EFL / ESL Teaching Tip: Activities to Develop Bottom Up Processing

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This week’s video focuses on a few activities that you can use to develop your students’ bottom up processing skills while listening. Here is a breakdown of the four activity ideas presented:

1. The first activity focuses on connected speech. Students often hear a stream of words and it’s difficult for them to know where one word ends and another word begins. The activity is fairly basic–you read or say a sentence at normal speed and the students have to count how many words they hear. It is simple, but it can be quite challenging to differentiate between words spoken at normal speed so by repeating this activity your students can develop this skill.

2. The next activity focuses on syntactic predicting. This helps develop the students’ ability to predict what they’ll hear based on their knowledge of the syntactic system or the language system of English. The basic concept is that you would write a word, a couple of words or a phrase on the board. Then the students would write down or say what word/words they think will come next. This can be a specific word (store) or a part of speech (noun). Fluent listeners are constantly predicting what they will hear as they listen, so this activity helps students form this habit and practice it.

3. Next, try doing short dictations with your students. These dictations would be a sentence at a time at natural speed and you would only repeat each sentence 2-3 times. After the students have written down what they have heard, you would have them compare their sentences with the actual sentence. This allows the students to identify what difficulties they’re having with bottom up processing. A variation of this is a gap fill that students fill in as they listen to a text. However, consider blanking out the function words (a, the, and, etc.) rather than the content words (words that carry meaning) because these are the words they often have the most trouble hearing.

4. Lastly, try doing a focused dictation. This is a dictation that highlights a specific element of the English language system like differentiating between minimal pairs. For example, if you wanted to focus on the difference between ‘eh’ and ‘ee’, you could dictate the sentence, “Did you say chess or cheese?” Again, you would only dictate each sentence twice and then have the students analyze their answers to see what sounds they are having difficulty hearing or if they’re actually able to discern the sounds easily.

I hope you have found these ideas helpful. Let us know if you try them out!

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