The activity in teaching listening consists of three phases. According to Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009: 24) the phases are called pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening stage / follow-up activity.
1. Pre-listening stage
It would not be fair towards students to draw them straight into the listening without introducing the topic or the type of activity they are going to work on, since in the real life there are not many situations when people are supposed to listen with having no idea what they are going to hear so that is why students should be given a substantial pre-listening support. This pre-listening support will help them to become more confident and successful. Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009: 24) claims that at the very beginning of the while listening activity, the students should be helped to concentrate on what they are going to hear.
According to Rixon (1986) in Prace (2009: 25) at this stage, teachers should arrange such challenges that will give the students reasons for even bothering to listen to the listening text. All this involves outlining the setting and giving background information but it is not advised to tell the students too much otherwise the whole listening will be spoiled. At this stage it can be extremely useful to ask the students to predict missing information or the context.
Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009 : 25) declares that pre-listening task can consist of a variety of activities, which can help the teacher to focus the students’ minds on the topic by narrowing down the things that the learners anticipate to hear and stimulate relevant previous knowledge and already known language, including:
Ø the teacher providing background information;
Ø the students read something relevant to the listening text;
Ø the students look at some pictures;
Ø discussing the topic or situation to the listening text;
Ø a question and answer session to the listening text;
Ø written exercise to the listening text;
Ø following the set of instructions relevant for the while-listening activity;
Ø Students think about how the while-listening activity will be organized.
Yagang (2001) in Prace (2009: 25) presents a number of tasks for pre-listening stage that can enable the students to gain knowledge that is needed for the listening task. This gained knowledge gives the students confidence that is necessary for successful listening. The tasks include:
Ø Starting a discussion about the topic (possibly based on visuals and titles). In this sort of exercise students are asked to make a discussion about a set topic.
Ø Brainstorming. In this activity the students are asked to predict vocabulary that is associated with the set topic and the teacher is supposed to write them on the board. Another form of brainstorming activity can be making mind maps.
Ø Game. A nice example of warm up activity where either the students or the teacher mimes the words and the rest of the class is supposed to guess the meaning.
Ø Guiding questions. Teacher either writes or asks questions that will help students with the listening passage.
Other aspects of pre-listening activities are to prepare materials that are authentic, thing that can imitate the real life situations; give the students clear instructions so that they know what to do e.g. if they are asked to answer a question teachers have to specify whether the students can use yes/ no answers or more complex answers. There are also a lot of factors affecting the choice of pre-listening activities such as the time, material and class ability. All these factors mentioned above influence the whole process of lesson planning.
2. While-listening stage
This stage, as it arises from the name, contains activities done by the students during the listening passage. The aim of activities done during this phase is to help the students to catch the main meaning of the text so that they have enough information to interpret the text. Teachers have to point out that at this stage students should not worry about interpreting long and difficult questions and subsequent production of complex answers, but they should be concerned with demonstration of the important information (Rixon, 1986 in Prace, 2009: 26)
One of the most important functions of while-listening activities is to present the sound of the target language. This presentation enables students to develop their listening comprehension skills and it also serves as a model of their speech. When choosing a while-listening activity teachers consider several criteria. Underwood (1989: 46) points out that good while-listening activities help listeners find their way through the listening text and build upon the expectations raised by pre-listening activities.
The following paragraph provides some examples of while-listening activities. (a) comparison of the listening passage with the pre-listening stage; (b) following instructions-learners are given a set of instructions and are supposed to show whether they understood them by a physical response; (c) filling in exercise-students listen to a dialogue and are asked to fill in the missing information; (d) spotting the difference- learners make responses only when they hear something different to what they already know about the topic or the speakers; (e) information transfer- learners are asked to fill, forms, lists, maps or plans; (f) sequencing- students are given a set of pictures and they have to put them into the correct order; (g) information search- during the listening learners focus on specific items; (h) Matching- students are asked to match items according to the recording. It is also important for teachers not to forget to give their students immediate feedback as it would be quite problematic, not only for the teacher but also for the students, to talk about the listening tasks during the following lesson. This postponed feedback would mean replaying or repeating the listening text and it could be difficult for the teacher to regain the students’ attention. The immediate feedback can be done by providing them with the correct answers, by asking them to talk the solutions over in small groups or by both.
3. Post-listening stage
During the follow-up activities students use their knowledge gained during the previous stage, while-listening stage, for completing the exercises.
According to Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009: 28) another reason for a follow-up activity can be a reflection on why some students have not been successful or missed some parts of the text. A good activity for finding a solution to this problem can be a discussion about the problematic parts of the listening text; teachers can draw students’ attention to various lexical forms or features of the sound system. When dealing with some grammar forms teachers can find showing the examples of the grammar structures in the listening text extremely useful as this shows their student the natural form and usage. But on the other hand it would be problematic to deal with the whole text again. Thirdly, during the follow-up phase learners can be given a possibility to think about the attitude of the speaker or speakers since this can be found very difficult by the students. One of the other reasons for incorporating the follow-up stage is to broaden students’ knowledge about specific topics. This could be done by a decision making or asking them to express their views.
There are several activities that can be used in the follow-up stage:
Ø Problem solving and decision-making tasks- where students are trying to find out a solution for a problem from the recording.
Ø Role play- students can be asked to try out newly acquired things.
Ø Summarizing- students can be asked to summarize a story they heard. This activity can be linked with problem solving.
Ø Written work- students can be asked to write the end of the story.
Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009: 29) presents that when selecting follow-up activities teachers ought to consider the following factors as they may find to keep students’ attention difficult:
Ø Whether the teacher has enough time for a post-listening activity
Ø How much language work the teacher wants to do in connection with the listening text.
Ø Whether the post-listening work should consist of speaking, reading or writing
Ø Whether the post-listening phase can be done as pair/group work or individual work
Ø Possibility of doing the activity as homework
Ø The level of motivation and a possibility to increase students’ motivation
Underwood (1989) in Prace (2009: 29) argues that although teachers are not always able to organise lessons and choose suitable materials but they have some opportunities to give their students listening experience.