Listening critically (PDF, 24 KB)
The purpose of the activity
This activity develops learner’s skills at evaluating what they hear by identifying a speaker’s purpose and point of view, determining possible bias, and giving their own opinion about what they have heard. These skills enable learners to be discriminating listeners, able to make and justify judgements about what they hear.
The teaching points
- Learners will identify the speakers’ purposes in a variety of oral texts.
- Learners will determine the speakers’ points of view and possible bias.
- Learners will evaluate what they have heard and justify their judgements.
- Other recorded talk. Include examples with more than one speaker.
The guided teaching and learning sequence
1. Discuss with learners the different purposes people have for speaking. There is a vast range of purposes, but some common purposes are to foster social and personal bonds, to communicate or share ideas and information, to instruct, persuade, agree and disagree, to learn by talking through ideas, to warn, praise, criticise and compliment. Tell learners that the purpose of this activity is to help them to become critical listeners who can evaluate what they hear by understanding speakers’ purposes and points of view.
2. Play a different audio resource and have the learners discuss the speaker’s purpose. What is he or she trying to achieve? What clues tell you this? Does the speaker have a particular point of view? How can you tell? What other points of view could there be on the subject?
3. How can you tell when a speaker isn’t telling the whole story? Why might a speaker do this? What point of view does the speaker have? Is the speaker biased? What would that mean?
4. Listen to the audio resource with the learners and then discuss the different purposes of the two speakers. What is each speaker trying to achieve? Which one is more believable? Why? How do their ways of speaking (including the language they use) influence your opinion?
5. Repeat this with other audio resources (it’s not necessary to play the whole resource each time), discussing the speakers’ purposes and points of view, and working with the learners to evaluate each one. Do the speakers show a particular bias or attitude in the way they speak? What does their way of speaking tell you about the kind of person they might be? They say you can’t judge a book by its cover: can you judge a person by the way they speak?
If possible, record a radio or television interview (see the suggested sources in Appendix G (PDF, 25kB)). Ask the learners to discuss the way an interviewer can influence/direct a discussion. For example, does the interviewer ask questions for which they already have answers? Why would they do that? How does the person being interviewed respond?
Learners can report back on examples of different purposes and possible bias they notice in a variety of contexts (in the cafeteria, the workplace, on the bus or on the radio or TV).
Return to top