At this time of year the focus needs to be the listening paper – the exam. That is probably a fairly obvious thing to say, but it is true. I think there is a real danger of us getting too worried about lessons being exciting and innovative when what we need to do is ensure that they really understand the paper. The content of the paper is crucial but also the way that they approach the paper. Now, some of what I will write here might be more specific to the AQA Old Spec paper that I currently do in Windsor. BUT, I am pretty sure that this concept will work for any listening exam paper.
It is a simple concept really – Do a paper without playing the music.
Crazy I hear you cry! What’s the point in that you say!
Well lets stop and think about it for a minute. Sometimes when students do a mock paper in lessons they simply glide through it and don’t always take the time to think about it. Similarly, when it is then marked they focus on the mark they got and don’t focus enough on what they need to do to improve. As teachers we need to make sure that as students approach the exam they know what to expect and also know exactly what they need to focus on in their revision.
Believe it or not some students simply focus on the wrong thing. It only takes one or two misconceptions about the paper and students can end up spending hours focussing on the wrong thing.
So, take the exam paper and hand it out. Tell students that they are not going to listen to the exam but instead they are going to think about the potential answers to every question. Tell them that they are also going to think about the style of questions, what they do and don’t know and also any other techniques that are required.
Consider a question like this:
“Describe the texture of the extract”
What students will do is write out the options.What COULD the texture be. By doing this they are thinking through the options – making their own internal multiple choice – and they are also checking their knowledge. Do they know what different textures are on offer, do they understand them all. The thing is they could listen to this extract and it could be polyphonic. But, if they don’t know that option, or they have forgotten it, then they will probably just write – homophonic!
“Describe how Rhythm, Melody & Dynamics are used in this extract”
These longer answer questions are great for this technique. Firstly they need to think how they approach and lay out any longer answer questions – See previous blog – but then they can start thinking about what potential answers there are. The melody for example could be conjunct, disjunct or it might feature a sequence. What they are doing is making sure that the options are in their brains. If they don’t have the options in their minds then they won’t draw on them in the exam when it matters.
Multiple Choice Questions
This is a simple one – make sure they can define every single key term on the paper. That way you can spot holes in knowledge quickly.
Everyone in the listening exam hears the same thing don’t they – again an obvious point. The thing is some students know how to approach the paper and some students know all the options available to them. Taking the listening side of the paper away for a lesson will force students to think about these options and work out any holes in their knowledge. So do give it a try and make sure the focus is on technique and creating an internal multiple choice. When they see the term Rhythmic Device in the exam for example, I want my students to know exactly what options they have!
Another option is for you to take a listening paper and prepare it for them, or maybe just do one or two questions for them so that they get the idea.
Enjoy revision and don’t think that every lesson needs to be exciting! Technique and Knowledge is key. And to be honest, in the past my students have all really enjoyed this technique. You could easily do this for A-Level listening as well.