Of all the strategies for English Language Learners, using audio can be one of the most difficult to get started with. I avoided it for years, because I just didn't know how to get started! Once I got started, I realized using audio was great for both engaging and assessing my English Language Learners, and even better, it wasn't as hard as I thought to implement! Plus, there are so many easy, independent, ESL listening comprehension activities that are easy to implement for distance or hybrid learning!
Using Audio to Differentiate
Students who are learning English can often struggle with reading independently, which makes audio a great accommodation for English Language Learners. Inserting an audio file of a text and/or questions being read aloud gives students the opportunity to work independently on tasks that would generally require small group or individual attention. This is especially helpful as we look toward continuing distance or hybrid learning, because students will be able to complete reading comprehension assignments independently at home. I also love using audio assistance to help students work independently during centers! You can even record assignments and texts that you'll ask students to read independently in class to assist your language learners while freeing-up your time to help other students!
Teaching students to use audio assistance only takes a few minutes. Show them how to play and pause the audio, and how to follow along and actually read while they listen. It only took 5 minutes to teach my students how to use audio assistance, and it increased their independence, and confidence, immediately!
Using Audio for Listening Comprehension
While hearing fluent readers is a great accommodation for ESL students, listening comprehension is a skill that English Language Learners of all levels need to develop! While students may develop strong conversation skills early, processing information when listening is an important skill that is much more difficult. Directly practicing listening comprehension can help English Language Learners with everything from listening to podcasts to keeping up with a classroom lecture!
For effective listening comprehension practice, students should listen to a passage, text, or conversation without being able to read along with the speaker. They should then answer comprehension questions about what they heard. Reading the questions aloud ensures that students are just focusing on listening skills. For added difficulty, or to prepare for standardized language testing, have students listen to the question without having it written in front of them!
Teaching students listening comprehension skills doesn't have to be tricky. Guide students through taking easy notes on what they're listening to (i.e. what happens first, then, last) and then practice, practice, practice! Explicitly practicing listening comprehension multiple times a week will make a big impact! With recorded audio, listening comprehension practice is easy to implement as a center or independent work in class, or as a home-based option for differentiated distance learning!
Technology to Get Started
So now that you know how to use audio in the ESL Classroom, you're probably wondering how to actually make it happen. Luckily, there are some great (Free!) tech tools that make things easy! Your computer's built-in voice recording app, like Voice Memos on Mac, is a simple place to get started. Screencastify is a great option if you want to record your screen alongside the audio. Then, just click record and start talking or reading! There's no need for fancy microphones or editing equipment. All you need is a quiet room and as much time as it takes you to read!
The easiest way to share with students is through Google Apps. they're free, easy to use, and simple to share on any platform. You'll want to save your audio recording as an mp3 file (you can just change the end of the file name!) and upload it to Google Drive and change the share settings to "Anyone with the link can view." Then, you're ready to share with your students!
The easiest way to share your file is through Google Slides.
Audio can also be shared via Google Forms to create a self-grading listening comprehension assessment.
It's that easy! Share your new Google Slide or Google Form with students through Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Email, or your platform of choice! Students will be more independent (even from home!), and develop stronger listening skills, with less teacher involvement. It's a win, win, win!
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