Tried something slightly ambitious yesterday with a Proficiency group.  I have to confess I took the original idea from the IH World website – they have a nice range of resources related to the CEF levels that I’ve been making good use of, but unfortunately you have to be an IH teacher to actually get into see them.  (if you are an IH teacher, ask your DoS for the login to the affiliate area).

The original idea from IH World relates to the “Can Do” statement:  “I have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.” Essentially, what you do is provide the students with a set of content related sentence stems:  things like  WHAT INTERESTED ME MOST WAS… /  I’M NOT SURE I AGREE THAT… and then you play them an authentic listening task and they complete the stems as they go (notes, not sentences).

The notes suggest looking at BBC podcasts for ideas on what listenings to use:  I went with one from the BBC World Service Documentaries Archive on “Cyber-bullying”.

We prefaced the listening with a brief discussion about our “online presence” – did we know how much information about us is out there?  What kind of information about us is out there?  Who has access to it? and so forth.  Interestingly, about a third of the class said they don’t have facebook accounts…

The discussion that ensued after the listening, guided by the ideas and prompts that the learners had noted down during the listening, got incredibly involved and at some points quite heated.  From an observers’ perspective, there was possibly a divide between those that had never / rarely suffered at the hands of a bully and those that had maybe been on the receiving end of a hard time.  But we drew the focus away from personal experience and back towards the more general and all was well.

In hindsight, there were a number of things that could also have been useful things to do with the text, but which because the class actually spent the whole time involved and speaking English (a rare accomplishment!) I didn’t pursue.

The original task was to use the notes to write a 50-70 word summary of the podcast content.  Another nice idea might have been to pick out some useful / interesting chunks of language – the odd fixed expression, a smattering of collocations and the like, for the students to attempt to discern meaning from context.  Possibly next time…