As a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) and an assistant language teacher
(ALT) at a public junior high school, we conducted a year-long action research
study with four classes of second-year coed students of mixed proficiency.
We integrated semi-scripted listening monologues into three "Read and
Think" sections of our class textbook, New Horizons Book 2 (Asano,
Shimomura, & Makino,1993), in order to (a) give the students practice
in listening to spoken English, as opposed to written English being read
aloud, and (b) make the reading section of the textbook easier to understand.
Semi-scripted monologues (Geddes & White, 1978) are speeches delivered
from notes in order to simulate real-life spoken English. Somewhere between
free speech and reading aloud, they include features of natural speech such
as incomplete sentences and hesitations. The notes the ALT used to make
the monologues were based on the target language in the class textbook.
We developed a three-lesson approach to utilize the monologues. In the
first lesson the students listened to the monologues; in the second lesson
they read the text; and in the third the students were required to write
a text on a similar but distinct theme. The first lesson was always team
taught, but the ALT was not always present in the second and third lessons.
While listening to the monologues the students completed a variety of
tasks designed to challenge all levels of students: listening for and identifying
key nouns, verbs, and adjectives; then making simple sentences about the
monologues using these keywords. After completing these tasks, the students
would then have a list of keywords and a summary for each monologue.
Since our main interest was in the monologue listening lessons, we administered
questionnaires to the students, videotaped the lessons, and held teacher
discussions after the lessons. The questionnaires asked the students about
their feelings during the lesson and whether or not they could succeed in
the class. Then we studied the videotape to observe the responses of the
students and to assess our own performance (for the JTE this meant explanation
of tasks and for the ALT it was delivery of the semi-scripted speech). We
discussed how we felt the students had performed and how difficult the semi-scripted
Results from the questionnaire showed that 73% of the students'responses
expressed positive feelings (enjoyment, interest, useful, good listening
practice). A smaller percentage, 27%, expressed negative feelings (not
interesting, uneasy atmosphere, frustrating, desire to give up). Nearly
60% of all the students stated that having a listening class first did make
reading and understanding the "Read and Think" sections easier.
Perhaps they found it easier because they had been introduced to key vocabulary
words and had a summary of the text-based monologue before they started
reading the text. This finding was very encouraging and showed that semi-scripted
speeches by the ALT can be linked to the textbook. Initially this linkage
was not achieved: We felt the listening section was too long, and the JTE's
explanations were not clear or the tasks were too difficult. However, gradually
through discussion we developed textbook-based listening lessons with clearly
explained appropriate tasks.
Finding time to sit down together and discuss a lesson was difficult.
Eventually we set aside a specific time each week for our discussions, which
worked much better than our first attempts to find five minutes here or
ten minutes there. We felt that with more time and fewer distractions we
could have done the research better. When a new idea did not work it left
us feeling disappointed and sometimes frustrated. However, this disppointment
led to one of our biggest realizations: simply that it was essential to
compromise on what we wanted to do and how fast we wanted to do it. We realized
that not aiming to be perfect was important for us in order to make the
research a practical possibility. We felt that our research raised our critical
awareness of our teaching, and we realized that action research as we did
it was really just an extension of our teaching schedules, especially the
evaluation and planning stages.
Any change to a current teaching style requires desire and effort from
both teachers, but we found our new style beneficial to both students and
ourselves: In our case we were teaching a newly introduced textbook. Through
action research the JTE welcomed the chance to try something a little different
and the ALT felt he contributed more positively in the classroom. The JTE
notes, however, that the success or otherwise of this kind of research will
depend very much on the two teachers involved.
Asano, H. , Shimomura, Y., & Makino, T. (1993). New horizons english
course. Tokyo: Shoseki.
Geddes, M. & White, R. (1978). The use of semi-scripted simulated
authentic speech and listening comprehension. Audio Visual Language Journal,
16 (3), 137-145.