Monday, August 18, 2008

Teaching listening skills with audio tours

One of the things about being on holiday is that it gives you time to think and not just rush about from one job to another so here is a teaching idea I've been playing with.

As the internet and mp3 players have become more popular so has the use of audio tours. Once the preserves of museums which handed out clunky cassette players to visitors wanting a tour of the place audio tours have broken out of the geek ghetto to become the vital accessory for any self respecting tourist site. Cheap to produce, easy to use the mp3 audio tour can now be downloaded within minutes to your mp3 player or cell/mobile phone and then used as you wander around Athens, Bilbao or Crakow. So here are some ways they can be used to teach EFL/ESL.

Lesson plan 1

This lesson is aimed at upper intermediate or advanced students and is an excellent way of practicing listening skills.Also it is a great way of getting out of the classroom. Great perhaps for students studying English in UK summer schools. Learnerss will need;

an mp3 audio tour in English of a tourist site in their area,

mobile phone or mp3 player

mobile phone or digital camera

access to a pc and the internet

1 Students download an audio tour onto their mp3/mobile phone. Click here to find an example of such a tour in Bristol.

2 Explain to students that they are going to illustrate the audio tour using their own pictures and images off the internet. So they will need something that can take pictures such as a digital camera or their mobile phones. If students do not have either of these the form groups in which at least one person has one.

3 Go to the start of the place mentioned and section by section follow the tour in groups of 2 - 4. Each group has to do one of two things;

a make a note of any names mentioned e.g The Watershed Media Centre, Charles Dickens etc.

b take pictures that show what is being described.

4 At regular intervals the teacher should stop each group and allow all students to swop any information they have noted or help with any problems of comprehension.

5 In the next lessons students once again form their groups in the classroom, each with access to the internet. For the next stage of the exercise you'll need either Windows Movie Maker (which comes as standard with Windows or Photostory 3 which can be downloaded free from the Microsoft site (click here to get it).

6 Students use the net to find and download any other images that could supplement their own photos such as maps, historic illustrations etc.

7 Go through the basics of your programe of choice such as how to add mp3s and pictures.

8 Students then use the programs to add photos and other images to the mp3 audio tour to make a visual version.

9 Students could then post their own version on YouTube, a class blog or even send it to the city/tourist site and ask if they could use it on their page.

Of course this is not the kind of exercise that all teachers would feel comfortable with. Lack of access to PCs or internet, unfamiliarity with the technology or even not being able to take students out of the classrrom are all factors which must be taken into account.

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