Listening from writing

Posted on May 24, 2010


Creating listening tasks from writing tasks

I got this idea after showing my students Sean Banville‘s (@SeanBanville) fantastic Breaking News English site, which contains a variety of language exercises based around short podcast listenings . Basically, I started thinking wouldn’t it be a good idea if students could turn their own written work into podcasts, and then use them to create listening exercises for other students. The technology’s there, so why not?

Before I go any further, here’s a bit of background. This year I’ve been asking my students to write their compositions as blog posts in our Netlev4 Ning network, as well as sending them to me via email. At the beginning of the year I put them into groups of three and told them they would be doing  on-line peer correction of each other’s written work before mailing me their final versions. This peer correction would basically involve students using the Add a comment function in Ning to give each other feedback on first-draft compositions. However, when I saw Sean’s web and started researching a few web-based podcast tools, I decided to give the activity an extra listening dimension. The process is like this: students post their compositions > students make podcasts of their compositions > students create accompanying listening exercises > students listen to each other’s podcasts and do the exercises > students peer-correct each other’s work. Confused? Have a look at the screenshot below, which hopefully might make things a bit clearer.

Screenshot of blog post in Ning

Here’s the activity step by step.

Step One : Writing and posting a composition

  • Students write their compositions and post them into their social network (Ning, in this case) or blog.

Step Two : Making a podcast version

Students make a podcast version of their compositions which other students can listen to. I’m going to suggest two ways of doing this.

1) Using a text to speech application

I used to use a fantastic application called ispeech for making text to speech podcasts, but they don’t seem to be allowing any more free accounts so I suggest you use one of the apps below. As always, all applications have their pros :-) and cons :-(

a) Yakitome : Here’s a Yakitome example of the composition from the screenshot above.

:-) No word/character limit
:-( Sign-up process a bit laborious / You have to make your recording Public to get the URL / No embed code.

b) ImTranslator Text To Speech : Here’s an example using this application (you will only hear about 70% of the composition because there’s a 1000 character limit).

:-) No sign-up necessary
:-( 1000 character limit (including spaces) / No embed code / The text appears on the application’s web page next to the speaking avatar (students will just have to look away while doing the listening exercises).

2) Recording your voice using Vocaroo

The second option is for students to record themselves reading their compositions using this ultra-simple web-based podcast application. Click on the Vocaroo player graphic below to hear a recording of the composition (WordPress won’t allow me to embed it).

:-) No sign-up necessary / There seems to be no limit to the length of your recording / Embeddable player (except for free WordPress blogs)

:-( Some students may feel embarrassed recording themselves and prefer to use one of the text to speech apps above.

Step Three : Creating the exercises

  • You can leave this up to the students’ imagination, but comprehension questions and gap-fills seem to work best – my students’ favourite is gapping everything apart from the first letter of each word. The fact that these exercises are not self-correcting doesn’t really matter as students can check their answers by consulting the complete text at the bottom of the post.

Step Four : Peer correction

  • Students leave each other comments on how they can improve their compositions. These might involve pointing out grammatical/lexical errors or making suggestions on how to improve style, register or cohesion.
  • Having read their groupmates‘ comments and made any changes they feel necessary, students send you the final versions of their compositions.

Hope you find these ideas useful!

Posted in: App Lessons