How to use authentic listening materials in class

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authentic listening materials PTE General

Pearson Test of English (PTE) General uses real-life, authentic material taken from a range of different English-speaking sources, including the UK and Australia. It’s therefore a very good idea to use authentic listening materials in class to help your students prepare to sit the listening paper.

So let’s look into the benefits of authentic listening tasks and look at where you can find relevant material for your learners. We’ll also look at a series of listening activities for students of all levels (even your lower level learners!), while improving their exam technique at the same time.

What are the benefits of using authentic listening material?

The speed, clarity, accent and language used in EFL coursebook listening materials means that, more often than not, students are underprepared to engage in “real-life” conversations with English speakers from different countries.

By helping learners to understand authentic language with different accents and dialect, you are giving them a huge advantage both in the real world and also when they are preparing for the listening section of the PTE General exam. This, though, is no easy task! There are a number of factors to take into consideration – and the first of which is where to find suitable authentic listening material for your students.

Where can teachers find authentic listening material?

Nowadays, authentic listening material can be easily found online. News websites including BBC, CNN, and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) all contain video clips with subtitles in English, which are perfect for reading-whilst-listening activities with your students. YouTube is also a treasure trove of authentic listening, including material like Ted Talks and Vox Pops, which are authentic interviews with members of the public.

When it comes to audio, there are a number of podcasts on a wide variety of topics to exploit for listening comprehension with your students, as well as radio programs from the BBC and NPR, which can also easily be found online.

However, to find authentic listening material that is more suitable for international audiences, BBC World Service and Voice of America (VOA) both provide a large amount of audio and visual material that can be used with your learners. VOA offers material for non-native English speakers that is deliberately easier to understand.

How can they be tied to each part of the PTE General listening paper?

To ensure that your use of authentic listening material is as beneficial as possible for your students’ PTE General preparation, consider the following when planning to use them in class:

  1. Before your class, identify parts of the audio that you feel will be most difficult for your learners to understand.
  2. Instead of designing a lengthy pre-listening activity with your students, provide them with a bit of context, as students will not have the opportunity to predict the content during the actual exam.
  3. Provide learners with a transcript alongside the audio, so that they can go back through the text and analyze specific areas in which they experienced difficulties when listening.

So, with these tips in mind, how can you now create great activities to be used in the classroom that will prepare your students for each section of the PTE General listening exam?

Multiple choice

Section 1 consists of a 3-option multiple choice exercise, which tests a learner’s ability to understand the main details of ten short monologues or dialogues.

To help students prepare for this exercise, you can create your own multiple choice quizzes using online learning platforms such as Kahoot! And Edpuzzle. For example, you can crop Vox Pop videos from Youtube using an online tool like ytCropper, and design multiple choice questions focusing on the main detail of each dialogue or monologue.

As students become more confident with this activity, you can design questions that focus on more perceptually difficult aspects of the audio, or even encourage your students to create their own multiple-choice quizzes for their classmates to use, based on authentic listening material that they have discovered themselves.

Dictation

Section 2 consists of a dictation activity that assesses a learner’s ability to understand an extended audio and transcribe what is heard.

To help students prepare for this exercise, you can have your learners use the first play of the audio to adjust to the speakers’ voices, without the need to focus on transcription. Then have them transcribe short sections of the audio during the second play.

For lower levels, begin by having them transcribe short audio clips that are easier to understand, before slowly building it up so that they are able to transcribe longer clips that are slightly more difficult to comprehend.

Note completion

Section 3 comprises a note completion activity, which assesses learner’s ability to extract specific information from extended audio.

To help students prepare for this exercise, use the audio’s transcript to create simple gap-fill activities for your learners, with the gaps focusing on more difficult elements of the audio.

For lower levels, you can begin by first encouraging them to read-whilst-listening, before removing single words or simple phrases to listen for from sections of the audio that are easier for your students to understand.

What are you waiting for?

In short, authentic materials are an invaluable resource for you to use in the classroom as you prepare your students for the PTE General Exam and are a fantastic alternative to the listening material found in coursebooks. They will not just challenge your learners to further improve their listening comprehension skills, but will also introduce them to a number of different genres, topics and cultures. As a result, your students will be inspired to take greater ownership of their learning and preparation for the listening exam.

Exam preparation does not need to be boring. Start using authentic materials in your classroom now and see how far your students’ motivation and listening comprehension grow in time for their PTE General Exam!   

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