Monday, 26 December 2016

TEDx Oral Presentations Listening and Speaking Skills Lesson

A listening activity on a TEDx speech to practise oral presentation skills and learn useful expressions.

TEDx conferences are a great way for students to hear authentic (often American or Canadian) English. They touch upon a variety of different topics. 

See below for worksheet, transcript and follow-up lesson on pronunciation and intonation.

1. Listening exercise

I chose this particular video for its first minute and a half, which is a perfect example of how to start a presentation. Moreover, the man speaks with a Canadian accent but the vocabulary is quite simple, so it is a good way for students to get familiar with hearing this type of accent without being overwhelmed with the vocabulary.

The BTS final exam has a listening part. Students listen to an audio extract 3 times, take notes and then report what they have understood in French. So in order to train them to this exercise, I always start by listening 3 times and I ask the students to take notes of any word they grasp even if they are unsure of how they are spelt or how they fit in the context.

These are the pieces of advice I usually give them:

  1. Start taking notes from the first listening (the sooner you start the better).
  2. Write down every word even if you are unsure of or didn't understand the context.
  3. Write down every word even if you don't know how to spell it.
  4. Take your notes directly in English (you will translate later).

The difficult thing is to get them to write down absolutely everything they hear from the first time they listen. Often they will tell me that they need to listen a first time to grasp the general meaning of the extract. And they will also object that there is no point in writing down words if they didn't understand the whole sentence. So it is essential to teach them how to bring out every piece of information they manage to grasp, as well as to be able to grasp the maximum amount of information.

I like to ask as many students as possible (starting with the weaker) what notes they have taken. You can write their notes on the board to pool them as you go around the class. That will usually put some pressure on them and they will make the effort to write down notes. 

Once we have been through the general meaning and the vocabulary of the extract (in English to practice speaking), I would ask them to prepare an explanation in French and in writing of what they have understood as a homework. Then during the next lesson, I would give them a transcript and do a last listening for them to complete the document. (You will also find it at the bottom of this article)

2. Meaning

Then you can ask students to analyse the type of information that is given on every stage of the listening. The first paragraph contains typical elements like greeting the public, saying he is happy to be there, stating his name and some additional information like his job, the name of his company, number of employees and geographical areas.

When I did the transcript I divided the text into paragraphs so you can ask the students to come up with a title for each paragraph or, if you give them the text as one block, to divide the text into different parts and come up with a title for each of them. That will force them to get into the details of the text up to the final questions that can be used as a 'teaser' for follow up activities on GMOs, controversial or state of the art agricultural techniques... As a matter of fact, in the rest of the video, R. Saik advocates for the widespread use of GMOs as the sole way of feeding the ever growing world population and fiercely criticizes organic cultures.  

3. Pronunciation and intonation

As I said the vocabulary is fairly simple, the unknown words should not prevent them from understanding. The real barrier here is the accent. Students are not used to hearing North American accents so words like "internationally" or "scientific integration" may not be understood because of the way they are pronounced.

This audio extract is an excellent occasion to study intonation. Since they had to take notes, it is a good idea to show them that the most clearly pronounced words are also the most important of the sentence. The demonstration can be carried out with the first sentence of the second paragraph. Students should be able to say that the stress falls on (or the man insists on) the words help, coaching and scientific integration because they are the most important elements of the sentence in terms of meaning. They are also the expressions they would have been able to write down. 

The last paragraph also has its fair share of sentences to work on. For instance, the first one with words like question, picture and metaphor, or the last set of questions with believe, agriculture, feed 9 billion people. This is also the opportunity to study the 'discreet' pronunciation of do and can when they are not stressed.

Then you can get the students to repeat after you or the man in the video, or if you are lucky enough to have a language 'labo' - which is usually nothing more than a dozen of computers with headphones and microphones- you can have them repeat and record themselves - which they tend to love, particularly if you tell them that you will be playing their recordings to the class for feedback ;)

You can check the post Listening and Pronunciation Skills Practice with a TEDx talk: How to Introduce Yourself  for a full lesson on pronunciation and intonation, with exercises based on the first minute and a half of this TEDx talk.

Click on the link below to watch the video

Pushing the Boundaries in Agriculture

The worksheet and transcript are available below

Pushing the Boundaries in Agriculture worksheet

Pushing the Boundaries in Agriculture transcript
A listening exercise on a speech to teach oral presentations skills and useful expressions.
A listening exercise on a speech to teach oral presentations skills and useful expressions.

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