Hubar N.V. Strategies for future primary school teachers’ listening skills developing

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Губар Наталія Вікторівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, спеціальність «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

Стаття присвячена проблемі формування та розвитку іншомовних навичок аудіювання майбутніх учителів початкової школи. У статті визначено важливість процесу формування навичок аудіювання для розвитку комунікативних навичок, розглянено декілька стратегій, які викладачі вищої школи повинні використовувати з метою формування і розвитку навичок аудіювання в майбутніх учителів початкової школи.

Ключові слова: навички аудіювання, стратегії, комунікативний підхід, автентичні ситуації, майбутні учителі початкових класів.

Статья посвящена проблеме формирования и развития иноязычных навыков аудирования будущих учителей начальной школы. В статье определена важность процесса формирования навыков аудирования для развития коммуникативных навыков, рассмотрено несколько стратегий, которые преподаватели высшей школы должны использовать с целью формирования и развития навыков аудирования у будущих учителей начальной школы.

Ключевые слова: навыки аудирования, стратегии, коммуникативный подход, аутентичные ситуации, будущие учителя начальных классов.

The article is devoted to the problem of future primary school teachers’ foreign language listening skills forming and developing. The importance of listening skills formation process for the development of communicative skills is outlined; several strategies which high school teachers should use in future primary school teachers’ listening skills forming and developing are observed in the article.

Key words: listening skills, strategies, communicative approach, authentic situations, future primary school teachers.


Problem setting

Listening is one of the fundamental language skills. It’s a medium through which children, young people, and adults gain a large portion of their education – their information, their understanding of the world and of human affairs, their ideals, sense of values, and their appreciation. It has been estimated that adults spend almost half their communication time listening, and students may receive as much as 90% of their in-school information through listening to instructors and to one another [2; p. 4].

However, high school language teachers and students as well often do not recognize the level of effort that goes into developing listening skills. We are to state that given the importance of listening in language learning and teaching, it is essential for high school language teachers to help their students, namely future primary school teachers, become effective and critical listeners and acquire the ability to teach a foreign language, in particular such aspect of speech activity as listening, of primary school students effectively.

Thus, to achieve the abovementioned goals high school language teachers should use the communicative approach to language teaching, modeling listening strategies and providing listening practice in different authentic situations, those situations which students are likely to encounter when they use the language outside the classroom [4; p. 133].

Last scientific researches and publications analysis

The role that listening plays as a means of information obtaining in real life, the complexity of the foreign language listening skills formation process, as well as its importance for the development of other productive kinds of speech activity – speaking and writing, have attracted a great deal of researchers’ attention to listening.

General problems of teaching listening have been investigated by N.I. Gez, M.L. Vaisburd, N.D. Halskova, A. Anderson, G. Buck, T. Lynch, J. Wilson, A.M. Schwartz, J.C. Richards and others. Such scientists as N.V. Yelukhina, N.S. Kharlamova, V.V. Chernysh, T.V. Karikh, S.L. Zakharova, and O.B. Metiolkina have devoted their works to the problem of teaching listening of secondary comprehensive school students. Some contributions to the study of teaching listening in high school were made by I.M. Aleksieieva, N.Y. Abramovska, K.M. Brzhozovska, N.Y. Kyrylina, O.Y. Bochkarieva, O.H. Kvasova, D.M. Morozov, N.R. Petranhovska, C.G. Coakley, J. Rubin and others.

Formulation of the article’s purpose

Although, as we have seen, the problem of teaching listening occupies an important place in modern methodological research of native and foreign scientists, it still can not be solved completely. Despite the fact that the importance of good foreign language listening skills acquiring is unquestionable and the listening skills formation process is highlighted rather widely, both secondary comprehensive and high school foreign language teachers, as it was found out during the teaching practice, do not pay enough attention to these vital speech skills developing. In particular, they often use conventional rather than communicative approach to foreign language listening teaching.

The aim of the article is to analyse theoretical issues illustrating how it might be possible to select and use different strategies in order to develop foreign language listening skills of future primary school teachers.

The statement of basic material of investigation

In these days of mass communication, it is of vital importance that students, specifically future primary school teachers, are to be taught to listen effectively and critically.

Listening to and understanding speech involves a number of basic processes, some depending upon linguistic competence, some depending upon previous knowledge that is not necessarily of a purely linguistic nature, and some depending upon psychological variables that affect the mobilization of these competence and knowledge in the particular task situation. The listener must have a continuous set to listen and understand, and as he hears the utterance, he may be helped by some kind of set to process and remember the information transmitted. His linguistic competence enables him, presumably, to recognize the formatives of the heard utterance, to wit, to dissect out of the wave form of the morphemes, words, and other meaning-bearing elements of the utterance [4; p. 135].

Listening is a receptive skill, and receptive skills give way to productive skills. If teachers have their students produce something, the teaching will be more communicative. This brings high school foreign language teachers to the must in order to develop listening skills of future primary school teachers.

Firstly, we will define the term “listening strategies”. Listening strategies are techniques or activities that contribute directly to the comprehension and recall of listening input. Listening strategies can be classified by how the listener processes the input. Thus, we can speak about top-down and bottom-up strategies.

Bottom-up strategies are text based. The listener relies on the language in the message, that is, the combination of sounds, words, and grammar that creates meaning. Bottom-up strategies include: listening for specific details, recognizing cognates, and recognizing word-order patterns. Thus, comprehension is viewed as a process of decoding. The listener’s lexical and grammatical language competence provides the basis for bottom-up processing. Listeners scan the input for familiar words and use their grammatical knowledge to work out the relationship between elements of sentences [1].

We can illustrate this with the following example: “The girl I sat next to on the route bus this morning on the way to institute was telling me she comes from the Philippines and is a student of Taras Shevchenko National University at the moment.” To understand this utterance using bottom-up processing, students have to mentally break it down into its components, or chunks. The chunks which guide students to the meaning of the utterance are: the girl, I sat next to on the route bus, this morning, was telling me, she comes from the Philippines, is a student of Taras Shevchenko National University, at the moment. These chunks help students identify the underlying propositions the utterance expresses, namely: I was on the route bus. There was a girl next to me. We talked. She said she comes from the Philippines. She is a student now. Students remember these units of meaning, and not the form in which they initially heard them. Their knowledge of grammar helps them find the appropriate chunks, and the speaker also assists them in this process through intonation and pausing.

It is worth to note that students need a large vocabulary and a good working knowledge of sentence structure to process texts bottom-up. Hence, foreign language teachers may use different classroom listening activities which are focused primarily on bottom-up processing. Some of them are dictation, cloze listening, the use of multiple-choice questions after a text, and similar activities that require close and detailed recognition, and processing of the input. They assume that everything that students have to understand is contained in the input [3; p. 5].

Top-down strategies, on the other hand, are listener based. They refer to the use of students’ background knowledge in understanding the meaning of a message. This background knowledge activates a set of expectations which help students to interpret what is heard and anticipate what will come next. Whereas bottom-up processing goes from language to meaning, top-down processing goes from meaning to language. Thus, top-down strategies include listening for the main idea, predicting, drawing inferences, and summarizing.

The background knowledge required for top-down processing may be previous knowledge about the topic of discourse, situational or contextual knowledge, or knowledge in the form of “schemata” or “scripts” – plans about the overall structure of events and the relationships between them.

For example, when students hear the utterance “I heard on the news there was an earthquake in Japan yesterday”, they on recognizing the word earthquake, generate a set of questions for which they want answers: Where exactly was the earthquake? How big was it? Did it cause a lot of damage? Were many people killed or injured? What rescue efforts are undertaken? These questions guide students through the understanding of any subsequent discourse that they hear, and they focus students’ listening on what is said in response to the questions.

To develop students’ top-down listening skills foreign language teachers may use the following classroom activities:

  • generating a set of questions by students they expect to hear about a topic, then listening to see if they are answered;
  • generating a list of things students already know about a topic and things they would like to learn more about, then listening and comparing;
  • reading of one speaker’s part in a conversation by students, predicting the other speaker’s part, then listening and comparing;
  • reading a list of key points by students to be covered in a talk, then listening to see which ones are mentioned;
  • listening to part of a story by students, completing the story ending, then listening and comparing endings;
  • reading news headlines by students, guessing what happened, then listening to the full news items and comparing [3; p. 7-9].

We have knowledge about specific situations, the people one might expect to encounter in such situations, knowledge of thousands of topics and concepts, their associated meanings, and links to other topics and concepts. In applying this prior knowledge about things, concepts, people, and events to a particular utterance, comprehension can often proceed from the top down. If students are unable to make use of top-down processing, an utterance or discourse may be incomprehensible. Bottom-up processing alone often provides an insufficient basis for comprehension.

Here it should be also mentioned that in real-world listening, both bottom-up and top-down processing generally occur together. The extent to which one or the other dominates depends on the listener’s familiarity with the topic and content of a text, the density of information in a text, the text type, and the listener’s purpose in listening. For example, an experienced cook might listen to a radio chef describing a recipe for cooking chicken to compare the chef’s recipe with her own. She listens to register similarities and differences, thus she makes more use of top-down processing. However, a novice cook listening to the same program might listen with much greater attention trying to identify each step in order to write down the recipe. Thus, far more bottom-up processing is needed.

The best way to make teaching listening effective is to conduct a lesson that involves pre-listening, while-listening, and post-listening activities and contains activities which link bottom-up and top-down listening [3; p. 10].

The aim of pre-listening phase is to prepare students for both top-down and bottom-up processing through activities involving activating prior knowledge, making predictions, and reviewing key vocabulary. The while-listening phase focuses on comprehension through exercises that require selective listening, gist listening, sequencing and like that. The post-listening phase typically involves a response to comprehension and may require students to give opinions about a topic. However, it can also include a bottom-up focus if a teacher and students examine texts or parts of a text in detail, focusing on sections which students could not follow. This may involve a microanalysis of sections of a text to enable students to recognize such features as blends, reduced words, ellipsis, and other features of spoken discourse that they were unable to process or recognize.


Having studied the subject of the article, we may claim that listening competence is a complex skill that needs to be developed by intensive practice. Listening is a basic skill for language acquisition and it leads us to communicate in a spoken way. Hence, it’s of a great importance to train students so they are able to solve the problems they face when they are in class or when they interact with native speakers outside the classroom and in real life.

Top down and bottom up strategies help students not only to overcome problems when listening, but to overcome shyness and improve self-confidence, because once they master the listening strategies they feel more confident when listen and interact with others in English.

As further work, a study involving the use of video in foreign language listening skills developing of future primary school teachers should be carried out to find out whether it is helpful or not in students’ listening competence forming.


  1. A.M. Schwartz. Listening in a Foreign Language. – Available at
  2. G. Buck. How to Become a Good Listening Teacher: A Guide for the Teaching of Second Language Listening. – San Diego, CA: Dominie Press, 1995. – Pp. 113-128.
  3. J.C. Richards. Teaching Listening and Speaking: From Theory to Practice. – Cambridge University Press, 2008. – 44p.
  4. J. Rubin. A Guide for the Teaching of Second Language Listening. – San Diego, CA: Dominie Press, 1995. – Pp. 132-150.

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