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University of Warsaw

Centre for Language Teacher Training and European Education


University College of English Language Teacher Education

Author: Zbigniew Sobieraj

Tutor: Dr Hanna Mrozowska

Teaching listening to adults


in one to one teaching
with the use of authentic materials

WARSAW 2004
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With thanks to my tutor, Dr Hanna Mrozowska,


for all her help and support
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Contents
Introduction
Aims of the project ………………………………………………………………………….…5
Justification of the choice of the topic ………………………………………………………...6
Student’s profile …………………………………………………………………………….…8

Theory
Teaching one to one ………………………………………………………………………….11
Teaching adult learners ………………………………………………………………………14
Teaching listening………………………………………………………………………….…18
Authentic materials …………………………………………………………………………..21

Practice
Lesson 1
Lesson plan ………………………………………………………………………….27
Justification of the choice of activities ……………………………………………...29
Handout……………………………………………………………………………...31
Post-lesson reflections ……………...……………………………………………….35

Lesson 2
Lesson plan ………………………………………………………………………….39
Justification of the choice of activities ……………………………………………...41
Handout……………………………………………………………………………...43
Post-lesson reflections ……………...……………………………………………….46

Lesson 3
Lesson plan ………………………………………………………………………….49
Justification of the choice of activities ……………………………………………...51
Handout……………………………………………………………………………...53
Post-lesson reflections ……………...……………………………………………….57

Summary
Conclusions ………………………………………………………………………………….60

Reference
Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………64
Student’s materials………………………………………………………………………...…66
CD with recordings..…………………………………………………………………………67
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Introduction
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Aims of the project

• To give my student an opportunity to practise and improve her listening skills with the use
of amusing authentic materials.
• To provide listening input which would be difficult and closely reflective of the student’s
real-life conditions of using English; thus to raise the student’s linguistic confidence in
such situations.
• To allow myself an opportunity to practise adapting authentic materials, preparing tasks
and planning lessons in which they are used.
• To extend my knowledge of ELT theory of one to one teaching.
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Justification of the choice of the topic

Being aware of the weight carried by the choice of the topic for this diploma, before
taking the decision I consulted Barbara. As mentioned previously, listening and
speaking are the two areas that she exploits most in her use of English. Although
reading and writing are also indispensable, these rely greatly on a Barbara’s well-
practised command of a limited number of texts that she is able both successfully read
and write. When asked a few weeks before the first of the three lessons presented in
this project took place, Barbara admitted to having most difficulty in being able to
understand her interlocutors in casual conversations. Other problem areas she came up
with were understanding lecturers or public speakers in more detail than just the
general idea of their talk and, which follows from the former, being able to make notes
while listening to the lectures.

I thus subsequently offered to her being my project student and explained that the three
extra lessons would focus on the area of listening intertwined with opportunities to
express one’s own opinion orally. My intention was to prepare a set of lessons that
would give practice mostly in listening to material closely responding real-life
conditions and to make it interactive in that the student is given a chance to react to
what they hear in a free way.

I decided to place my diploma in one to one teaching conditions as I hoped that


working on it would allow me to systematize and expand my knowledge of this field
of ELT. Individual lessons comprise a large part of my past and present teaching
experience and I felt my theoretical knowledge of one to one needed developing.

Describing in the diploma project the classroom situation of any one group or
individual student naturally entails limiting oneself to just the age group of that student
or students. I chose to write about the adult learner as adults compose the great
majority of my individual students. Although younger students also take private
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lessons, their course of study often supplies their school curriculum and leaves much
less room for flexibility.

Since Barbara’s concern was her difficulty in coping with real-life situations, the
classroom practice had to reflect those conditions as far as possible. This could be best
done by using authentic materials. However, I was also resolved to keep the lessons
light and humorous and therefore decided to use a comedy radio play, enjoyable in
itself. Additionally, the significance of authentic materials increases in one to one
teaching (Downman, Shepheard 2002: 57; Murphey 1991: 45), which only further
confirmed the choice.
Student’s profile
Barbara is a Polish student in her mid-thirties. She is employed in a country-wide self-control
system for the juice and soft drinks industry in Poland, an organization which monitors and
aims at improving the quality of manufacturing juices and other non-alcoholic drinks. She
decided to retake English classes prompted by her job: she travels a lot to international skills-
development conferences and as a part of her duties, she is responsible for maintaining
contact with foreign experts. Thus she often has the opportunity to use spoken English with
both native and non-native speakers of English, the latter also possessing a very good
command of the language. Due to the scientific character of her work, Barbara often deals
with documentation, trade press and business correspondence in English.

She first started learning the language in her secondary school, and being an engaged and
conscientious student, completed that course with good results. Her education was continued
during her university studies, although at that time the classes were of much lesser
intensiveness and also at a slightly lower level. After a few-year break, in February 2002 she
took up private, one-to-one language classes with me. Each lesson lasts 60 minutes and there
usually are three meetings a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, due to
Barbara’s demanding job, she is sometimes forced to cancel a lesson, so the syllabus is not
very much date-fixed.

At present, Barbara is following a general English course at an upper-intermediate level. The


leading coursebook is Inside-Out published by MacmillanHeineman, which offers an in-class
coursebook and cassette and a home-study workbook, with an accompanying cassette as well.
The book focuses on communicative skills, which are of great importance in Barbara’s case,
as she needs to take active part in discussions and produce letters herself. As a non-specific
course, Inside-Out does not include any specialist vocabulary that is very important for
Barbara. Such specialist input is supplied in some documents she deals with herself and
sometimes brings to class to translate, explain or discuss. Moreover, a great many lexical
items that are subject-specific are based on either Latin words or are chemical terms, which
find their similar equivalents in many languages, including Polish. Thus the very important
specialist vocabulary does not pose a very big learning problem for Barbara.
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As it is usually the case at an upper-intermediate level, the course attaches great weight to
developing student’s range of vocabulary and accuracy of expression. Barbara is a confident
speaker of English, has good, conveniently intelligible pronunciation with elements of near-
native accent beginning to show; her writing skills concentrate on typical business
correspondence in formal register. Having come across a myriad of accents in her experience,
she does not have particular problems in understanding spoken language, unless it is spoken
quickly and the context is not entirely clear. The only difficulty she has with reading are new
lexical items included in the text or structures she is not familiar with. Barbara sets great store
by understanding all new aspects of the language thoroughly and precisely, perhaps mostly
when it comes to grammar. Thus she always asks for additional explanations if the covert-
style grammar explanations in the coursebook are not enough for her.

Barbara is a lively person, brisk in her humour and keen to discuss social and cultural issues.
She is never satisfied with voicing her opinion only but always returns the question and will
argue her point. Whatever the conclusion, such oral practice is natural, instructive and creative
and its positive results may be noticed. As far as personal preference for subjects is concerned,
in our lessons Barbara is more keen on tradition and diet fads than technology or motoring,
but on the whole she is highly motivated to suffer through whichever less involving task. She
will then openly and wittily criticize it, but still appreciate its value and apply due effort. Her
energetic constituency considered, she is not exceptionally eager to produce any writing
pieces, unless forced by professional circumstances. Barbara’s doubtless advantage of natural
easiness to speak may sometimes backfire in that too much of the lesson is taken up by
conversation.
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Theory
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Teaching one to one

This part aims to present a general overview of features of one to one teaching. Facts
illustrating its popularity are provided, and main advantages and disadvantages of this
method are discussed.

Teaching one to one appears to be quite a significant component of the Polish


educational system. Data of CODN (Centre for Teachers’ Development) shows that in
2001 there were 18 109 English teachers in Polish schools. 30% out of these are
estimated give private lessons (www.gazeta.pl). In lay understanding, this term is often
taken to mean ‘conversation classes’, that is lessons focused mostly around
development of the student’s speaking skills. Internationally it is estimated that only 1
out of 4 (Murphey 1991: 33) individual English teachers are native speakers who
would naturally seem most appropriate for conducting this type of courses. It might be
thus assumed that some 5500 non-native teachers in Poland give one to one classes,
supported by a number of native English speakers difficult to calculate. Even if some
of them are not trained teachers, but merely individuals with a good command of the
language for whom the job might only be temporary and a source of extra money, the
individual sector remains a significantly large one.

A typical student who prefers individual teaching to groups will likely have one or
both of the following characteristics (Murphey 1991: 8-24). Firstly, students value the
teacher’s flexibility and adjustability. With tight schedules and frequent business trips,
the possibility of short-notice cancellations and flexible meeting times. Secondly,
students usually highly motivated and hence prepared and willing to be the centre of
teacher’s attention for the duration of the whole meeting. Thirdly, they may be
insecure about the language skills enough to fear group performance. Lastly, they may
be in need of a course tailored to their needs that schools do not have on offer. The
tailoring can include both the frequency of meetings, especially with intensive or
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crash-courses, and its content: often an ESP course, suited to professional needs of the
student.

From primary level onwards, education is usually administered to small or quite large
group of students. Although exceptions exist (children with nomad lifestyles, children
with governess schooling), the Polish system is also traditionally group-based. It is
thus important to realise the specific characteristics that make students choose one to
one teaching rather than the usual group way. These include:
a) more feedback attention
b) more adjustment possibilities
c) less affective inhibition
d) more involvement, both on the part of the teacher and the student (Murphey
1991: 1-4)
Personal adjustment on many levels, involvement on both sides and immediate
proximity give such teaching qualities which schools cannot offer.

Other merits that especially appeal to students include flexibility. There is a possibility
of scheduling meeting times for only one lesson in advance, so the student is not
bound by a fixed timetable. Convenient cancellation systems used by many teachers
allows reschedule or skip a lesson, should prevailing business occupy the learner. At
the same time, younger students, even in individual teaching, demand a fair amount of
schooliness and strict rules of work which the teacher needs to supply (Downman, J.
and Shepheard, J. 2002: 132). Flexibility thus must not only be understood as
adapting to the student’s timetable, but also assuming the role which will most
effectively help the learner achieve their goals.

Since the whole process is not institutionalized, there are fewer time constraints, i.e.
any required amount of time can be spent to address student’s needs, and explore
areas of personal interest. This links with student’s own involvement, which increases
greatly if they feel they are the pivotal element of the course.
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Individual contact naturally allows both interlocutors to mutually focus on each other
only. There are no disruptions from the group and the syllabus can be fluently and
constantly adapted to the student’s needs. The teacher monitors progress closely and
immediately responds with appropriate extra input should difficulties occur. The
syllabus can also be made more effective in that it is made more personal: students
contribute actively by suggesting topics or providing their own practice materials.
Inhibiting factors like peer pressure or group-caused distractors are eliminated and the
meeting becomes a socially equal encounter. Due to this it often also serves an
important social role to the student (Murphey 1991: 17, 20) who, as well as linguistic
improvement, seeks friendly interpersonal contact. For the teacher there are no group
discipline problems and their attention need not be divided between many students in
the class. According to the Natural Method as suggested by Stephen Krashen, learners
acquire language best through the modified input of the teacher (Krashen 1990: 68).
This means that the teacher adapts their language to the level of the student and in one-
to-one classes the amount and type of input can be maximised by the teacher to benefit
the student. Teachers can learn too: students professional knowledge, their interests
and experiences are an invaluable source of information and offer countless discussion
topics.

All merits considered, there arguably are a number of disadvantages of one to one
teaching as well. The foremost seems to be that teacher role is ‘blurred between
teacher, psychologist and friend’ (www.onestopenglish.com). There is not the group
stimulation and grouping possibilities that multi-student classes provide. Although the
element of peer pressure often has a negative influence on the learning process, co-
students also provide a feeling of competetiveness and mobilization. Its lack, coupled
with only one possible communicational arrangement (one – one), might be tedious in
the longer perspective. Moreover, here are practically no coursebooks adapted for one
to one use and teachers may have to go a long way adapting some exercises or are just
forced to omit others.
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The intensiveness of a one-hour meeting can also exceed the concentration span of
many students, especially that attention of the teacher is constantly focused on them. It
is therefore important that the rhythm of the lesson should be intermittent and non-
involving tasks should be included (Komorowska 2001: 49).

The issue of error correction gains a new importance here as well. Direct criticism is
better received in a group of people than eye to eye corrections, particularly that a
colliding role of the teacher is to establish good personal understanding with the
student. It therefore takes a lot of effort and accustoming to reach a way of correcting
students’ mistakes that is both effective and not aggressive or insolent.

In the case of adults the problem of irregularity and cost appears (Murphey 1991: 91).
Students may have other considerations more important than the regularity of their
English classes and thus there may be periods of intensive study intertwined with
frequent breaks. The price calculated per lesson also tends to be higher than for group
classes run by schools and this renders one to one lessons only accessible to a limited
group of potential students.

On balance, one to one is a branch of ELT that caters to the needs of quite a large
number of students in Poland. Although much of its methodology is identical with that
applicable for group teaching, there are also subject-specific advantages and
disadvantages that need to be considered.
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Teaching adult learners

This part discusses the different personal qualities and motivations adult learners can
have. Teacher’s position in the classroom is also dealt with.

In discussing methodological issues of foreign language instruction for adult learners,


the factor which seems to overshadow others is the complexity of motivations and
needs that adult students exhibit. They are said to be the easiest learners for the teacher
(Ur 1997: 294), but, in some respects, the least privileged ones as well. Adults are
usually highly-motivated learners with the motivation stemming from their own
convictions rather than being caused by outside factors, which only further strengthens
them. Since personality features, personal interests included, stabilize after the period
of adolescence, adults are predictable in their likings, and additionally tend to be
understanding and patient when they come across difficulties in learning. All these
qualities of a good student can, however, be weighed down by unreasonable learning
habits the students might have acquired before coming into the classroom
(Komorowska 2001: 36).

Whereas children, adolescents and even tertiary-level students are usually obliged to
attend EFL classes, adults usually find their own reasons for entering a course, and
these will differ greatly. The most common motivation is their professional
development (Komorowska 2001: 36). With English strengthening its status as an
international business language, more and more people find its command a basic
requirement to obtain a new job, and develop or keep their present one. However, for
many, especially individuals learning English as a second language in a community of
a foreign country, classes will be an important social occasion, where they are able to
express their view and be amiably received (Heaton 1989: 279, Murphey 1991: 17).

With such a broad rage of students’ motivations, the need for their research, analysis
and classification arises (Heaton 1989: 277). This should be done at the very beginning
of the course, preferably still prior to the first class. Student’s past experience of
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learning the language, as well as their present needs and knowledge need to be
determined in order to place the student into an appropriate group or design an
individual syllabus tailored to their needs.

Although adults are the easiest and most gratifying beginners (Ur 1997: 294), their
needs are often more specialist and a whole branch of ELT, English for Specific
Purposes, has grown in response to demand from mostly adult professionals (Dudley-
Evans in : 131). On the one hand, students come to class with a strong motivation, and
a clear set of aims on the other. Their decision to take up a language course is
prompted by their needs and it is these needs that the course has to aim at satiating.
Thus a lot of adults teaching takes place in ESL courses, especially popular with this
age group. ESL courses are largely based on the subject area and methodology of the
students’ professions and therefore linked to their needs.

One important characteristic of adult learners that should be borne in mind is their
irregularity (Komorowska 2001: 36). It exhibits itself in students’ homework and
attendance. The former is generally neglected and unless strict rules are set up at the
beginning of the course and closely obeyed throughout, adults tend not to do any work
outside of the classroom. If they do study on their own at home, this is by working
with tasks of their particular interest only or in high-pressure periods, like the end of
term or immediate pre-exam period. The latter, attendance, suffers due to other
priorities that prevent learners from coming to classes. Absence depends greatly on
personal motivation, but home, work or other issues sometimes take precedence.

Lastly, the position of the teacher in a class of adults needs attention. It could seem that
with adult, fully-shaped personalities the teacher should be easily able to work out a
common ground for understanding, especially that all course participants have the
same goal. However, stress is likely to take effect. Adult learners are more reserved
and fear being laughed at (Komorowska 2001: 36). This may hamper creativity in the
classroom and interpersonal contact (Ur 1997: 294).
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Although it is probably highly dependent on personal features and preferences of the


teacher, adult learners do seem to be the easiest group to teach. They are the group mot
likely to exhibit the characteristics of a good student, but at the same tile tend to
require additional motivation and may be irregular in their work.
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Teaching listening
Departing from a definition of listening, this section discusses the importance of developing
this skill, the materials and tasks that can be used and their link to real-life listening situations.

The listening process is defined as auditory reception of sounds with active involvement on
the part of the hearer (Underwood 1989, Ur 1984). As opposed to hearing, listening is a
process in which the recipient must take active part by making an effort to understand what is
being said. Although it comes naturally in the case of one’s mother tongue, foreign language
listening poses much difficulty and needs to be taught and learned (Underwood 1989: 1).

The importance of being able to understand spoken language is best illustrated by the
obviousness of the five main reasons why people need to listen: ‘a) to engage in social rituals,
b) to exchange information, c) to exert control, d) to share feelings, e) to enjoy yourself.’
(Underwood 1989: 4). In real-life situations the listener is almost always prepared for what
s/he’s going to hear and is able to predict at least some of the content beforehand, if rightly or
wrongly. Context is thus an extremely important factor in administering listening exercises, as
they should prepare the student for what s/he’s going to encounter in the real world.

Materials used in class for teaching purposes need to meet other requirements as well. It is a
specific characteristic of most listening situations that the input heard is intermittent. That is
to say we are seldom required to listen to longer stretches of speech and usually only need to
concentrate for a short time, after which a response is expected of us. Thus the best way to
teach listening skills would seem to be by engaging the student in a free conversation with
another proficient language speaker, at the same time letting the learner practise his or her
speaking skills. Due to classroom realities, this is of course unfeasible. Apart from that,
concentrating on one type of teaching technique would not be fully efficient, either, as apart
from free oral exchanges, students will also encounter longer passages, like the news or an
academic lecture. Conclusively, listening input used in class must be varied, with short,
intermittent, dynamic exchanges on the one end of the scale, and longer, uninterrupted,
possibly flat passages on the other.

In practice, it can be noticed that the latter type of tasks is generally preferred by materials’
authors, and probably also teachers. This is because a bigger chunk of text recorded on tape is
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easier to administer as it needs not so much engagement and expertise on the side of the
teacher. However, apart form some testing purposes, it should generally be avoided. Such
exercises overload the listener and are often are a memory test rather than listening practice.
Additionally, they are often accompanied by multiple choice questions, which further add to
the burden, eventually facing the student with an abundance of input many native speakers are
not quite able to manage.

On the other hand, involving the learner in a conversation which provides ample spontaneous,
natural language to be listened to is not a perfect solution either. Apart from the fact that
materials, as explained before, need to be varied, the proficient interlocutor is usually the
teacher him/herself. However, accustoming oneself to the accent of just one person makes one
tend to consider other accents heard wrong or otherwise inferior (Ur 1984: 20). Thus, students
should be exposed to different English accents, of which there is such a great variety
especially nowadays.

This links to the issue of authenticity. As mentioned above, the tasks used in class should
resemble every-day situations as closely as possible. This would be next-to-best (after taking
part in a conversation) achieved by recording a conversation that actually took place and
playing it to the students afterwards, previously familiarising them with the context. Here,
however, other problems of noise arise. Native or advanced speakers tend to use an unlimited
range of vocabulary and speak very quickly, which renders the material suitable only for high-
level learners. Quality is often questionable as well, the understanding being hampered by
background noise and colloquial speech sound reductions or ellipses.

Conclusively, an optimal solution seems to be one that is either conveniently authentic or


authenticized and adapted to need, naturally motivating, clear and ‘natural’ in terms of
language used. Usually, student’s motivation can be aroused by providing them with content
suited to their interests. As for clarity and intelligibility, professionally prepared tapes usually
live up to expectations and good actors can easily imitate spontaneity and a sense of natural
flow of speech.

As mentioned in the beginning of this section, contextualization of any task bears great
importance. Students faced with a recording they have no expectations about are unable to use
their natural listening skills, which by definition involve some amount of prediction. Thus,
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there should always be a preparatory stage, including one or more of the following: ‘the
teacher giving background information, the students reading something relevant, the students
looking at pictures, discussion of the topic/situation, a question and an answer session.’
(Underwood 1989: 31)

In addition to the input the teacher is to provide, factors concerning the listener
him/herself must also be considered. Fatigue is perhaps the most important one, as it
negatively influences concentration ability and span and decreases motivation. The
latter can also be low is the task is too difficult, overlong or boring. The learner should
also have a good sense of security in dealing with unknown vocabulary. It is often the
case that a new word creates a mental block and by trying to retrieve its meaning from
meaning, students lose the gist of what they are listening to. The skill of coping with
unfamiliar lexical items is a more complex subject, and must be developed
consistently not only with regard to listening.
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Authentic materials
This part attempts to define authentic materials, and goes on to discuss their role and specific
features. It emphasises the importance of using authentic materials in a one to one classroom.

When attempting to discuss authentic materials, the definition of the term itself
becomes vital. Sources do differ as to a clear-cut description but overall authentic can
be defined as ‘not written or spoken for language learning purposes.’ (Tomlinson 1998:
viii) This can be extended into two main types of such material: ‘(i) the record of any
communicative act in speech or writing that was originally performed in the
fulfillment of some personal or social function, and not in order to provide illustrative
material for language teaching, and […] (ii) any communicative event that can easily
become such a record, for example, radio and television broadcasts and certain forms
of electronic communications.’ (Little 1997: 225)

It must also be mentioned that for some only ‘unedited, unabridged text that is written
for native speakers’ (Scarcella and Oxford 1992: 98) is authentic, whereas others hold
that also texts which are ‘shortened’ and ‘slightly adapted’ fall into this category.
Others still take a very liberal view and capaciously define them as being ‘written to
say something, to convey the message’ (Williams 1984: 25). Since such a variety
might be misleading when it comes to practical application of authentic materials in
the classroom, the language teacher might find ‘the degree to which language teaching
materials have the qualities of natural speech or writing’ (Richards, Platt and Platt
1992: 27) the most appropriate principle for deciding on how valuable this material
will be.

Authentic materials are introduced into classroom for a number of reasons. In the view
of some ELT practitioners, there can be observed a difference between the English
used in the classroom and the language spoken in real-life situations. (Little 1997: 226)
English used during classes does tend to be artificial and simplified, as it lacks the
natural ingredients of a discourse such as repetitiveness, redundancy or hesitation
(Komorowska 2001: 166), and should therefore be amply remedied by the use of
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authentic materials. Authentic materials seem to be the perfect means for bridging the
gap between classroom and real-life language. For one, in the classroom they provide
a sense of connection with daily situations in which they could be normally
encountered. Additionally, they do exhibit all the characteristics of natural discourse
which coursebooks tend to lack. Lastly, they are usually much more up-to-date and
thus more likely to engage the students.

Learner involvement is another important advantage of authentic materials (Edge and


Wharton 1998: 298). Especially in teaching situations where more flexibility is
available, the syllabus can be co-created by the student. This is highly advisable, as it
allows immediate response to the student’s interests and keeps them motivated by
providing materials that they are truly interested in discussing. It also raises student’s
awareness of the learning process and takes it outside of the classroom.

Despite their many advantages, authentic materials are rather time- and effort-
consuming on the part of the teacher as far as their preparation and/or adaptation are
concerned. This might be more difficult if they are to be used as an addition to a
grammar syllabus realized in the classroom, since real-life texts are not produced with
a single grammatical feature in mind. However, it is relatively simple to find fit well to
almost any theme-based syllabus.

Contrary to the belief held quite commonly among language teachers, authentic
materials can be used at any level (Little 1997: 227). It has to be admitted that most
broadcast or printed language materials are fairly advanced, but simple texts with a
specific purpose that can be administered to beginners can also be found. It is
especially true of texts that closely-knit with an area of knowledge the learner is well-
versed in. Complicated passages can be understood if the vocabulary and content that
they include are familiar to the recipient as their background knowledge. For example,
a technical text might be hardly understandable for a native speaker and almost fully
comprehensible to a pre-intermediate engineer if the former, as opposed to the latter,
has no background knowledge of the subject (Dudley-Evans 2001: 134). Conclusively,
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supplying the necessary context can facilitate understanding and the input and then be
used as a model for students to copy in their own production of the language; the high
hurtle the students jump combined with the familiarity of the subjects will also be
additionally motivating factors.

In the context of one to one teaching and its flexibility authentic materials are much
more valuable than commercial coursebooks. Using a coursebook makes the student
and the teacher follow a preset syllabus. In one to one teaching one of the main
principles is syllabus fluency and its continuous adaptability to student’s needs and
interests (Downman, J. and Shepheard, J. 2002: 45). Whereas it cannot be done with
coursebooks, authentic materials provide full malleability and let the lesson content be
mutually agreed between the student and teacher even from meeting to meeting.

Authentic materials have one additional feature of naturally isolating language skills or
naturally merging them. This is to say that they are allow to practise a combination of
skills that the learner will easily encounter outside of the classroom or, more often, one
of the language skills in isolation.

Overall, authentic materials, although time-consuming, are the necessary link to real-
life language that the students should be provided with. They have the added
advantage of an easy and broad choice of personalized topics but may prove difficult
in use at times.
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Practice
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Introduction to the lessons

The three lessons have been designed for three classes of 45 minutes each. They are
intended to be administered consecutively or at short intervals, as they are all based on
the same material and their content links closely from one lesson to anther.

All lesson plans start with a list of their particular aims and anticipated problems.

Listening material for the lessons was taken from a radio play ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide
to the Galaxy’, published by the BBC on 6 audio CDs. In the ‘Procedure’ table for
each lesson, appropriate information is given as to which fragment is to be played, e.g.
24 00:01-02:18 stands for track no 24 from beginning, to be stopped at 2 minutes 18
seconds running time; the CD no is given at the top of the table. Copies of the relevant
CDs are enclosed at the end.

Next, ‘Justification of the choice of activities’ has been placed to introduce the aim of
each stage and activity in more detail

Following the justification, the handout is included in its original, unchanged by the
student form. Copies of handouts with the student’s notes and answers are enclosed at
the end. The handouts include most of the instructions given orally by the teacher
during the lesson, so that the student can have a clear picture of the flow of the lesson
should they decide to come back to this material after a longer time.

‘Post-lesson reflections’ close each lesson plan, by giving an account of the results of
conducting the lessons, discussing the aims and anticipated problems and suggesting
any ways of improving the material that might have been noticed.

Each lesson opens with a warm-up activity, goes on to practice listening skills and
closes with a homework task. The main parts of the lessons deal with listening practice
mostly, but oral practice is also given throughout, as well as some vocabulary work
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and covert strategies discussion. Homework allows the student freedom of choice and
in two out three cases takes advantage of the topically related webpage that the student
must use. This is done to encourage the student to use the Internet more actively as a
teaching-learning medium for English.
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Lesson plan 1

Time
45 mins

Timetable fit
Listening is a vital skill in Barbara’s case. The recording includes some advanced vocabulary,
which will be taught and serve as practice in deducing meaning from context. Sentence stress
and intonation in the material are vivid which should contribute to raising student’s sensitivity
to them.

Aims
• To introduce the student to the leading material for the lessons.
• To boost the student’s confidence about their ability to understand a complicated
recording.
• To give the student practice in listening for detail and note-taking.
• To provide the student with the opportunity to develop oral fluency.
• To introduce to the student example material that is encouraging to listen in English
for pleasure.

Anticipated problems and suggested solutions


• Student might get initially discouraged by the level of difficulty of the recording: it is
to be repeated the required number of times.
• Student might be confused and/or curious as to the wider context of events: the teacher
is to fill in any directly relevant information.
• There may be not enough time towards the end of the lesson: the final task can be
transferred to the beginning of the next lesson.
28

Procedure
CD 1
No Stage Procedure
Time
1 Pre- 9’ 1. Teacher asks if student knows any of the books
listening and later explains that only the 1st is a real one.
2. Student reads a short introduction to the book
2 Listening 1 8’ 1. Student looks at the picture and says who she
3 0:57-2:48 thinks the people are.
2. Student listens to check her predictions.
3. Student listens to mark sentences true or false..
3 Listening 2 7’ 1. Teacher asks the student to predict what the end
6 1:21- of the world is going to look like.
7 1:55 2. Student listens to check her predictions and
make notes.
4 Listening 3 8’ 1. Student predicts definition and next listens to
12 00:01- check and complete.
01:38 2. Teacher elicits what the new danger that the
characters are facing is.
3. Teacher tells the student that the main characters
have been found and thrown out into space.
Student makes a prediction on if they have
survived.
5 Listening 4 5’ 1. Student listens to an announcement once to check
18 02:22- her prediction, and again to complete the text of the
02:53 announcement.
6 Listening 5 8’ 1. Student listens to the encounter of Zaphod and
24 00:01- Trillian with Arthur and Ford and completes
02:18 sentences.
7 Homework 1’ Homework is set: student is to view one of the
following websites, choose an entry and prepare to
refer it at the beginning of next lesson.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C72
http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C73
http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C74
29

Justification of the Choice of Activities

Stage 1

This stage focuses the student’s attention on books, as the leading material of the lesson is
based on a book. It allows them to share any information they might already have on ‘The
Hitchhiker’s Guide’ and/or extend and consolidate their knowledge by reading the
introductory note to the book. Hopefully, at this point the student interest will also be
awakened, especially doe to the fact that the book is a comedy and have won great popularity.

Stage 2

Ss are given oral practice in descriptive and speculative language. After forming their own
assumptions they are more eager to check them against the recorded content. Ss’ listen to
verify their ideas; recording is repeated the required number of times to allow successful
comprehension.

Stage 3

Ss are given oral practice in speculative language, often useful in brainstorming solutions to
problems, a highly skill useful in Barbara’s case. Ss listen to verify their own ideas and
answer questions; recording is repeated the required number of times to allow successful
comprehension.

Stage 4

Ss listen to a definition to practise note-taking. Note taking appears in telephone


conversations in Barbara’s work and also during lectures in English she attends. The task is
not difficult, it allows some relaxation in between the other stages. After the T has filled ss in
on how the plot develops, ss make their own predictions to raise interest and practise
speaking.
30

Stage 5

Ss listen to practise understanding a public announcement with a high level of background


noise. This kind of task is especially practical, as it resembles the major part of all listening
situations where background noise often interrupts quite strongly. This is coupled with the
added challenge of note-taking which requires listening for detail and the ability to fish out
the most important fragments from the whole recording.

Stage 6

Ss are encouraged to actively use the Internet as a source of materials for learning English in
order to raise their awareness of the internet as a source of English teaching/learning materials
and to encourage them to use it more actively on their own. Hopefully, the website will prove
interesting and ss will explore it more thus getting more language practice and raising their
knowledge of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’.
31

The Best Guide

1. Look at the titles of books below. Have you read any of them?
• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
• Celestial Home Care Omnibus
• 53 More Things to Do in Zero Gravity
• Where God Went Wrong; Some More of God’s Mistakes; Who is this God Person
Anyway?
• Encyclopaedia Galactica

Only one of the books is a real publication, all the others are made-up titles. Which one do
you think is the authentic one?

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a comedy book by Douglas Adams. It is a story of
Arthur Dent, a Londoner, and his pal Ford Prefect, an alien. Prefect has been living in London
for 15 years, posing as an out-of-work actor. His real job is editor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide
to the Galaxy and he travels the Universe collecting data for an updated version.

The other main characters are Trillian (human), Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin, the Paranoid
Android. After the Earth is destructed one day, Trillian and Arthur are the only humans who
survive and hitchhike round the universe, embarking on all sorts of different adventures.

The book came out in 1979 and was enormously popular among young people in the UK and
elsewhere in the English-speaking world. It was serialized on radio and later released on CDs
and tapes; it was also made into a TV series. There is an interactive website officially
associated with the book at http://www.h2g2.com.

3. Look at the picture and try to predict who the people are and under what circumstances the
photo was taken. Then listen to the beginning of the book and check.
32

4. Listen to the conversation again and decide if the sentences below are true or false.
Read them carefully first.
1. Arthur is reluctant to leave the place where Ford meets him. T/F
2. Ford has some important news to communicate to Arthur. T / F
3. They must talk in the pub because someone could overhear their conversation.
T/F
4. The demolition company worker believes he will be able to do his job quickly.
T/F
5. Arthur offers the builder a mutual favour in return. T / F
6. Ford is being sarcastic about the builder trustworthiness. T/F

5. Have you ever wondered what the end of the world is going to look like? What is your
idea of that moment?
Listen to moment of demolition of our planet to check your predictions and make notes to
answer the following questions.
When did Ford get to know about the planned arrival of the Vaughan Constructor Fleet?
What did the Vaughans arrive to do?
What is the reason behind their task?
How long will the process take?
Were the plans previously available to the general public?
33

6. You will hear two example entries for Earth from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
Galaxy. How do you think The Guide could define our planet?

Now listen to the first version of the definition, and next to Ford’s updated version and
put them down.

Original definition
Earth - ___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________

Definition updated by Ford


Earth - ___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________

What is the new danger Arthur and Ford are facing?

7. Listen to an announcement Arthur and Ford hear to their amazement, which informs
them that the danger has already passed. Complete the gaps.

Welcome to the starship ______________. Please do not be alarmed by anything you


_______or _______around you. You are bound to feel some initial ill effects as you’ve
been __________ from certain death at an improbability level of 2267709 : 1, possibly much
higher. We are now _________ at the level of 225000 : 1 and falling, and we will be
____________ normality ass soon as we are _________ what is normal anyway. Thank
you. 220000 : 1 and falling.
34

8. The starship turns out to have some interesting crew on board. Listen to the tape to
find out who the crew are and to complete the gaps in sentences below.

1. Artur knows Zaphod by the name of ____________________.


2. They met at a _______________.
3. Zaphod took away a ____________ Arthur liked at the party.
4. Trillian missed the Wednesday lunch date with Arthur because she was in a
______________ all morning.

9. Homework

Go to one of the following websites, where you will find entries from The Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy. Choose one entry of your liking and prepare to refer it at the
beginning of next lesson.

• http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C72
• http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C73
• http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/C74
35

Post-lesson reflections

The lesson seems definitely successful in achieving its first aim, that is the student was
introduced to the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. She was given sufficient
background information to familiarize her with the book, which showed in quite a few
additional questions that were asked. These did occur, but seemed to be caused more by
curiosity than confusion (except for one case, when the plot in between exercises 6 and 7
was being described). Barbara’s opinion of the listening extracts was, as intended, that
they were difficult. She seemed initially discouraged by the high level and felt too
insecure about her own grasp of the material to venture answering after the first listening.
Having listened twice, however, she was able to answer the exercise questions quite
precisely and correctly. Asked at the end of the lesson, she admitted that although the
tasks required effort and concentration, they were manageable.

Considering the level of tasks, some useful practice was given to the student as far as
note-taking and listening for detail were concerned. These were the main task types of the
lesson and the student’s performance while completing them and answers prove they
managed to fulfil their intended role. They were not easy, as Barbara was not able to
complete them quickly, but were not off-putting either, as with effort applied, she
managed to complete them in the standard number of two listenings. Also, none of the
pieces required additional repetition for the third time or more.

Oral practice occurred throughout the lesson and the student was willing to freely
contribute some own comments, not only the ones required directly by the tasks. At one
point she confessed she would like to listen to the whole of the recording, but was not
entirely sure if it would be comprehensible for her. However, upon the teacher’s
reassuring answer she accepted the offer of being lent the other CDs home.

Changes in confidence levels are difficult to assess generally, and especially with so little
topic-specific observation and after such short time. However, Barbara’s change of
attitude from the beginning of the lesson towards its end seems to suggest that she
36

overcame her initial worries as to being not well-prepared enough to understand such a
recording. In the later stages she took a more relaxed attitude and tried to tune in to the
speech first to understand the gist, which is a desirable listening strategy for difficult
recordings.

Timing was luckily planned, as all the lesson’s stages were realized within the predicted
time limit, although the beginning phase took a few minutes longer than expected, which
had to be made up for by quickening pace in the following stages.

Stage 1

Barbara turned out not to be familiar with either any of the books listed in exercise 1 or
with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself. Single words only required explanation.
Moreover, some of titles were not immediately obvious and some time had to be spent
deducing possible content. On the whole, the lead-in seemed successful in arousing
interest and introducing the student to the book.

Stages 2

Before beginning to talk about the picture, Barbara was reminded of the possible
language structures (modals for speculation, perhaps, maybe etc.) she could use when
speculating and she was later on trying consciously to use them. It was difficult for her to
come up with a connection between the three people in the picture, and her theory was
quite different from the actual situation.

After the first listening she was able to say that her prediction and the recording were
quite dissimilar, but did not want to risk recounting the actual story yet and preferred to
listen for the second time. After the second listening she was ready to give her answers to
exercise 2, 4 (out of 6) of which were correct. Incorrect choices were explained.
37

Stage 3

Barbara was much less reluctant than before to venture a theory about what the end of the
world is to look like, probably encouraged by her positive experience of answering a
similar question in the previous exercise. After the first listening she again preferred to
listen one more time before giving answers to the questions. She understood the extract
quite well (see Student’s materials) and was able to remember more details prompted by
questions from the teacher.

Stage 4

Although this stage was on the whole successful in achieving its aims, the transition
between stage 4 and 5 proved to be quite abrupt and crude. I had to explain that The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is organised like a computer encyclopaedia and that
entries can be typed in and listened to. Completing the two definitions was easy and
amusing and Barbara was also able to say what the new danger Arthur and Ford were
facing was. Asked to predict if they could escape the peril, Barbara was convinced they
would and slightly surprised when informed otherwise. However, she was almost exactly
right in predicting what happens next.

Stage 5

Completing the text of the announcement proved easy and required only one listening.
Some of its technical contents were not fully comprehendible, but the general point was
clear.

Stage 6
38

The last task was also fully manageable for Barbara. She was able to complete the gapped
sentences successfully and also answered some extra questions connected to the situation.
Her general comment was that the listening might be difficult more due to the
unpredictability of its content than to the language itself.

Stage 7

Homework was set and it was explained that at the beginning of the next meeting she is
supposed to present any chosen entry orally only and that writing is not necessary or
welcomed.
39

Lesson plan 2

Time
45 mins

Aims
• To give the student practice in high-level intensive and extensive listening.
• To familiarize the student with pun-based humour in English.
• To boost the student’s confidence about their ability to understand a complicated
recording.
• To practise dictionary work with difficult and ambiguous lexical items.
• To provide the student with the opportunity to develop oral fluency.

Anticipated problems and suggested solutions


• The introductory speaking task might either meet reluctant response or evoke a
serious discussion. Neither of these is desirable, as the character of the lesson is to
be relaxed and light-hearted, so the teacher should try to keep the conversation
light.
• Student might get confused as to the characters and/or events of the story. The
teacher is then to remind relevant information from the previous meeting or
supply any additional explanations necessary.
• Some of the extracts might be too difficult to understand in the first two
listenings. They are to be repeated the desired number of times and, since
student’s confidence is the priority, even poor answers can be accepted if
40

necessary. If time is tight due to extracts having to be replayed, the final task may
be transferred to the beginning of the next lesson.

Procedure
CD2

No Stage Procedure
Time
1 Pre- 4’ 1. The teacher asks s the questions from exercise 1.
listening 2. S tries to predict what connection there might be
between the pictures and the Ultimate Answer.
2’ 3. S reads a summary of the plot from last lesson
2’
2 Listening 1 8’ 1. S listens to the extract twice and answers the
10 0:00- 2’ questions in exercise 3.
3:57 2. S listens again to part of the extract and
5’ completes the dialogue.
3. S reads the note in exercise 3 and looks up ‘late’
in the dictionary.

3 Listening 2 5’ 1. S listens to extract 2 and decides if the


11 1:35- statements in exercise 5 are true or false.
4:44 5’ 2. S listens again and completes gaps with missing
words.
3. S chooses two most interesting words and gives
additional example sentences with them.
4 Listening 3 5’ 1. S reads background information on the plot.
15 00:00- Then s listens to extract 3 and puts down the
02:44 Ultimate Answer.
3’ 2. S reads the footnote for the Ultimate Answer,
deduces what implications it has for people
nowadays. S tries to predict what the Question
is.
41

5 Homework 1’ Teacher asks the s to check what the Ultimate


Question is
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/U199008
42

Justification of the Choice of Activities

Stage 1

This stage is designed as a warm-up and revision before the lesson develops. Both the
title and the first question the teacher asks are supposed to arouse interest. At the same
time, the atmosphere of the lesson is established: the teacher aims at keeping the
discussion light, humorous and amusing. The student prepares herself for the listening in
the final part of the lesson through brainstorming possibilities. Next, student reads a
summary of the plot to refresh events discussed in the previous meeting and be better
able to understand the extracts that she is about to hear.

Stage 2

Listening to extract 1 to understand gist and answering related general comprehension


questions serves as preparation to listening again to concentrate on a specific fragment of
the extract and focuses attention on the upcoming dictionary work. The stage aims to
encourage the student to look up words which are new or not clear in a given context in a
dictionary on her own. This task is also aimed at showing that the outer layer of a text
may have a second bottom where the joke lies, as English humour is largely based on
puns. Extract 1 introduces the plot of this lesson and serves as a basis for its future
development and climax.

Stage 3

Student listens to another extract, first to catch its gist and answer general comprehension
T/F questions, and next to listened out for specific words. Since most of the vocabulary is
likely to be new, the student has an opportunity to practise putting down words the
spelling of which she is not sure of. By being encouraged to find alternative spellings the
student learns to use the dictionary more effectively when dealing with unfamiliar
vocabulary taken from spoken input. This is also a vocabulary extension task.
43

Stage 4

To take a break from listening and vary the choice of activities, the student reads a
summary of the plot. At the same time foundation is laid for the extract about to be
played. Student listens to extract 3 to practice listening for specific detail. The footnote is
to serve as a round-up to the lesson and a way of concluding it. By asking questions the
teacher lets the student express her opinion and give covert feedback on the whole of the
lesson.

Stage 5

Homework is designed to further increase student’s independence in learning and finding


her own materials to study. It will consolidate subjects discussed in class and provide
student with more new vocabulary.
44

What is the sense of life, the universe and everything?

1. Have you ever wondered about the sense of life? The sense of the universe? The sense
of everything?

How do you think the three things in pictures above might be linked to the answer to the
Question?

2. Last time we left Arthur and Ford with Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin the Paranoid
Android onboard of the spaceship which had miraculously saved them from certain
death.
Currently they have are in orbit around Magrothea, a legendary planet the inhabitants of
which are the best manufacturers of custom-made planets in the galaxy. An automatic
defence system of the planet repeatedly asked the Arthur and his friends to leave, and
fired missiles at them when they failed to comply. Arthur and Marvin are still onboard the
spaceship, while Zaphod, Ford and Trillian have flown to the planet to inspect it at close
quarters.

3. Listen to Arthur and Marvin speaking. Answer the questions.

• What is Arthur amazed at?


• How does Marvin react to Arthur’s enthusiasm?
• How does Slartibartfast explain the attack that had been launched on Arthur’s
spaceship?
45

• How long have the Magrotheans slept? Why?


46

4. Listen again to the final part of the extract and complete the tapescript below.

Slartibartfast: You must come with me, great things are at foot. You must come or
you will be __________.
Arthur: ________? What for?
Slartibartfast: What is your name, human?
Arthur: Dent, Arthur Dent.
Slartibartfast: Late as in ‘the late dent Arthur Dent’.

Often jokes are based on ambiguous meaning of key words used in them. Use a
dictionary to look up the two meaning of late which make the conversation above
amusing.

5. Listen to another fragment of conversation between Arthur and Slartibartfst and decide
if the following statements are true or false.

Magrotheans are about to revive their planet to come back to business. T/F
Arthur notices the Earth in the factory. T/F
The earth was a Magrothean Product.T / F
The demolition of Earth was executed 5 minutes too early. T / F

6. Look at these sentences from the extract. Listen to the extract again and complete
them.

We’ve been awakened to perform just one extraordinary _____________.


The most ____________ experiment was destroyed.
There’s been a terrible _________ and so we’re going to make a copy from our
original _________.
Won an award, you know. Lovely, ____________ edges.
Shocking _____________, the mice were furious.
47

7. As Slartibartfast explains, the Earth was an experiment run by the mice. The history of
the whole enterprise goes some 20 billion years back when a supercomputer, called Deep
Thought, was designed. Its main task was to find the Ultimate Answer, the answer to life,
the universe and everything. 7500 generations of people had to wait for 7.5 billion years
before the day arrived for Deep Thought to officially announce the Answer. Fortunately, a
recording of that momentous ceremony survives. Listen to the recording and find out
what the Ultimate Answer is.

The Ultimate Answer,


the answer to life, ______________________*
the universe and everything is:

* It is now quite obvious, that the Ultimate Question, the question of life the universe and
everything was also necessary. To find it Deep Thought, himself unable to deduce it,
designed another, even more powerful supercomputer – the Earth.

MORAL OF THE LESSON:

Be good to mice 
48

Post-lesson reflections

Similarly to the previous lesson, the student was given the intended practice in extensive
and intensive listening. Since the material used was the same, the student could expect
the level of difficulty and she did not seem put off by it for the second time. As far as
giving dictionary practice during the lesson is concerned, it seems that the stage might
have been more developed. Although the exercise provided was completed successfully,
more time could have been spent to give the student different examples of this type of
lexical ambiguity.

Student’s interaction in the lesson was highly satisfactory, especially in the area of oral
utterances. Barbara reacted lively to questions asked and had a chance to speak for a
significant amount of time during the class. She did not signal confusion about the realia
of the book; although it might also be explained by her not regarding this information as
vital for completing the tasks, no special explanations were required. She also tuned into
the mood of the lesson well, by appreciating its humorous aspect and not taking the
problems touched in it too seriously.

The extra time reserved for unplanned repetitions when designing the lesson’s time frame
proved useful. Some of the fragments played in the lesson were too difficult for Barbara
to understand in their first or second playing and needed to be replayed more times.
However, since this concerned rather short, several-second long pieces, the lesson
concluded within the preset time limit and none of the tasks had to be transferred to the
next meeting.

Dictionary work done during the lesson was a means to introduce the student to the
numerous other meanings of popular words and also to present to her the type of English
humour based on pun. Barbara commented, that such jokes might be problematic with
speakers of different languages, as they are impossible to be translated and retold in
another language.
49

The last comment made by the student was just one example of her free contributions
during the lesson, which she made uninhibitedly and over the time of the whole lesson.
Asked towards the end of the lesson about her attitude to the level of difficulty of the
recording we were dealing with, she answered it was not easy indeed, but not impossible
to understand either, especially that she had had a chance to get accustomed to it already.

Stage 1

The warm-up was successful in introducing the topic and evoking a discussion. Although
at the beginning the questions in exercise 1 seemed rather serious and difficult to answer,
when I asked about how the pictures could be incorporated into the answer, Barbara came
up with a joking theory and was glad to be able to present it.
When asked, Barbara claimed to remember quite well last lesson’s events. The summary
of plot from exercise 2 was read.

Stage 2

At this stage, the listening had to be repeated twice before Barbara felt fully confident to
answer the questions. She was then quite precise in her answers and correctly predicted
what the word to complete the dialogue in ex. 4 would be. However, this fragment of the
recording was still played again to check. Dictionary work proceeded uninterrupted and
the appropriate meaning of ‘late’ was found.

Stage 3

Out of the total of four, three of the true-false sentences were appropriately marked by
Barbara after the first listening. However, the vocabulary in exercise 6 did pose some
difficulty and the recording had to be played several times for Barbara to be able to
conveniently put everything down. Next few minutes were spent brainstorming different
possible spellings of these words and when the correct spelling was found and the words
50

explained, Barbara suggested two more example sentences with ‘cock-up’ and
commission’.

Stage 4 and 5

Introduction and instructions to exercise 7 turned out to be interesting and Barbara was
eager to listen to the recording. Several possibilities of the Ultimate Question were then
suggested. After it had been explained that homework would finally reveal the Ultimate
Question as well, the lesson concluded.
51

Lesson plan 3

Time
45 mins

Aims
• To boost the student’s confidence about their ability to understand a complicated
recording.
• To familiarize the student with situational humour in English.
• To provide the student with the opportunity to develop oral fluency.
• To discuss modern language learning tools.

Anticipated problems and suggested solutions


• Jokes might not be amusing. Not much can be done as humour is a highly
personal matter, but trying to laugh at how poor the joke itself was usually defuses
the situation.
• Student’s answers in exercise 3 may not be exact, but since building up
confidence is a priority, any correct ideas are to be encouraged.
• Student may not be aware of many examples of non-traditional learning tools:
teacher may suggest ideas and provide student with a short explanation.
• Student might get initially discouraged by the level of difficulty of the recording:
it is to be repeated the required number of times.
52

Procedure
2CD1, 2CD2
No Stage Procedure
Time
1 Pre- 5’ 1. S looks at the picture and reads about Bill Gate’s
listening house.
2. T engages s in a discussion about every-day
technology and practical trends in its
development. T keeps the discussion light-
hearted.
2 Listening 1 5’ 3. S listens to the recording for the first time to
2CD2 understand gist and answer questions.
5 02:05 – 6 5’ 4. Student listens for the second time to complete
02:06 the tapescript.

3 Listening 2 5’ 3. S reads the introduction and listens for the first


09 00:44- time to answer the two questions..
3:28 5’ 4. S listens for the second time to complete the
2CD1 gapped sentences..
4 Listening 3 4’ 5. S reads the introduction and says what tools she
2 CD2 knows and would like to be able to use. T may
02:05 – 06 facilitate discussion by suggesting options.
02:07 3’ 6. S listens for the first time to understand gist.
3’ 7. S listens for the second time to mark statements
true or false.
3’ 8. S discusses with the T what else could be helpful
in language learning. T tries to focus the
discussion on feasible solutions or already
existing tools.
5 Homework 2’ T sets homework – either 5 a) or 5 b) – student’s
choice.
53

Justification of the Choice of Activities

Stage 1

The visual prompt is designed to imply the subject of the lesson immediately. Bill Gate’s
futuristic house has been chosen as it is the best known and most technologically far-
fetched example of utilitarian technology today. Student’s mind will be focused on the
subject and hopefully open to new and improbable ideas. This will help in the listening
stage as context there is usually quite unusual. This stage is to give student oral practice,
recycle any names of home equipment that come up in the conversation and awake
interest.

Stage 2

The first stage is kept light-hearted and gives student practice in understanding contextual
jokes. Two stages of the exercise are provided, the first one focusing on general
understanding and the second one giving practice in understanding detail.

Stage 3

This stage is another exercise designed to develop student’s listening skills. Its first part
allows the student to catch the gist of the situation which will further be useful in
listening out for details in the sentence-completion task. The whole stage is designed as a
natural follow-up from stage 2 and also as its extension.

Stage 4

This stage is designed as a general round-up for all of the three lessons. (The extract
contains a reference to the list of books which opened Lesson 1.) It directly focuses on
student’s language learning in the context of new technology. It gives the teacher and
54

student a possibility to discuss what other, non-traditional tools could be used and what
their advantages and disadvantages are. The student practises listening skills by listening
for gist and next for more detail. Oral practice is provided and technical vocabulary is
recycled.

Stage 5

Homework is planned as an optional task, providing the student with an opportunity to


take responsibility for her own learning and choose which task would be more enjoyable
and useful for her. Point a) will extend background cultural knowledge and help practice
extensive reading. Possibly it will abate student’s inhibitions as to reading English books
– this is often thought to be too difficult by students. Point b) will give the student an
opportunity to analyse her own learning process and hopefully indirectly realise what
areas she should pay more attention to and how this could be successfully achieved. It
will also provide practice of writing an argumentative essay.
55

A talking coffee machine?

1. Above you can see the model of Bill Gate’s (Microsoft owner) new house. It
features miles of communication cable, largely fibre optic, run throughout the
house, linking computer servers powered by the Windows NT operating system.
In each room, touch-sensitive pads control lighting, music, and climate. Visitors
will wear small electronic pins, which will let the computers know who and where
they are. Lights and other settings will adjust automatically. Floors throughout the
house (and the driveway) are heated. It is said to be the most modern and
futuristic house on the entire planet now.

How do you think the machines around you will develop in time? Are there any particular
features that you would like to be added to any of them?

2. Listen to Arthur’s encounter with three technological advance pieces of equipment and
answer the following questions.

• What has the Neutrimatic Drink Dispenser just given Arthur?


• What is special about this coffee machine?
• Why is this system quite pointless?
56

Now listen again and complete the following tapescript to complete the jokes.

Coffee machine: If you have enjoyed the experience of this drink, why not share
it with your friends?
Arthur: Because ______________________.
***
Coffee machine: That drink was individually tailored to meet your personal
requirements for nutrition and pleasure.
Arthur: So I’m ______________________, am I?
***
Arthur: Who said that?
The Ventilation System: The Ventilation system. You had a go at me yesterday.
Yes. Because you keep filling the air __________________.

3. Whatever the advantages of intelligent kitchen equipment or self-navigated cars may


be, there is a downside to the problem as well. Marvin the Paranoid Android is generally
known to be suffering from a huge depression and he is but one example of how
machines with personality problems may turn out annoying or even more tiresome that
they are helpful. Listen to the following extract once to answer the following questions
and see how the issue is reflected in real life.

• What does Marvin want from the receptionist? How does the man react?
• How does Zaphod react to the elevator? What point is the machine trying to
make?
57

Now listen again more carefully and complete the following sentences with missing
information.

Marvin is convinced no one _____________________.


Marvin believes it is not worth being helpful to a robot because
_______________________.
Marvin is _________________________ Zaphod.
The elevator has been designed to _______________________.
It recommends ____________________.
The elevator seems inclined to go ______________.
Zaphod supposes that the elevator is afraid of__________________. It is
actually scared of __________________.

4. How do you think modern technology could help learn languages? Do you know of
any devices that facilitate the learning process? What are their advantages or
disadvantages?
Listen to an extract from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy explaining the term
Babel Fish. What is the Babel Fish? Do you think it would be a good solution to your
language problems?

Now listen to the extract again and say if the following statements are true or false.

The Babel Fish has nothing unusual about it.. T / F


It uses air as food. T / F
It is a universal translatory device from any language to any language. T/F
Some people argued that the existence of the Babel Fish denied the existence of
God. T / F
This theory is still widely supported today. T/F
Ulan Kalufid made a fortune popularising this theory. T / F

If you could commission the creation of one more piece of equipment to help you with
languages, what would it be and how would it work?
58

5. Homework
a) Find out more about Douglas Adams’ biography and his books. Try to obtain a copy of
one from the British Council or other library and read it.
b) Find and write about a modern learning tool or technique describing it and discussing
its advantages and disadvantages.
59

Post-lesson reflections

During the third lesson Barbara seemed to be quite fond of the fact that work with the
story of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ continued and did not give the impression
of being insecure about the level of difficulty of the material. Although it is a change
difficult to measure and only hopeful attempts can be made at increasing the student’s
confidence in their use of the language, within the scope of these three lessons Barbara
did seem to gain some confidence in dealing with material that was difficult and
diminishing at the beginning but towards the end turned into a challenge worth facing.

In this and the previous lesson the two main types of jokes in English were presented and
at the same time used as a mean for vocabulary building. Supposedly due to the fact that
situational jokes are more pancultural and not as complicated linguistically, the humour
in exercise 2 proved amusing. Barbara brought up, as an example for situational humour,
the Benny Hill TV shows.

Upon reflection, the most involving and also the most pedagogically successful part of
the lesson was the discussion of the modern language tools. The exchange seemed to be
interesting for Barbara and a few useful devices were discussed and criticised. Barbara
admitted to using some of them (translating software, a palmtop dictionary), with
different success. She shared her positive experiences of computer dictionaries with a
pronunciation feature and a disappointing contact with a text-translating programme. At
this stage of the lesson most oral fluency was also given.

Stage 1

In the opening discussion, Bill Gate’s house proved to be a good point of departure as
Barbara had some previous knowledge of it. She was quite keen to discuss the subject
and came up with a few ideas of her own as well. There were vocabulary problems with
describing or naming some pieces of equipment or technical solutions, but these were
overcome with my help.
60

Stage 2

Gist was quite easy to grasp already after the first listening and Barbara provided full and
correct answers to the general-comprehension questions. When completing the gaps in
dialogues she asked for some particular fragments to be repeated and later admitted to not
having understood some of the jokes during the first listening.

Stage 3

Introduction to this stage was clear and Barbara attempted to answer the gist-questions
after first listening. There was some confusion as to question 1, but she was asked to
listen again concentrating on completing the sentences as well. After the next listening
she was able to provide right answers to most of the gapped sentences and also clarified
her own response to question 1.

Stage 4

Barbara came up with a few example tools, like an electronic translator or a dictaphone.
One listening was enough to understand what the general purpose of the Babel Fish was,
although technical details of its operation were still unclear. In the second listening 5 (out
of 6) sentences were marked correctly. A discussion followed what else could be designed
to help learn languages, but the ideas, however enjoyable, tended to be rather fantastic
and not entirely feasible.

Stage 5

Barbara opted for homework 5 a), provided she could get hold of a book by Douglas.
Otherwise she declared doing exercise 5 b).
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Summary
62

Conclusions

Upon general reflection, the main aim of the project seems to be well realized. Within the
three lessons the student was given ample listening practice, and the focus on listening
was clear throughout. At the same time, the lessons formed a kind of continuum, linked
with one another through one topic. Compared to an alternative solution, where all the
listening tasks would be taken from different sources and had different subjects, this
option might be more student-friendly. There is no need to change focus before listening
to each new extract and one introductory stage holds for three lessons. The tasks managed
not to become tedious either, thanks to the nature of the material itself. Although it is
several hours of recording in the full version, the play is lively and unpredictable, with
rich sound effects, which makes it a pleasure to listen to. In the same way, the lessons
developed as the story progressed. On the other hand, the limit of three or four lessons
devoted to one interesting material seems the optimal number.

Oral practice given to the student in the course of the project was successful, although it
did not rely entirely on the tasks prepared but largely stemmed out of the student’s natural
talkativeness. Since the lessons were prepared with this particular learner in mind, the
practical application of the lessons did not pose a problem, but it must be admitted that
with a more taciturn individual relying so greatly upon the teacher’s encouragement to
talk could not give such good results. Therefore, the lessons might be enriched with some
prompts for discussion which the teacher could refer to if in need.

Another aspect of most speaking that took place was that it was free practice. The student
was not given any strict limits within which to operate, but was asked open-ended
questions and given the opportunity to express herself freely. Such an attitude helps the
student feel more confident about reacting to the recording the have just heard and
respond to it uninhibitedly. It is important because many learners are afraid to voice their
reaction after listening as they fear they might have got the wrong understanding and by
responding inappropriately reveal their linguistic weaknesses.
63

Responses practised in the lessons were valuable also in that they were every-day and
natural. As mentioned when discussing authentic materials, their naturalness is one of
their main and most precious features. The recordings used in the project reflected every-
day situation that the student may have to use English in. The authentic, not rehearsed or
simplified input made it sure that if the learner finds herself in similar circumstances, she
will be much more likely to cope successfully, even if she fails to understand everything
that is said.

Judging by the enthusiastic feedback received, the material chosen for the project was
interesting and amusing. The student needed to put much effort into performing the tasks,
especially initially, but later on admitted to having enjoyed the extracts largely for
themselves. Since humour was the underpinning feature throughout, its two main
varieties were looked upon as well. This might help to deal with a relaxed conversation
with jokes interwoven in it.

Emphasis was put on free oral practice, as this generally is the kind of language
production that the student has to manage. Conversations she involves in tend to be of
open and contributory character and reacting to other’s ideas and being able to voice
one’s own are key skills here.

As far as the teacher is concerned, the project was a milestone experience in terms of
working with authentic materials. Firstly, it has shown to me that there is great potential
in many pieces of music, literature or others that we meet daily but usually only use for
our own personal enjoyment. Trying to adapt them to classroom use can enjoyable, both
for the teacher and for the student, and give the teacher valuable practice in designing
tasks for the student. Such work, although time-consuming, is a great way of better
tuning into the student’s needs and requirements, analysing their learning strategies,
personality features and ways for making the course more efficient and enjoyable.

Task preparation requires a good methodological background of potential techniques,


material adaptation strategies and creativity in merging them. The teacher needs to use
64

the source he or she has got in order to develop a chosen feature of the language in the
student. The material he or she has got is usually produced with a completely different
objective in mind, so the whole task of making it pedagogically useful lies with the
teacher. This can only be done successfully if clear aims for the lesson in preparation are
defined and if the teacher has enough professional knowledge and skills to adapt the
material accordingly. Such effort requires constant professional development and
prevents teaching skills becoming fossilized, therefore allowing development not only of
the student but of the teacher as well.

The project has also contributed greatly to systematizing and enriching the
teacher’s knowledge of one to one teaching. Great majority of the theory revised
in the course of preparation of this work remains in harmony with main ELT
principles applicable for teaching groups, but one to one often requires
modifications to them and these are important to be realized. Furthermore, some
practical ideas were picked up and the background reading on this subject proved
probably to be the most rewarding.
65

Reference
66

Bibliography

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D. (eds) Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge
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• Edge, J. and Wharton, S. 1998. Autonomy and development: living in the
materials world. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Materials Development for Language
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• www.onestopenglish.com/News/Magazine/Archeive/onetoone.htm 2004
68

Student’s materials

In this section handouts used by the student in the lessons are included .
69

CD with the recordings

In this section copies of the four CDs with recordings that have been used are included.