Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More authentic & varied listening

For the last 4 years I've had the privilege of attending the Kentucky World Language Association's yearly conference. The last 3 years I've presented. The last 2 years I've been a board member and helped out. And this year I was honored to present twice, work Thursday registration, and receive an award on Sunday!

What I love about this conference - other than getting to hang out and network with mi gente- are the great ideas and things to think on that I come away with. The most salient bit of knowledge I came away with this from weekend was from a session on managing data from the STAMP test.

Now I don't even administer the STAMP test (although my district is thinking about it for the future) and I know very little about it. I happened to walk into this session late and didn't realize what it was about. I probably wouldn't have even gone if I had known it was about STAMP.

But the presenter, Randy Barrett, shared that nationally students perform the lowest on the listening portion. They score higher on the writing and even speaking than they do on listening. So why so low on input? I would have thought that output would have lower scores.

He had the answer - It's because our students are only listening to us. Even native speakers use teacher talk with them. And us non-native speaker are putting them at an even worse advantage. So when students get to that part of the test and it's not their teacher talking...well they don't do so well.

So what's the solution? Students need lots of opportunities for varied and authentic listening.

What does that look like at the elementary school level? I'm still figuring that out. But I do think of all the stories and books that we read and if there isn't a way that I can't find someone else reading them on youtube. Or recording my Spanish speaking friends. We also watch a lot of different cartoons and songs aimed at young learners. There's also Spanish Proficiency Exercises from the University of Texas at Austin.  And also SpanishListening.org.  If you know of any other resources please share in the comments below!!!

So how's that for a nugget to chew on and try to add more of to all of my lessons from a session I probably shouldn't have even gone to! This is why conferences are so great.


  1. Hi! I work with kids in grades 1-5 in Connecticut. I know exactly what you mean about the varied input! Sometimes parents tell me they ask their child "¿Cómo está usted? the way they remember from their high school days, and their kids give a blank stare. I ask them ¿Cómo estás? in class. The different accent, the different location (they don't always transfer skills to new surroundings!) and Ud. vs tú is just enough to be unfamiliar.

    This got me thinking along the lines of the U of Texas Proficiency Exercises. I wonder if some of us could create our own custom database suitable for elementary level learners. It could be organized in a similar way, and people could submit a script of just what they want read. Kind of like voice over work, but with the aim of collecting varied voices.

    I wonder what it would take to develop something like that?

    1. That sounds like a fabulous idea! I don't know what the logistics would be though. At the very least you would need a server which would cost $, volunteers to record, and someone to do quality control and post them. I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of but it would be interesting. Sara Elizabeth below mentions Thisislanguage and maybe convincing an existing site to do a better job of adding content for our age group.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the food for thought! I'm going to chew on this more!

  2. Such an important point! I have written about this again and again, especially when I was teaching AP, because I would get students in level 3 or 4 who couldn't understand a native speaker giving her AGE because all they'd ever heard was the teacher. These are some examples of authentic audio I've used in EdPuzzle with my students ages 7 to 12:

    Also I just had an email conversation with George from thisislanguage.com about why and how to take the ThisIsLanguage project and bring it down for elementary learners. Please consider taking a minute to email him at george@thisislanguage.com and tell him YES! We need authentic video geared toward early language learners too! (And offer tips on what kind, what kind of questions, etc.!)

    1. I love these edpuzzles! I remember seeing them from you before but forgot about them. Thanks for the reminder!

      And I will certainly email George. I saw their booth at conference but didn't get a chance to stop and talk. A lot of the vendors have virtually nothing for elementary kids so I don't usually make time for that at conference. It was good seeing you this past weekend! Wish I could have made it to your workshop - maybe next time!