Many students come to say that they need help with their listening. I often say you need to speak as much as possible, and you need to listen to the radio, podcasts, tv, etc. But it is not enough for you to merely listen to those audio assignments.
You must use strategies that make you active, not passive, listeners.
Help yourself better understand a listening assignment by thinking of things you already know about a topic. This helps your mind build connections between what you know and new information you will hear. Say to yourself things like, “This lecture about animal communication makes me think about how my dog lets me know that he needs to go outside. He runs to get a sock and brings it to me.”
Make guesses about what you may learn as you listen. Guessing helps your brain focus on the assignment. It doesn’t matter if your guesses are right or wrong. For instance, if the topic is a space mission to Mars, you might guess, “I bet it takes six months to get to Mars and it’s probably really cold. I don’t think people can survive on Mars.”
3. Talk About New Words
If there is a list of pres elected vocabulary words from the assignment, go through the list and think about what you know about them. If you don’t know the words, talk about them with a friend or use a free audio dictionary such as http://www.dictionary.com. If there isn’t a pre-selected list of words, make sure you understand words in the title and in any introductory material. Have a brief conversation in your head to clarify key words. If you do not know what flaunting means in the title “Flaunting Your Success,” write down a synonym like showing off to refer to as you read. Sometimes, a rough sketch, such as a dollar sign in front of affluent, can give you quick help as you listen.
4. Listen for Answers
As you listen, be listening for answers to questions you have. To identify questions to ask, preview activities you need to complete after you listen or turn the title of an assignment into a question. For instance, if the title of a podcast is “The Science of Love,” you might ask, “How is science related to love?” or “What have scientists learned about love?” Looking for answers to questions gives you a reason to listen and keeps your mind active and alert.
5. Take Notes
Write notes that help you remember ideas. Outlining and layering information is always a good idea, but try other imaginative ways of taking notes: Use connected circles and shapes, create a chart, or draw a map. Use abbreviations and symbols that help you keep up with the speaker’s rate of speech; for instance, if the words memory and communication are used a lot, just use an “M” and “C” in your notes and add a reminder that explains this after you finish listening. Speakers also convey ideas in nonverbal ways. Pay attention to intonation, and if applicable, facial expressions, to take notes on a speaker’s opinions and outlooks.
6. Re-listen/Find a Fix
When you get bored or when ideas are hard, you need to find a way to get back on track. The best way to fix things is to re-listen. You don’t have to wait until the end to re-listen. Sometimes a quick backtracking and re-listening to a line or two can quickly clear up confusion. This is especially important at the beginning of an audio assignment. If you can’t re-listen, shift to a different listening strategy that helps you regain your focus. For instance, if you’ve been taking notes, and you’re becoming confused, figure out what is causing the confusion. Do you need to look up the meaning of some words, can you write down your questions, or should you try to summarize what you have understood so far?
What do you agree and disagree with? What parts do you like best? What parts are confusing? Use symbols, such an exclamation mark (!) before an idea you like or an “X” next to something you disagree with, that help you quickly write your reactions so you won’t forget them.
Read your notes several times before and after the session all week. In your head, summarize what the work was about and test yourself on your notes.
Read and listen to other sources for more information about the topic. Learning more information makes a topic more meaningful and interesting, especially if you share these ideas with others.
I hope these tips help you. Remember there is no magical cure for this. You have to put in a lot of time to get better at listening, and guess what? The better you become at listening, the better you are at speaking!
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