Skkn difficulties encountered by the 11th form students when learning the english listening skill and suggestions

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I. INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale Language is a means helping people to communicate with each others. Without language, people can not understand each other properly. However, to master a language is not easy at all. Of the four language skills -Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing-that all language learners are supposed to acquire, listening is believed to be the most challenging due to the complex and subtle nature of listening comprehension in L2 or foreign language. It takes much time and effort to make progress in this skill. At my school, Yen Dinh II secondary school, students often feel nervous during listening lessons and they can hardly listen to anything which causes the bad result in learning the listening skill. That’s why I chose the topic “Difficulties encountered by the 11th form students when learning the English listening skill and suggestions”. I hope this will help both teachers and Sts to realize the factors obstacling the students in learning the English listening skill, then find out solutions to this problem. 1.2. Purpose of the study The main purpose of the study is to probe difficulties encountered by the 11th form students in learning the listening skill. This also offers some appropriate suggestions to better the current context. 1.3. Scope of the study This study is conducted among the 11th form Sts at YD2SS during the school year 2013- 2014 in order to perceive difficulties in learning the listening skill of the 11th form Sts 1.4. Methodology of the study Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used. 1 First of all, for the theoretical basis, a lot of reference materials on listening skills have been collected, analyzed and synthesized carefully with the due consideration for the students’ learning situations. Secondly, a survey questionnaire has been conducted with the students to collect the data. Then, follow-up interviews have been carried out with students to gather the most reliable data for analysis to find the answers to the research questions mentioned above. 1.5. Significance of the study This study may provide insights into the process of learning the listening skill for the students. It can help students understand why they have difficulties in the listening skill. It also gives some suggestions to help students overcome the difficulties. It may play a crucial role in enhancing the listening skill to the students. 2 II. DEVELOPMENT 2.1. Theoretical background of the listening skill 2.1.1. What is the listening skill? There have been a number of definitions of listening by different linguists but one of the most popular ones is by Pearson (1983) . He stated “Listening involves the simultaneous organization and combination of skills in Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, and knowledge of the text structure, all of which seem to be controlled by the cognitive process. Thus it can be said that though not fully realized, the listening skill is essential in acquiring language proficiency”. 2.1.2 The importance and purposes of the listening skill in the language learning process It can’t be denied that listening plays a vital role in our daily lives. People listen for different purposes such as entertainment, academic purposes or obtaining necessary information. The importance of the listening skill can not be denied, however, different scholars give their own views about how it is important. Some practitioners believe that language learning is a linear process, starting with the spoken language medium (listening and speaking) and then moving to the written medium (reading and writing). Listening is the means to initiate oral production, which tends to be an imitation of spoken texts. The second view places listening along with the other three language modalities (speaking, reading and writing) in an intersectative mode. All four modalities should be thought simultaneously, so that practice in one area can reinforce and develop the other forms of communication (Rivers, 1987). A third view emphasizes listening as the primary source of linguistic input, which activates the language learning process. Rost (1994:141-142) claimed that 'Listening is vital in the language classroom because it provides 3 input for the learners. Without understanding input at the right level, any learning simply cannot begin”. According to this scholar, without understanding input appropriately, learning simply can not get any improvement. In addition, without listening skill, no communication can be achieved. Though different linguists give a number of views about the importance of listening, they all claim that listening play a vital role in communication and in learning a language. Listening is essential not only as receptive skill but also to the development of spoken language prophecy 2.1.3. Phases in the listening learning process Pre listening: Pre-listening activities that precede the listening passage should prepare the students for the comprehension task by activating the students' vocabulary and background knowledge or by providing the students with the information needed to comprehend the content of the listening text (Dunkel, 1986; Rogers & Medley, 1988; Vandergrift, 1997). While- listening activities should help the students develop the skill of extracting meaning from the speech stream. While-listening activities can be shortly defined as all tasks that students are asked to do during the time of listening to the text. The nature of these activities is to help learners to listen for meaning, that is to elicit a message from spoken language. Post- listening activities :The post-listening stage comprises all the exercises which are done after listening to the text. Some of these activities may be the extensions of those carried out at pre- and while-listening work but some may not be related to them at all and present a totally independent part of the listening session. Post-listening activities allow the learners to ‘reflect’ on the language from the passage; on sound, grammar and vocabulary as they last longer than while-listening activities so the students have time to think, discuss or write (Rixon 1986:64,97 and Underwood 1989: 78). 4 2.1. 4. Potential problems in learning to the English listening skill There are a lot of potential problems in learning a language skill. For the listening skill, Underwood (1989) offers seven conceivable causes of obstacles to efficient listening comprehension. 2.1.4.1. Speed of delivery Sometimes, listeners cannot control the speed of delivery, especially for beginners. Learners often feel that the utterances disappear before they can sort them out or they can get the message. The reason is that speakers speak too fast, learners can not keep up with the speed. They can not hear what is being spoken. 2.1.4.2. Inability to get things repeated Secondly, listeners cannot always have words repeated. This is a serious problem in learning situations. This problem happens not only in the classroom, but outside it as well. Outside the classroom, listeners are not always able to ask the speaker to repeat his utterance. This can lead their failure in listening. 2.1.4.3. Limited vocabulary When listening, there are words or phrases that the listeners do not know. In other words, listeners have a limited vocabulary. The listeners may wonder about the meaning of new words, so they can not concentrate on listening the next part of the listening. 2.1.4.4. Unrecognizing the signals Fourthly, listeners may fail to recognize the signals, which indicate that the speaker is moving from one point to another, giving an example, or repeating a point. In informal situations or spontaneous conversations, signals 5 are more vague as in pauses, gestures, increased loudness….These signals are not easy to be recognized at all. 2.1.4.5. Listeners’ lack of contextual knowledge or background knowledge Another problem is that listeners may lack contextual knowledge. That is the knowledge that we possess previously about the context or passage (Ur, 1985) which can helps us make some predictions and understand the listening passage more easily 2.1.4.6. Inability to concentrate Sixthly, it can be difficult for listeners to concentrate in a foreign language. This can be caused by a number of things such as : the bad quality of machines, the poor quality of listening materials. Other reason for loss of concentration is that the topic is not interesting or not familiar and learners find it difficult to understand. 2.1.4.7. Learning habits The last is students may have established some learning habits such as a wish to understand every word. Therefore, Sts often feel nervous when they can not hear some words. This leads to their lack of confidence in listening. 2.2. The setting of the study 2.2.1. The setting of the school and objectss The study was conducted at YD2 which was established in 1972 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province. YD2 has 30 classes at the moment. Classes at the school are very crowded with from 35 to 50 students in each class. In addition, the desks are often 6 arranged traditionally with rows of four desks with a narrow isle in the middle and two narrower on the sides. There is no other empty space left where teachers and students can move to and from if they conduct different interaction activities. Also, unavoidable noise in a big class usually has bad effects on students’ concentration and sound quality. Like in other schools, students at YD2SS are taught all the subjects, one of which is English. English is taught in classrooms with five parts: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing and Grammar within 40 weeks. 2.2.2. The students’ background and their English levels The 11th form students at YD2SS are aged from 16 to 17. They came from different places of Yen Dinh district. Most of them have learnt English including the listening skill since they were at grade 6. However, the students’ level in English is very low. Moreover, they do not have clear determination on English learning goals. Besides, most of their families live on agriculture so that they do not have the best conditions to learn English, especially the listening skill. In addition, in their opinion, it is not easy to master English and they do not pay much attention to it while the most important ones are mathematics, physics and chemistry. 2.2.3. Listening text books Like students at other secondary schools, students at Yen Dinh 2 use English books published by Education publishing house, Grade 10 students use “ Tieng Anh 10”, Grade 11 students use “Tieng anh 11”, and “Tieng anh 12” is used for grade 12. All of students here learn the Basic English level. “Tieng Anh 11” is the sixth volume which continues a series of English textbooks for grade 6 to grade 10. Unlike the old textbooks where language input was presented in terms of linguistic structures which were then mechanically practiced through a series of rule-focused exercises, “Tieng Anh 7 11” is underpinned by a theme-based approach to the introduction of language input. Lessons are arranged according to topics which are true to life. “Tieng Anh 11” consists of sixteen units; each unit presents a theme which is relevant to many aspects of the daily life: friendship, birthday party, hobbies, Tet holiday and so on. Those themes are represented via five sections: reading, speaking, writing, listening and language focus respectively. Besides “ Tieng Anh 11”, teachers at YD2SS do not use any other listening materials to teach the students. 2.3. Difficulties encounterd by the 11th form students in the listening skill I taught 2 classes of the 11th form last year so I had a chance to observe my sts during listening lessons. I took note what they felt, what they did as materials for this study. Besides, I often spend time to observe sts in other classes while they are being taught by different teachers 2.3.1. Sts’ attitude towards the importance of studying the listening skill. Most of the 11th grade students at YD2SS highly appreciate the importance of listening skill. Of four English skills, however, listening seems to be the most difficult. Therefore, they are not confident when learning this skill and self-rate their proficiency levels in listening skills “average or bad”. 2.3.2. Problems related to the listening materials The material itself may be one of main sources of listening comprehension problems . A lot of students think that some types of listening tasks are difficult, especially “Questions and answers”. A large number of learners find that listening topics are boring and not interesting. Only a few learners state that it is easy to understand the listening topics. Most of the students think that the speed in listening texts is fast so they hardly understand what the listening texts are about. This is not surprising at all because students tend to work out the meaning of every utterance they hear in 8 the second language. They are so busy trying to work out the meaning of one part that they miss the following one; consequently, they fail to grasp the overall meaning of the listening text. Furthermore, a lot of students are not good enough to comprehend what they are listening to. They often try to catch everything they heard, so they feel panic when they fail to recognize a word or a structure. The pronunciation in the listening text in “Tieng Anh 11” textbook The sts say that pronunciation in the tape is strange to them and is very different from what they often listen to in their class. This might be caused by linking words, elision and the students often hear a word in isolation, with a clear sound from their teacher so it is not easy to recognize a word when it is in a long sentence. 2.3.3. Problems related to the learners All the students at YD2SS were born in Yen Dinh. Therefore, they do not have the best conditions to learn. Although they practice listening English at home, the main purpose is to relax by listening to English songs, watching films with English subtitle. They do not really want to do the practice to improve their listening skills. Many students take part in all the activities in class but they don not use any listening strategies. Moreover, many of them do not do “ Before you listen” or “ After you listen” activities which help them get ready for the topic and widen their vocabulary as well as grammar, whereas their English background on vocabulary, grammar, sound system is rather poor. They also do not pay much attention to signals which are important in understanding a message. 2.3.4 Problems related to the environment Not only do the difficulties come from the problems mentioned above, but also come from the environment surrounding the students. It is too noisy for them to concentrate on listening because there is not any listening room while students learning physical education subject outside are talking so loudly. In 9 addition, 35% of the students think the difficulties in listening comprehension were due to the poor- quality tapes or disks. 2.4. Suggestions for teachers and sts in teaching and learning the listening skill 2.4.1. For the students Although it is not easy to learn listening skills, students can follow the suggestions below to overcome the difficulties in the process of their learning. 2.4.1.1. Positive attitude Have a positive attitude and motivation towards learning listening skills. The students need to have a clear goal in learning English and feel confident as well as comfortable when listening to the tape. 2.4.1.2. Practice listening frequently outside class Try to practice listening outside class. Besides listening to the listening part in “Tieng Anh 11, the students should spend time watching English content on TV, listening to the radio or watching online videos. Listen attentively to develop sentence structures, sound system, and interpretation and so on. Hearing the same word frequently can be the best way to develop their English vocabulary. They will eventually be able to imitate what they hear and say it with confidence 2.4.1.3. Practice using listening strategies. The students must identify which strategies should be used for each activity. They should create for themselves a habit of using listening strategies instead of trying to catch the meaning of every word they hear. 2.4.1.4. Considering signals Signals are important in defining the speaker’s ideas. Even when the learners can not hear the tape except for the signals, they can guess the answer. 10 2.4.2. For teachers Not all the problems described above can be overcome , for example, listening material, “ Tieng Anh 11” textbook can not be changed because it is issued by Bureau of Education and Training (Vietnam). But the teacher can do something to help the students better learn English listening skills such as providing the students with suitable background and linguistic knowledge; creating pleasant classroom conditions; and designing useful exercises to help them discover effective listening strategies. Here are a few helpful ideas: 2.4.2.1. Activating the students’ Vocabulary The teacher can activate students’ vocabulary by asking them to guess the meaning of words used in the listening before explaining the meaning to them, since whenever students are able to relate what they have already known to what they are supposed to listen for, they are likely to listen better or more effectively. 2.4.2.2. Giving extracurricular activities According to the students, the topics in the textbook are not interesting enough for them but the material can not be changed. Therefore, the teacher should give extracurricular activities with radio news, films, TV plays, announcements, everyday conversation, interviews, storytelling, English songs, and so on about the matters that the students are interested in. The students will take part in the activities enthusiastically and get accustomed to the listening skill gradually. 2.4.2.3. Pronunciation The findings in the study show that incorrect pronunciation hinders at least many students from listening comprehension, so teachers need to help students expose themselves and get familiar with precise pronunciation of native speakers. By doing that the students’ pronunciation capacity is much more improved, which will help students find listening to native speakers effective and efficient. As mentioned above, many teachers think that students’ accurate 11 pronunciation is of great help for them in listening acquisition. They also believe that one of the ultimate results of listening acquisition is to train students to produce accurate pronunciation. 2.4.2.4. Encouraging the students to relate their background knowledge with the topic they are going to listen. The teacher should encourage the learners to think about and discuss the topic they are going to listen to. Teachers can also provide the background information needed for them to understand the text, and it can help them pay attention to what to listen for. Consequently, students begin to predict what they might hear and make connections with what they already know, increasing the relevance of the information. 2.4.2.5. Guiding the students which listening strategies should be used for each task. Listening strategies are necessary to do listening tasks. Different kinds of tasks must be done with different strategies. For example, task 1 in part C, Unit 14: Recreation (Tieng Anh 11, page 159) asks the students to listen and decide whether the statements are true) or false (F). 1. Anna doesn’t like summer weather 2. Anna usually spends two weeks in a national park every summer. 3. Terry has never been to the mountain or the desert in summer. The purpose of this task is to decide which information is correct from the speaker. The listeners should know that bottom up strategy (listening for specific details) are appropriate for this task. They must pick out the key words in the sentences and pay attention to these words while listening. However, the students may not know which strategies to be used in doing that task. That is why the teacher should guide the students how to do the task and which strategies should be used. 2.4.2.6. Using the tapes and radios with good quality 12 It has been a common belief in L2 teaching that a slower rate of speech would facilitate listening comprehension. Moreover, English listening proficiency of the 11th grade students at YD2SS is rather low so the teacher should choose the tape with a slower rate of speech. It will be better if the speaker in the tape is a native one so that the students can listen to accurate pronunciation. Besides, radios used must have a good quality in order that the students will be able to listen to clear sounds without noise from them 2.4.2.7. Providing and trying to gain as much feedback as possible. During the course, the teacher should fill the gap between inputs and students’ reply and between the teacher’s feedback and students’ reaction so as to make listening purposeful. This not only promotes error correction but gives encouragements as well. It can aid students to heighten their confidence in their ability to tackle listening problems. Students’ feedback can assist the teacher to judge where the class is going and how it should be instructed. Moreover, when the teacher provides and tries to gain feedback from the students, they gradually erase the distance between them and the students so that their students can share difficulties in learning with them. 2.4.2.8. Improving the learning environment of the listening skill Learning environment for listening skill, which is listening laboratory besides Cassettes tapes, tape recorders and written listening texts, is a vital key affecting the quality of both learning and teaching listening skill. However, the findings of this study show that the students are not satisfied with the learning environment. Students argue that it still lacks well-equipped listening laboratory; consequently, the students find it hard and challenging to concentrate while listening. It is, therefore, essential to upgrade the recent laboratory so that all of the students have equal and much chance to study listening skill in such a motivating environment for improving their listening skill. In addition, the teacher should choose the tape with a high quality and a suitable speed based on their students’ English listening proficiency. 13 2.5. Applying suggestions in teaching the listening skill for 11th form sts I myself have applied these suggestions in teaching the listening skill. Firstly, We have held some extracurricular activities recently in which sts listen to English all the time. They listen to the songs and guess what their manes are, they also listen to teachers’ questions to answer….Furthermore, I spend time explaining what listening strategies to use for each task top-down or bottom-up. More importantly, beside teaching pronunciation in the book, I teach my sts elision, linking words, tone, signals…… I also choose good tapes for my sts and play twice or even more for difficult listening lessons. In general, most of sts have made progress gradually. However, there are still a few students who can not improve their listening skill. Below is one of my lessons in which I have applied some ways tom improve the listening skill UNIT 16 : THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD C. LISTENING I/ Aims: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to : * listen for specific information * listen for general ideas II/ Teaching aids: handouts, colored chalk, pictures, radio, cassette tape III/ Methods: Mainly communicative approach IV. Anticipated problems: Sts may not have knowledge about the Great Wall so the teacher can provide some information about it. Therefore Sts can relate it to the lesson when listening to do tasks V/ PROCEDURE Stages/ Teacher’s activities Timing Students’ activities Quiz - T divides the class into two groups Warm - - T tells them that there is a word in the T's mind. T - Take part in 14 up will give them 4 pieces of information about the the game 5 mins word, one by one, and members of each group can raise their hands at any time to guess what the word is. Each groups has only two chances to make a - Listen to the guess game and 1. This word is a noun and it is very well- guess words known in the world 2. You can see this from the moon 3. It was enlisted in The world Heritage by UNESCO 4. It is one of the wonders in the world and the symbol of China Key: The great Wall - T declares the winner Lead- in : Have you ever seen the Great Wall on TV? (yes) How old do you think it is ? ( Would you like to visiy it some day ? (Yes) - Ss make a Now, you are going to listen to a passage about guess Pre- it. First, I am going to help you with some new listening words 7 mins Vocabulary - Listen to T 1. ancient 9 adj) ~ very, very old and take note 2. ming Dynasty (n) ( translation) 3. significance (n) (synonym) Can you tell me a synonym of importance? Expected answer: significance - Answer the 4. Beijing( proper noun ) : the capital of China T’s question Checking 15 - T asks to complete the following sentences with the words just learnt (so that they can remember - Do the new words) exercise a. Was this wonder built during Ming...? b. Hoi An is an interesting ... town in Viet Nam c. I went to China last moth and I stayed in ... for a week d. He has realized the ... of learning computer science Suggested answers a. Dynasty b. ancient c. Beijing d. significance Activity 1: Instructions Now you are going listen about The Great Wall, one of the wonder. Listen and work in pairs to - Read the fill in the missing information. Remember that the instruction While - tape will be played twice carefully listening - T gives handouts of gap- fill test, ask them what 8 mins listening strategies should be used. (bottom-up) - Listen to T’s - T asks Sts to guess part of speech and the meaning instruction the words based on the context - Guess part of - T plays the tape twice speech and the - T calls on some Ss to give the answers meaning - T gives feedbacks words Suggested answers (1) the moon (2) 1987 (4) 200 (5) 200 BC stone the based on the context (3) the Ming Dynasty - Listen to the (6) 6000 km (7) 11 m (8) tape - Answer 16 Activity 2 Gap - fill - - T gives Ss handouts of activity 2 feedbacks Instructions: Now listen to the listening text - Listen Read to the again and answer the questions in the handout. You instruction and will listen to the tape twice listen to the - T gives Ss 1 minute to read the questions, ask them tape what listening strategies should be used. T guide the - Define key 10 mins Sts to pay attention to key words words in the - T plays the tape questions and - T asks sts if they answer the questions or not. If pay attention not, play the tape again to key words - T calls on some students to give the answers - Answer - T goes over answers with the class Suggested answers 1. In 1368 2. Five provinces 3. Thanks to its magnificence and significance 4. The part in the northwest of Beijing is the best choice for visit because it is still in its original state Work in groups of four. One member play the - Do as role of a mandarin in the Ming Dynasty who was direction Post- leader of a building group of the Great Wall, and tell listening his grandchildren how the Great Wall was built. The 10 mins other member play the roles of his grandchildren to - Act out the act out the conversation conversation - T guides Sts what to do* you should use information in activities 1 and 2) - T asks sts to revise the lesson - Revise the - Learn new words and main ideas about the Great lesson 17 Hw Wall - Take notes 2ms - Prepare next part 2.6. Results Last year, I taught 11A1, 11A2 which were considered the best classes in 11th grade. Although they were good at grammar, they could not do well in listening lesson. After I applied some methods to improve the listening skill, I asked my sts to do a mini -listening test. The result is very high. You can see the effectiveness of my suggestions Class 11A1 11A1 11A2 11A2 Time 1st term 2nd term 1st term 2nd term Exellent sts 10 % 21 % 5% 11 % Quite good sts Average sts `16 % 64 % 50 % 25 % 12 % 75% 19 % 66 % Bad sts 10 % 4% 8% 4% You can see the percentage of exellent sts in 11A1 increases from 10% to 21 % and the percentage of bad sts decreases from 10 % to 4%. Similarly, 11A2 has the number of exellent sts twice as much as in 1st term while the number of bad sts decreases considerably. III. CONCLUSIONS 1. Limitations of the study Being one of the teachers of English at YD2SS, I can see clearly the current situation of learning English here. The listening skill is considered the most 18 difficult to achieve among the four skills. Therefore, I have conducted this with a view to finding out difficulties encountered by the 11th form students. Although I have tried best to offer some insightful findings through the study; however, the limitations are unavoidable. I have taught for 2 year so that I do not have much experience. Suggestions I gave are quite simple . I hope to receive ideas from my colleges . 2. Suggestions for further research On the basis of the findings and the limitations of the study, several suggestions for further research are made. As indicated in the findings, the students have coped up with a number of difficulties in learning listening skill. Therefore, more studies on techniques for improving listening skills and the effectiveness of listening lessons should be carried out. Apparently, an analysis on students’ motivation and needs should be carried out to get deeper insights into this issue. Moreover, researches on how to teach other language skills such as speaking, writing, reading would be beneficial because they would help to teach listening skill effectively. Researches on how to adapt listening activities in “Tieng Anh 11” textbook should be carried out so that the listening lesson would be effective. Additionally, it is also needed to study more about teaching strategies needed to teach English effectively for particular ethnic minority students to make their English learning successful. Xác nhận của thủ trưởng đơn vị Hiệu trưởng Thanh Hoá, ngày 15 tháng 05 năm 2014 CAM KẾT KHÔNG COPY Người thực hiện 19 Lê Gia Minh Lê Thị Sáu REFERENCES 1. Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Proctor, R.(2001) Interplay: the process of interpersonal communicating. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt. 2. Anderson, A. & Lynch, T. (1988). Listening. Oxford University Press. 20
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