Moving backwards!

Paradoxical direction arrow

It is clear that one of the goals of ESL students is to improve their listening comprehension skills. This goal might turn into a concern however, when they are preparing for an English proficiency test like IELTS, where achieving a certain score could be life-changing. This has led IELTS instructors and tutors to come up with multiple techniques and tips to help their students. In this blog post, I am going to share a technique that I personally developed and applied in my IELTS class, and discuss how it was viewed by my students.

I call this technique “moving backwards,” and my hope is that it will help my students to improve their listening skills while doing an IELTS listening practice test.

The IELTS listening test is comprised of four sections, with each section consisting of ten questions.  The test difficulty increases incrementally from section one to four. Normally, to practice the test, students start from section one and read the questions in the given order to find the key words and get themselves familiar with the content of the section. What I did differently in my IELTS class was to REVERSE this pattern, and start the whole practice test BACKWARDS. To do so, we started from section four rather than section one. We then went through the questions backwards from the last question in the section to the first one in the section. While doing so, students used their own preferred way of interacting with the text.

For example, some students were taking notes and others underlined the keywords. Then, we listened to the recording. We applied this strategy in two tests and afterwards I asked for their feedback, which I will now share with you.

First, they all agreed that this strategy made them confused initially.  To my surprise, they didn’t see reading backwards from bottom to top to be the cause of this confusion. but rather because this technique was unfamiliar!

Second, on the positive side, they said that compared to the conventional and regular pattern of reading the questions in numerical order, this new way saved them more time. They claimed they were able to cover more questions during the given time before listening to the recording.

Third, some students actually claimed that this technique made them more motivated to practice listening tests, as in their opinion, now they have a fun game to play! From their perspective, disrupting the order of the test and approaching it in a novel way was more exciting and motivating.

Fourth, most of the students said reading the questions backward was helpful because when the recording started to play, they were pretty fresh with the information of the first set of questions. In other words, this backward technique worked well with their short-term memory, which is pretty important for succeeding at the test.

However, there were some complaints about this technique too. The main drawback that was put forward, as I pointed out earlier, was about the confusion. Some of the students were unable to adjust themselves with this backward move and ended up losing their focus and concentration. Moreover, some students were worried that if they start using this technique, it might negatively affect their performance in the real test, as this shift has the potential to disrupt their study pattern and routine. I personally cannot make any comments on the latter at this time as we didn’t get a chance to do multiple listening-practice tests this way! But, I am looking forward to finding out more as I continue to analyze this new technique.

Greetings from the bottom of the heart of an educator. I’m Setareh and I have tried to be an agent for change through being an EFL/ESL instructor for over ten years now: change from uncertainty to assurance. I studied English Literature and went on to continue my studies in TEFL. As a learning facilitator, trying to empower learners and helping them get control over their learning pursuit is what I feel passionate about. I like sharing my teaching and learning experiences with my passionate fellows through writing as well. My area of professional interest is writing- be it blogging, short story, translation, or content writing. I see writing as a blue bird of some sci-fi movies with many wings. My writing wings are amazing books, moving movies, great company, healthy food, and physical and mental exercise.


4 thoughts on “Moving backwards!”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experimental technique. I try to practice it in my classes and share feedbacks with you.

    1. Thank you Ebrahim for leaving a comment.
      I’m glad you’ve found it helpful.
      I’m looking forward to hearing about the feedback you’ll get in your classes.

  2. That is such an interesting idea, and the variety of feedback is so interesting also! Thanks for sharing.

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