Listening for details (PDF, 26 KB)
The purpose of the activity
The purpose of this activity is to highlight the need to listen for details in specific situations (such as passing on messages), and to be able to communicate those details to others. This is an essential listening skill in many work and social situations, for example, taking a phone message or an order, listening for key instructions or safety warnings.
The teaching points
- Learners will identify the words (discourse markers) that signal key pieces of information.
- Learners will identify the important parts of a message to be conveyed and discard the detail that is not important or relevant.
- Learners will communicate the important details in a message and communicate them successfully.
- If possible, make other recordings in natural contexts such as an order for a meal, a message left on voicemail, directions for finding an address, or hand-over information for the next worker on a shift.
- Headphones so learners can listen to recordings without others hearing.
The guided teaching and learning sequence
1. Explain the purpose of the activity and ask learners to suggest times they had to listen to pass on a message. Why is it important to pass on the message correctly? What can make this difficult?
2. Using a recording that is (if possible) a match with learners’ experience set a purpose for listening. For example:
3. Before playing the recording, talk about the listening purpose and how we know what to listen for. This may include listening for key words, signal words (discourse markers, such as By now,…; Please ensure that…; If you need to…) and changes in emphasis to indicate importance.
4. If learners feel comfortable about making written notes, they can do so although in many situations adults have to remember and pass on information orally.
5. Play the recording then discuss how easy or hard it was to listen for the information (the purpose) set. What helped you? What made it difficult? What were the most important parts? Why? What parts were not so important? Which parts would you pass on to a person who wanted this message?
6. Repeat this with one or two more examples, allowing time for learners to practise using good listening strategies.
7. Next, learners can work in pairs. One person uses headphones and listens to a recorded message then passes the message on to their partner. The partner may ask for clarification or repetition if necessary. The partner then listens to the recording and compares the two versions.
8. Bring the group together to discuss this part of the activity. Were you mostly accurate when you passed on the message? What was easy or hard? What would you do differently next time?
Learners can continue to hone their skills as they go about their work and other interactions. Check with learners who have English language needs: it may be necessary to use much briefer messages as they build up their language skills.
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