Three Ways to Help Tie Listening and Writing into Language Learning

By Scott Evans

Think of the skills necessary to be a great basketball player. Although players can only score points by making a basket, they must also master skills such as dribbling, passing and defending. Without fundamental skills, a player won’t even get the chance to shoot.

Like basketball, language learning requires balanced proficiency in all areas of the subject. Students have to practice reading, writing, speaking and listening to fully comprehend a language.

Whether instructing a composition class or teaching foreign-language skills, educators must focus on all areas of language instruction. One intersection of language learning that’s often overlooked is the connection between listening and writing. 

Connecting Input and Output Language Skills

While teachers have long taught the four basic pillars of language—reading, writing, speaking and listening—the past few decades of research in writing instruction have shed light on how interdependent input and output skills are when it comes to language uptake.

Researchers have primarily focused on the connections between reading and writing. For example, research has shown that effective writing instruction can lead to improvements in reading comprehension, reading fluency and word-solving skills. Such findings have led teachers to develop activities that incorporate both reading and writing skills to improve both sides of language learning.

Similar to the reading-writing connection, teachers can highlight the relationship between listening and writing to help students develop complex language skills. Listening to writing can be advantageous in the revision process, and is especially helpful to a beginner or basic writers. Listening-writing activities can foster more inclusion in the classroom, as some students excel more in listening than they do reading.

Bring Listening Into Writing Instruction

Many language teachers are already utilizing listening activities in the classroom. Students might have to listen to a conversation in a foreign language, and then discuss the exchange among their peers. Reading instructors might also incorporate listening in their assessment practices.

While these practices certainly can be effective, they rarely encourage a connection between listening and writing. With the right tools and thoughtful lesson planning, teachers can easily incorporate listening-writing activities into their curriculum.

Here are three ways that teachers can more closely tie listening and writing activities into the classroom:

1. Writing Revisions

In high school writing and composition classes, focusing on “listenability” in student writing can hone revision skills. Students can either record themselves reading their own paper, or have a classmate read their paper to them. In this process, students can determine if their paper has a strong flow and structure.

By reading their paper out loud and then listening to it, students are also unable to skim the paper, as they might when just reading for revisions. Students must pay attention to each word and punctuation mark, noting if it sounds natural when all of these components are read together.

2. Multimedia Projects

Group projects such as a buddy journal, in which students converse with each other like pen pals, have been used to encourage the reading-writing connection and enhance literacy learning.

With today’s multimedia platforms, students can create a similar literacy project, but incorporate speaking, listening and writing skills. By recording spoken messages to each other and formulating written responses, students can make a meaningful connection between audio and written communication.

3. Podcasts

Podcasts have already become a powerful source for learning in the K-12 classroom. By connecting podcast-listening to writing projects, educators can drive a stronger connection to listening and writing.

Teachers can use podcasts to elicit written responses from students or require them to write a piece that evokes the tone and sentiment of a podcast. Resources such as NPR or an app like Listenwise can help you bring listening content into the classroom.

The Takeaway

As teachers develop lesson plans in a language classroom, it’s critical to make sure that students practice all elements of language. With each activity, teachers should consider how to incorporate multiple skills—like listening and writing—to boost language mastery. Just like a basketball player who excels in dribbling, passing defending and shooting, a student has to gain speaking, reading, writing and listening skills to become a language all-star.

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Scott Evans is an AV expert at Califone. Follow them on Twitter: @califone

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