21 Reasons for Making Your Own Audio Files for Jigsaw Listening
My school’s resource room is brimming to the rafters with listening materials. There are CDs that go with coursebooks, audio accompaniments to graded readers, listening courses and a whole lot more. Add to this the millions of files online on websites and via podcasts and you have several billion hours of listening material.
But is that good enough?
Is it exactly what your students need in that lesson?
I’ve usually found the answer to these questions to be ‘no’. Sure, it’s practice, but it all seems too “textbooky / EFL classroom-ish”. None of the CDs, tapes (remember those?) or MP3s and WAVs was exactly what I wanted for my class.
So a long time ago, in 2005, I started making my own listening materials, using the free audio editor and recorder Audacity, which is my favourite piece of software ever in the whole wide world, ever.
This post isn’t a how-to on Audacity, so I’ll direct you to Russell Stannard’s excellent teacher-training video for that.
Here I’ll describe a few things that work for me when making jigsaw listenings tailored to my students’ needs of the moment.
OK. When was the last time you saw a jigsaw listening CD? Never. Thought so. I think jigsaw listening is one of the most valuable communicative activities around. It’s an audio information gap activity. Different groups of students listen to different parts of a text, then exchange information with each other to complete a task – piece the info together, find out who or what is being talked about, etc. It is great as the centerpiece of an integrated all-skills lesson.
The fantastic things about recording jigsaw listenings yourself are:
- you control the level and content of the audio text.
- you can build the rest of the lesson around the jigsawed listenings.
- you can use them to recycle vocabulary, grammar and other language taught earlier.
- you can make games out of them.
- you can make the listenings from student-generated work.
- you can use them to introduce factual content (giving each group different sets of facts).
- students love the fact they have to listen and then share and find out.
- the element of having to pass on information heard seems to make students “listen harder”.
- today’s technology means iPhones, laptops and classroom PCs do away with the need to drag 12 tape recorders/CD players to class.
- you can use the jigsaw listening for anything – introduce an important piece of school news by cutting it into different recorded pieces.
- get students to put events in a chronological order.
- you can beef up a lackluster textbook reading be recording it as a jigsaw reading.
- you can add intrigue to graded readers by creating jigsawed summaries.
- focus on different tenses by giving groups parts of the story set in the past, present and future.
- use it as a critical thinking activity – give students different parts of a set of instructions / cooking recipe / directions, etc for them to piece back together logically.
- liven up mystery stories.
- explain grammar by giving students different parts of the puzzle.
- explain word families by giving students different information about a word (collocations, parts of speech, antonyms & synonyms, use in phrasal verbs, etc).
- it can save you time (especially if you re-use the audio). They can take as little as ten minutes (the time it normally takes to do three one-minute recordings plus editing, saving, etc. The students then spend ages (all quality time) on the listening and piecing back together of the text.
- it’s free.
- you never have to visit that dusty resource room again.
If you have other suggestions for jigsaw listening, please share them in the comments below.