In the last blog post, I discussed various ways to use the transcripts that come with each podcast episode to get the most out of the conversations and help you improve even more. Today, I’m going to talk about the other sections of the worksheets: the comprehension questions, the footnotes and exercises, and the discussion questions.
In English language teaching, students’ comprehension of audio clips is often categorised in two ways: listening for gist1 and listening for detail. Even in our native languages, we often listen in both of these ways depending on the situation. For example, if you’re visiting a historic site or museum and you’re on a tour or using an audio guide, you will likely listen for gist; that is, for a general understanding of what’s being said rather than paying special attention to names and dates. On the other hand, if you’re at a train station or airport listening to the announcements over the loudspeaker, you need to listen for details such as the destination city or flight number to see if the announcement affects you or not. Listening for detail often requires paying closer attention.
For the comprehension questions in the English in 10 Minutes worksheets, I focus on listening for gist, because the goal that you should be aiming for is a general understanding of what the speakers are talking about. If you don’t catch every single name or minor detail mentioned, that’s often not important. For example, in Episode 9a: The Olympic Games, a listening for detail question would be: ‘What are the names of all the newspapers Dave mentioned?’ But knowing the answer to that question doesn’t necessarily mean that you understood the whole conversation. Instead, I choose questions that focus on the main themes and stories to come out of the conversation. If you can answer the three questions, you’ve understood the general flow of the conversation, which is the most important thing.
“The big picture can be just as important as the specifics. When students listen for just the gist, they come to realize that a general understanding is often enough.” – Chris Cotter, Heads up English
If you feel that your level is advanced enough, I recommend trying to answer these comprehension questions after your first listen of each conversation. If your level is a bit lower, you could listen twice before attempting to answer, or you could listen once and read the transcript once. As you look at the comprehension questions for more and more episodes, you can test yourself to see if you are becoming better at answering them.
Footnotes and Exercises
In each worksheet, I choose 10 words or terms that I think represent the best language used during the conversation. This is not always just the most difficult words that you may not have seen before, but a variety of terms, including some of these difficult words but also phrasal verbs and fixed expressions so you can see how these terms are used in context. Try to think of these not as words you don’t know, but as great language that you can pick up2 and then use yourself.
The exercises help you place these same terms in a second context. After completing them, you should have a good idea of how to incorporate these terms into your own speaking, beginning with the discussion questions.
The discussion questions are important for two main reasons: firstly, because they personalise the topic, making it relevant for you, and secondly, because they allow you to turn your listening and reading into speaking (or writing, if you prefer). For the latter3, you can use the terms and expressions you picked up in the episode in a productive way to consolidate your learning of that language. If you have a regular language partner in person or online, the discussion questions can be a great starting point for discussions. Or, join the English in 10 Minutes Listeners group on Facebook and find other learners to discuss the questions with.
To access the worksheets, click here or you can always click on the WORKSHEETS tab at the top of any page of the website. For our double episode on the Olympic Games, sign up below to receive the two worksheets for free:
How do you use our worksheets? Let us know in the comments box below or on Facebook.