requests for information;
4. understand expressions of needs;
5. understand requests for help;
6. understand requests for permission;
7. understand apologies;
8. follow sequence of events (narration);
9. recognized and understand opinions;
10. follow justification of opinions;
11. understand comparisons;
12. recognize and understand suggestions;
13. recognize and understand comments;
14. recognize and understand excuses;
15. recognize and understand expressions of preferences;
16. recognize and understand complaints;
17. recognize and understand speculations. (p. 161)
Specific Tasks
1. understand greetings and introductions;
2. understand expressions of agreement;
3. understand expressions of disagreements;
4. recognize speaker’s purpose;
5. recognize indications of uncertainty;
6. understand requests for clarification;
7. recognize requests for clarification;
8. recognize requests for opinion;
9. recognize indications of understanding;
10. recognize indications of failure to understand;
11. recognize and understand corrections by speaker (of self and others);
12. recognize and understand modifications of statements and comments;
13. recognize speaker’s desire that listener indicate understanding;
14. recognize when speaker justifies/supports statements of other speaker(s);
15. recognize when speaker questions assertion made by other speakers;
16. recognize attempts to persuade others. (pp. 161-162)
Assessing Listening Speed
WPM (words per minute)
SPS (syllables per second)
Radio Monologues
Lectures to non-native
(Tauroza and Alison, 1990, cited by Hughes, (2003).
How to Teach Listening
Bottom-up processes:
They are the processes the listener uses to assemble the message piece-by-piece
from the speech stream, going from the parts to the whole. Bottom-up processing
involves perceiving and parsing the speech stream at increasingly larger levels
beginning with auditory-phonetic, phonemic, syllabic, lexical, syntactic,
semantic, propositional, pragmatic, and interpretive (Field, 2003: 326. Cited by
Nation & Newton, 2009: 40).
c Top-down processes:
Top-down processes involve the listener in going from the whole—their prior
knowledge and their content and rhetorical schemata—to the parts. In other
words, the listener uses what they know of the context of communication to
predict what the message will contain, and uses parts of the message to confirm,
correct or add to this. The key process here is inferencing (Nation & Newton,
2009: 40).
**Listening, therefore, is not a single skill, but a collaborative work of a variety of
Which one is more important:
A Mixed Review
Meaning-focused listening typically emphasizes a top-down approach to
listening comprehension. Recent studies also show the importance of bottom-up
processing in second language listening (Lynch & Mendelsohn, 2002).
How to teach the listening
Tsui and Fullilove (1998) found that better skilled listeners performed better on
comprehension questions for which the correct answers did not match obvious
content schema for the topics. The implication is that less skilled listeners relied
too much on content schemata to assist with guessing. While this helped with
items for which the content schemata matched the correct answer, it did not help
when there was no match.
teach the listening
Wu (1998) asked learners to think back on how they derived their answers to
multi-choice questions in a listening comprehension test. The responses showed
that successful comprehension was closely allied with linguistic (bottom-up
processing). So evidence suggests that learners need to be proficient, at least to a
certain degree, with these bottom-up processes and that learners can benefit from
being taught how to listen.
How should teachers proceed?
General Directions: Lynch and Mendelsohn (2002) suggest the following
targets for practice:
1. discriminating between similar sounds;
2. coping with and processing fast speech;
3. processing stress and intonation differences;
4. understanding communicative functions and the non-oneto-one-equivalence between form and function,
“It’s cold in here.”
Form a declarative sentence structure
Function an imperative function (i.e., requesting that the
window be shut or a heater turned on)
Reduced Forms
Field (2003) suggest:
(1) Reduced forms (Contractions, Week forms and Chunks) Words, and even
phrases, often appear in connected speech in a reduced form. One reason is that
speakers economize on effort Speakers avoid difficult consonant sequences by
eliding sounds. Another reason is rhythmic: the patterns of English prosody
dictate that certain words such as prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions are
rarely stressed, and indeed that some may appear in a weak form in these
unstressed contexts (Field 2003: 331).
I’ve lived in Wellington for 10 years.
Fifty-one high frequency function words in English contain weak forms.
ənd, nd, n
Assimilation & Elision
(2) Assimilation is usually anticipatory, adjusting the ends of words in
expectation of the sound that follows. The message for the learner is:
trust the beginnings of English words rather than the ends. The sounds
which are most subject to assimilation and elision are final /t/, /d/, and
/s/. These of course, provide many of the inflectional endings in English.
(Field, 2003: 331)
E.g., [g] or a glottal stop before [k, g],
e.g., good cause
goog cause (Field, 2003: 331)
Resyllabification & Readjustment
(3) There is the process of resyllabification, where, in certain
circumstances, a syllable-final attached itself to the following
syllable…Words [can] sometimes acquire false boundary cues. (Field,
2003: 331)
went in wen tin
made out may dout
(can’t) help it hel pit (Field, 2003: 332)
Additional Considerations
John Flowerdew and Lindsay Miller (2007) suggest:
(4) Phonemes
Distinguishing big and pig, ship and sheep, etc.
Sometimes these sound could appear in a sentence:
The sheep are on the ship now.
(5) Stress and rhythm
The woman went to the car, and her driver opened the door.
He gave her a huge bunch of flowers.
(6) Tones
For example
Josh left yesterday?
Principles and Guidance in the
• (1) Listening to stories, messages, etc. This technique has the following features.
• a. The learners are interested in what they are listening to.
• b. They are able to understand what they are listening to.
• c. The material is at the right level for the learners.
• d. There are a few unfamiliar or partly unfamiliar items that they can
understand through the help of context, or through the teacher’s explanation.
Some of these items occur several times in the input.
• e. There is a little bit of deliberate attention given to language features without
too much interruption to the flow of the story.
• f. There are possibilities for interaction during the listening as the teacher
occasionally asks questions or gets the learners to anticipate what will happen,
and as the learners ask the teacher to repeat, slow down or explain.
• g. There is a large quantity of input.
• h. Learners do not have to produce much output.
P&G in the Classroom
Krashen’s (1981) claims for the importance of comprehensible input can be
translated into a set of learning conditions. Condition Questions the teacher
should ask:
Meaningful: Is the input a piece of meaningful communication?
Interesting: Does the input contain useful or interesting information that will
attract the learners’ attention?
What features of the input make it useful or interesting and will engage learners’
How are activities associated with listening engaging the learners’ interest?
New items: What learnable language, ideas, skills or text types (LIST) will
learners meet through the listening experience?
Can the learners understand the input?
Understanding: Can the learners understand the input?
How are the learners assisted with understanding the input (e.g., through
controlling the difficulty of the input or through that scaffold learning)?
How are new language items being made comprehensible and how is skill
development being scaffolded?
Stress-free: How is stress and anxiety being controlled?
Conditions for learning through input (Field, 2003, 43)
Principles and Guidance
(2) Oral cloze
(3) Picture ordering
(4) What is it?
Example: I forgot it when I left home this morning. This made me angry because it is useful.
I don’t like it very much but I need it. Not every person has one, but I think most people do.
Some people like to look at it and now many people play with it. Mine is quite heavy….
(5) Same or different
(6) Listen and choose
(7) Listen and draw
a. The listeners listen and fill in details on the picture.
b. The learners listen and label parts of a picture or diagram.
Principles and Guidance
(8) Padded questions
The teacher talks about where she lives and what it is like living there.
Question: Where do you live?
(9) Supporting listening
a. Providing prior experience
b. Providing guidance during listening
c. Working in groups to support listening