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Interpersonal listening

I'm posting my slides from the presentation I gave yesterday at Bishop's Stortford High School.

During our afternoon of CPD Gianfranco Conti presented on working memory, skill-acquisition and their implications for classroom practice. In the section of his presentation on teaching listening skills he focused on matching teaching to John Field's model of how we listen: decoding sounds, lexical search, parsing, meaning and discourse construction.

Gianfranco produced a telling analogy: if we ask a PE teacher how she teaches, say, football, she doesn't just say "we play football", she breaks down the process into different skills, e.g. tackling, passing, dribbling, spacial awareness and so on. This is how we should try to teach listening, he argued, breaking down the activity into the key elements and matching our teaching to them. Not to do this is a disservice to pupils, he said, and I see his point. Gianfranco provided practical lesson ideas, examples of which you'll find on his blog.

I was the "supporting act" at this Teachmeet and focused on what is variously known as interpersonal, two-way or interactive listening. My main point was that a number of lessons which we might consider to be "oral lessons" are, in fact, primarily about listening. I revised the essentials of question-answer technique as a source of meaningful listening and a number of games and game-like tasks you can use to develop comprehension and ensure repeated use of high-frequency language.

We acquire language most effectively when we understand messages, retrieve from memory, practise, repeat and recycle useful language as often as possible. (Not all theorists would agree with it quite in those terms - especially the "practice" bit!)

Whereas Gianfranco focused on decoding and parsing, I was more focused on comprehensible input and communication. The two are clearly not mutually exclusive and can, together, help develop confident listeners. Here are my slides, some of which I have posted before in a different context. The games/activities referred to can be found elsewhere on my blog (just use the Search button).


  1. Thank you for posting this presentation. Lots of good activities to try!


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