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Listening for vocabulary

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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:28 by NZTecAdmin
Listening for vocabulary (PDF, 26 KB)

The purpose of the activity

As they listen to a recorded text, learners will listen for specific words. They will use their prior knowledge and the context to work out the meanings of these words. This activity teaches the use of strategies to work out unfamiliar vocabulary.

The teaching points

  • The learners listen actively to identify specific words within a spoken text.
  • Using their own knowledge and the context, learners work out the meaning of each word.
  • Learners discuss the meanings to arrive at an agreed understanding of each word.
  • Learners understand the importance of the context (including the surrounding words in an utterance) to the meaning of a word.
  • Learners will, with support as needed, check meanings using the internet (dictionary.com) or a dictionary.

Audio resources

Other resources

  • A set of word cards for the text (for this track the words to use are: remains, sensitivity, deceased, inconsistent, artefacts).
  • References for checking word meanings (internet or print resources).

The guided teaching and learning sequence

1. Explain that one important way in which we build our own vocabularies is by hearing and working out new words when we’re listening to people talk.

2. Clarify the purpose of this activity and explain that the text they are going to listen to concerns the display of items at Te Papa, the national museum in Wellington.

3. Activate prior knowledge by asking the learners to share their experiences of visiting a museum. Prompt them to talk about the kinds of things they might see, where those things have come from, and how people might feel about some items that are on display.

4. Show the word cards and read each word out clearly. Do not discuss the words now but tell the learners they are to listen out for these words and think about their meanings. Some of the words are repeated so they will have more than one chance to hear them. Note that the surrounding words often provide important clues to meaning.

5. Play the audio resource then check to see if everyone is ready to discuss the words or if they want to hear it again. Replay the track if necessary.

6. The learners can now discuss each word in turn, arriving at an agreed meaning for each one in this context. If they do not agree, they can listen again (replay the resource) or use a reference tool.

7. Ask the learners to talk about how they worked out the meanings, for example, from something they already knew, from the context, or from other strategies.

8. Review the activity, reflecting on the ways in which we build vocabulary by listening.

Follow-up activities

Discuss possible alternative meanings for words you have discussed. For example, in the context of the Te Papa talk, remains has a specific meaning. The meaning of remains may be different in other contexts, for example:

  • Anyone who remains behind will miss the bus.
  • The outcome of the decision remains to be seen.
  • What remains when you take 6 away from 10?

Learners can ‘collect’ new words (and practise pronouncing them), either writing them down or remembering them to share in a group session. It is important to know the context: the reason for this can be discussed too.

Glossary building is an effective way to help learners develop vocabulary associated with a specific topic, subject, event or work situation. Learners recall and discuss new words to establish their meanings in specific contexts.

For many vocabulary activities, repetition and use of words in different situations leads to deep learning without having to resort to written forms. This is how waiata and many other oral texts are learned in Te Reo Māori. It’s also an excellent way for learners to explore the subtleties of meaning, including near-synonyms (When would you say deep rather than dense? What’s the difference between near, adjacent and adjoining?).

As you use these activities, ask learners if the words they are learning are words they would use themselves. They can practise saying sentences or giving examples of when and how they would use the words.


If you have any comments please contact us.

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