A child first speaks / listens before it can read or write; consequently, basic oral and aural skills development is a good starting point for teaching English as a foreign language. What can you, as a novice EFL teacher, do to develop a student’s aural and oral skills?
Aural skills teaching doesn’t have the same strong theoretical background as does reading, writing, and speaking; nevertheless, there are strategies that can be used to develop the student’s listening skills. One such strategy is based on breaking up a given listening exercise into three component parts: pre-listening, while-listening, and post- listening.
Prior to listening to the recording (the pre-listening stage), you should provide your students with the necessary background knowledge as well as any vocabulary or expressions that are relevant to the recording. For example, if the recording concerns a shipwreck, you should provide the students with any necessary expressions that might be useful to them: this doesn’t mean that you have to provide them with only the vocabulary and expressions that will be heard on the recording.
In the while-listening stage, the students actually listen to the recording, and answer the set questions. In EFL exams, the listening recording is heard twice (Cambridge and Michigan); however, for classroom purposes, it can be heard up to three times – although examination classes should only be allowed to hear it twice.
After the listening has finished, the text and answers are analyzed in detail – this is the post- listening stage: you will be required to re-play the recording and simultaneously explain the reason for the given answers to the listening exercises.
Apart from the classroom strategy mentioned above, aural skills can be further developed by any one of the following activities: listening to the radio, watching (subtitled) films, and TV/internet programs.
In the case of oral skills, these can best be developed by interaction: question and answer situations, group work, role play, and small speeches all contribute to the development of the student’s oral skills. You should try to construct scenarios where the students can use the vocabulary that they have learnt, and the interactions should be structured, i.e., the activities must be based on handouts or strict instructions, e.g., “Pair up and use the town map to ask each other for directions”.
Finally, the use of video films is highly recommended because it simultaneously furthers the development of both aural and oral skills.