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The Challenge of Teaching Listening and Conversation in English Class to Created Students Life Skills by Rina Puji Utami*)

Abstract Students need to apply the same approach to listening and conversation skills. The aim of English Life Skills is to enhance the participation of students with special education needs in all aspects of post-school life and promote their independence through the development of effective communication and literacy skills. Skills to be addressed through a plan include: listening to others in large and small groups, knowing how to take turns, contributing appropriately, sharing, being polite and respectful during all group and classroom activities. Skills in the yard include, sharing equipment and sports items (balls, skipping ropes, etc.), understanding the importance of teaming, avoiding arguing, accept team and sports rules, participating responsibly. Introduction Teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks for any English teacher. This is because successful listening skills are acquired over time and with lots of practice. It's frustrating for students because there are no rules as in grammar teaching. Speaking and writing also have very specific exercises that can lead to improved skills. This is not to say that there are not ways of improving listening skills, however they are difficult to quantify. A good English conversation class involves more than sitting around chatting. To teach English conversation well, we will need to carefully plan and direct the class, yet make sure the conversation stays spontaneous and uninhibited. Learn how to teach English conversation so your students get free speaking practice and learn vocabulary and grammar, too. One of the largest inhibitors for students is often mental block. While listening, a student suddenly decides that he or she doesn't understand what is being said. At this point, many students just tune out or get caught up in an internal dialogue trying translate a specific word. Some students convince themselves that they are not able to understand spoken English well and create problems for themselves. They key to helping students improve their listening skills is to convince them that not understanding is OK. This is more of an attitude adjustment than
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The author is teacher at Budi Luhur Junior High School, Nganjuk and Lecturer at STIKIP Nganjuk, East Java

anything else, and it is easier for some students to accept than others. Another important point that the teachers try to teach their students (with differing amounts of success) is that they need to listen to English as often as possible, but for short periods of time. History of the English Language The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and Northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders, mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called Englisc, from which the words England and English are derived (www.englishclub.com). From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published. English Teaching For the most effective instruction toward English proficiency, English teachers need to focus on the core areas of English language instruction, including reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar. Reading skills are necessary for English class students to interpret assignments, research projects, and perform well in non-English classes. Reading also practices vocabulary, exposes students to sentence structure, and can introduce concepts in nearly any content area. Strategies for teaching reading include: 1. Reading instructions aloud. This gives the teacher an opportunity to assist with pronunciation as well. 2. Book reports. Choosing books slightly below students grade level will help them master English skills while still keeping reading in the curriculum. 3. Free reading time. Allowing students to read English language books, magazines, and newspapers of their choice can help them practice reading skills with less pressure. 4. Deciphering vocabulary context clues. This can help students learn vocabulary while they read and will reinforce their reading skills. 5. Reading comprehension questions. Discussions of plot, characterization, and other aspects of books and short stories can help students refine their reading and speaking skills.

6. Dictionary use. Allowing students to use translation dictionaries to complete reading assignments will strengthen their English skills while teaching them how to use valuable reference resources (Ann Logsdon, 2009: 2). Writing a new language is far different than learning to speak it. English class students must be able to write effectively in English to perform well in both classes and future employment. Teachers who know how to teach an English class may use strategies and assignments such as: Autobiographies and country reports. Students writing about themselves and their native country can practice writing skills while introducing themselves to their peers. Journaling. Daily journal assignments can inspire writing practice on a variety of timely topics. Complete sentences. Requiring students to respond with complete sentences on any assignment will continually reinforce English writing skills. Wordless books. Teachers can use wordless childrens picture books to allow students to make up an appropriate story. Stories could then be read to younger siblings or classes for more practice. Essay questions. Incorporating essay questions into frequent assignments and tests keeps students writing skills in the forefront (Ann Logsdon, 2009: 3). Learning the vocabulary of a new language is essential for meaningful progress and mastery. Vocabulary strategies include: 1. Using cross-curricular terms. ESL teachers can ask students other teachers for appropriate words to incorporate into a vocabulary list. This has the added bonus of helping students study for other classes while they learn English. 2. Word of the day. Choosing a word of the day and discussing its definition is the perfect way to introduce unique vocabulary words to ESL students. 3. Flashcards. Quick practice can help students learn words efficiently. 4. Crossword puzzles. Another fun way to learn vocabulary, crossword puzzles can be an enjoyable assignment (Ann Logsdon, 2009: 3). For many English class students, learning grammar can be the most difficult part of adjusting to English. Teachers should pay particular attention to verb tenses, sentence structure and syntax, appropriate pronoun usage, and how to create plural words because these are often the most difficult areas of grammar for English class students. Teaching Listening In the teaching learning at English class, we like to use this analogy: Imagine you want to get in shape. You decide to begin jogging. The very first day you go out and jog seven miles. If you are lucky, you might even be able to jog the seven miles. However, chances are good that you will not soon go out jogging again. Fitness trainers have taught us that we must begin with little steps. Begin jogging short distances and walk some as well, over time you can build up the distance. Using this approach, you'll be much more likely to continue jogging and get fit (Kenneth Beare, 2009: 1)

Students need to apply the same approach to listening skills. Encourage them to get a film, or listen to an English radio station, but not to watch an entire film or listen for two hours. Students should often listen, but they should listen for short periods, five to ten minutes. This should happen four or five times a week. Even if they don't understand anything, five to ten minutes is a minor investment. However, for this strategy to work, students must not expect improved understanding too quickly. The brain is capable of amazing things if given time, students must have the patience to wait for results. If a student continues this exercise over two to three months their listening comprehension skills will greatly improve. How to Teach an English Conversation Class To teach English conversation well, it can do in several steps: 1. Step 1 Choose a topic and conversation format. You might just suggest a discussion topic or you could use a newspaper article, comics, an object or photos to set a theme for the conversation. Consider whether the topic is suited to an openended discussion or whether you could use a problem-solving or decisionmaking activity, information-gap exercise or role plays instead. 2. Step 2 Define your goals. Before you start to teach an English conversation class, decide what you want the students to learn from the conversation. You might want to teach phrases for expressing opinions or for disagreeing politely. You could also choose a grammar point or vocabulary set you'd like them to work on. 3. Step 3 Give the students a reason to listen to each other. No matter how much your students want to be in your English conversation class, it's human nature to tune out when it's not your turn to talk. To make sure your students pay attention to one another, give them a goal they can accomplish only by listening to the other students. For example, if your students are expressing their opinions on a certain topic, ask the them to decide which other student they most agree with. 4. Step 4 Build your students' knowledge. Instead of just correcting errors, add to what students say by suggesting new words and expressions. If someone uses a word in a way that's not quite right, you could ask the group, "What's another word that means...?" Keep your goals for the lesson in mind as you do this. 5. Step 5 Take notes. In the middle of a good discussion, students can get so involved in communicating that they hardly notice your attempts to add new vocabulary or fine-tune pronunciation. Make a note of anything you add so you can review at the end of the conversation class and in later classes, too. Also note errors you overhear so you don't need to interrupt the conversation to make corrections.

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Step 6 Provide a sense of completion and accomplishment. When you have 10 or 15 minutes left, wrap up the discussion and finish the English conversation class with focused language work. Write incorrect sentences you overheard on the board and ask students to correct them as a group. Go over the more useful vocabulary again. Doing this lets students see what they accomplished during the conversation (Miriam K, 2009).

Englishs Life Skills The World Health Organization promotes life skills school-based programs as a means to develop skills among young people that lead to healthy lifestyle choices and optimum physical, social, and psychological wellbeing. Depending on the culture, different specific abilities are emphasized. WHO considers the following life skills to be the most essential (WHO, 1993): 1. The ability to make decisions; helps students assess their options and carefully consider the different consequences that can result from their choices. 2. The ability to solve problems; helps students find constructive solutions to their problems. This skill can significantly reduce anxiety. 3. The capacity to think creatively; is essential to decision making and problem solving. It enables students to explore all possible alternatives together with their consequences. It helps students look beyond their personal experience. 4. The capacity to think critically helps students objectively analyze available information along with their own experiences. It is this ability that helps students recognize the factors that influence their behavior, such as societal values, peer influence, and influence of the mass media. 5. The ability to communicate effectively; helps students to express their feelings, needs, and ideas to others, verbally or otherwise. 6. The ability to establish and maintain interpersonal relations; helps students to interact positively with people whom they encounter daily, especially family members. 7. Knowledge of self; is the capacity of students to know who they are, what they want and do not want, and what does and does not please them. It also helps students recognize stressful situations. 8. The capacity to feel empathy; is the ability to imagine what life is like for another person in a very different situation. It helps students to understand and accept diversity, and it improves interpersonal relations between diverse individuals. 9. The ability to handle emotions; enables students to recognize their emotions and how they influence their behavior. It is especially important to learn how to handle difficult emotions such as violence and anger, which can negatively influence health. 10. The ability to handle tension and stress; is a simple recognition by students of the things in life causing them stress. The aim of English Life Skills is to enhance the participation of students with special education needs in all aspects of post-school life and promote their

independence through the development of effective communication and literacy skills. In English life skills students will: develop knowledge about and skills in effective communication; develop knowledge about, appreciation of and skills in spoken language; develop understanding and skills in listening to others; develop skills in reading, comprehending, interpreting and responding to a variety of texts; develop knowledge about and skills in producing texts using a variety of media and technology; develop knowledge about and skills in viewing and interpreting a range of materials (New South Wales Public School, 2009: 3). The focus for personal responsibility or accountability is ensure a plan is in place for students to: complete learning tasks on time, to hand in assigned work and to use the home/school agenda or tracking system in place. In the classroom, a plan is needed to ensure the student: follows directions, raises his/her hand before speaking, remains on task without wandering, work independently and cooperate by following the rules. Skills to be addressed through a plan include: listening to others in large and small groups, knowing how to take turns, contributing appropriately, sharing, being polite and respectful during all group and classroom activities. Skills in the yard include, sharing equipment and sports items (balls, skipping ropes, etc.), understanding the importance of teaming, avoiding arguing, accept team and sports rules, participating responsibly. Summary Life skills includes the skills the student needs to be successful in society. Students with life skills programs are often those with severe learning disabilities, autistic tendencies, developmental disorders, etc. For the most part, you can't take day to day responsibility for granted with these students. They need strategies in place to help them learn the essential life skills. They need to learn to be responsible for care of property, understanding the basic social rules, how to behave under different circumstances. The details I've listed will help you set up tracking systems or work with the student to enhance those necessary skills. Once the student has some understanding, you'll want self-tracking or monitoring to occur. You may want to devise a tracking sheet for specific areas to keep the student focused and on target. There is more to teaching an English class than giving appropriate assignments and assessing students abilities. Effective teachers will: 1. Create a supportive environment with a classroom that honors students cultures. 2. Be a role model for effective reading and writing.

3. Minimize translation assistance to encourage students to learn English more effectively. 4. Make classroom activities relevant to students lives and other classes. 5. Use abundant visual aids to reinforce written and spoken words. 6. Adjust the pacing of their instruction to meet students needs and proficiency. 7. Encourage peer tutoring to allow students to interact and share tips with one another. 8. If a particular student seems unwilling to join in the conversation, find out why. They may be confused about what they're supposed to say, lack vocabulary or just not have an opinion on the topic. Once you understand why they're not talking, you'll be better able to draw them into the discussion. 9. Many otherwise confident people are intimidated by having to speak a foreign language. To help students become less inhibited, take care not to call a lot of attention to one any individual's errors and try to keep a casual atmosphere. English teachers generally need specialized licenses or certificate endorsements to teach English language learners, but knowing how to teach an English class involves more than just a special license. Understanding appropriate strategies and how to apply them to students will help teachers be more effective so their students can become confidently bilingual.

References: Ann Logsdon. 2009. How to Teach an ESL Class. www.discoverbetterhearing.com., accesed in November 2009. Kenneth Beare. 2009. The Challenge of Teaching Listening Skills. www.about.com., accesed in November 2009. Miriam K. 2009. How to Teach An English Conversation Class . Article. www.ehow.com., accessed in November 2009. New South Wales Public School. 2009. Learning and Teaching. New South Wales: NSW Public School Editorial. WHO. 1993. Life skills. New York: World Health Organization Study Department. www.englishclub.com. A Short History of The Origins and Development of English, accesed in November 2009.