- Do you have students who are ready for authentic materials?
- Are you tired of looking for great listening materials, and short on time to prepare them for class?
- Are you concerned about copyright issues?
I want to make your life easier by providing a curated selection of audio material each month, together with supporting exercises for each piece. Some exercises can be done by students on their computers or devices, while others include discussion questions suitable for work in the classroom.
American Voices presents only authentic materials created by native speakers for other native speakers – ideal for intermediate and advanced level students who would like listening practice with stories created by some of the most talented (and often award-winning) producers.
I do recommend that your students be at level B1 or higher for listening skills according to this description from the CEFR scale: “I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programmes on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.”
- Look through our audio pieces and choose a piece that would interest your students.
- Read through the associated materials: each module includes an introduction with pre-listening questions, a glossary, audio with transcript which can be shown or hidden, post-listening exercises, discussion questions, and links for further exploration.
- Since all of our pieces are authentic and unedited, you'll hear a natural mix of unscripted and scripted speech, and a variety of speaking styles. Some stories ("Melissa and the Killer Whale," "Walking Across America 2") have sections on issues of dialect, pronunciation, and connected speech. Allow time for these, and consider highlighting a few other phrases in the audio for special attention or mini-dictations.
- While licensing agreements don't allow for downloading of audio files, you can download transcripts and glossaries to share with your students.
- Make a plan! Each piece can provide material for several lessons. Some options you may want to consider:
- In Before Listening, discuss pre-listening questions to enable students to draw on previous knowledge
- Preview vocabulary in the Glossary section in class, or assign the Quizlet activities for outside of class (Quizlet quizzes can also be printed out for in-class tests)
- Go over comprehension quizzes in class, discussing ways to paraphrase a given thought
- in the Beyond the Broadcast sections, assign links to related articles for homework; ask students to prepare presentations or written summaries of what they find.
- Our pieces range from about five to about 15 minutes in length. Consider breaking longer pieces into smaller segments for initial work, returning to the piece as a whole after vocabulary work and discussion.
- If you'd like share your ideas about how to use American Voices with your students, get in touch – I'd love to hear from you!
Researchers and teachers have recently called for greater emphasis on listening sklls, and have explored new ways of teaching this critical skill. Here are a few sources that I have found particularly helpful.
- John Field, Listening in the Language Classroom. Field "proposes a radical alternative to the comprehension approach and provides for intensive small-scale practice in aspects of listening that are perceptually or cognitively demanding for the learner." I wish I had had this book when I began teaching.
- Richard Cauldwell has worked on a number of projects toward an updated approach to listening skills: "My aim is to provide teachers, and teacher-trainers with information, tools and skills which will enable them to teach the decoding of the sound substance of English – the essential (but avoided, ignored) prerequisite for understanding meaning." His website is well worth a visit; his book Phonology for Listening: Teaching the Stream of Speech is another resource I wish I'd had long ago.
- Sandy Millin has a helpful summary of sessions on listening and pronunciation from the 2017 IATEFL conference in Glasgow.