Last year’s school closings and this year’s remote and hybrid learning have disproportionately impacted English learners (ELs). Some students have limited exposure to spoken or written English at home, and for many, the months spent away from the classroom have resulted in significant language losses. Now, many teachers are working to help their ELs regain lost ground with podcast lessons, and Listenwise can be a great resource to support students at every level.
English learners can reap many benefits from podcasts. Listening to podcast stories exposes students to natural speech, including different speeds of talking and various accents. You can play a podcast straight through, without stopping, to mirror the situation an EL may encounter in the outside world, or you can stop intermittently and take the opportunity to check for understanding. Podcasts can help ELs build new vocabulary and content knowledge and spark engaging conversations. They can also sharpen listening skills. Detailed comprehension of a 5-minute podcast with academic language requires sustained, close listening, a habit that must be taught, supported, and regularly practiced.
Listenwise lessons are designed to help students develop and practice their listening skills, and several features work especially well for ELs. Here are three features within standards-aligned Listenwise lessons that can be implemented before, during, and after listening, to support and strengthen student listening.
1. Pre-listening Activity: Activating Prior Knowledge
Before playing the audio story, introduce a short activity centered on the story’s theme as outlined in the Teacher’s Guide. One way to ease anxiety or make the audio story less intimidating is to let students know, in general, what they should be listening for as they hear the story. For example, when using a story about how dyslexia shaped an actor’s life, you might ask students to write briefly about any challenges they may have faced in school that made them feel different from others, and what helped them persevere through those challenges. For a story about animal superpowers, you can ask students to discuss with a partner what kind of animal they would most like to be and why. These short, simple activities help prepare students for the listening experience, boosting student confidence and comprehension.
2. Language Identification Organizer: Helping ELs Listen Closely
Each standards-aligned Listenwise lesson comes with a Language Identification organizer, a list of 10 short phrases or sentences that appear in the order students will hear them in the story. Students can check off the phrases they hear during listening. You can preview the phrases prior to playing the audio to make sure students understand their meaning. The Language ID organizer promotes precise listening and can increase comprehension.
3. Formative Assessment: Promoting Number Recognition
Listenwise lessons often include a quiz that assesses recognizing literal meaning, understanding vocabulary in context, identifying the main idea, and making inferences. A teacher recently noted how a quiz question helped her assess another important skill in her ELs: number recognition. She asked her ELs to listen to an audio story about the popular board game “The Settlers of Catan.” Thirty-two million sets of the game have been sold in the last 25 years, according to the story. When taking the quiz, students encountered the following question:
How many “Settlers of Catan” games have sold over the past 25 years?
To correctly answer the question, students must be able to convert the words they heard in the audio, “thirty-two million,” to the numeric equivalent, 32,000,000. Other quiz questions focused on numbers, dates, and such can provide additional opportunities for ELs to work on translating spoken language into numeric representations.
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