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Using Whatsapp for a jigsaw listening

By Andrew Drummond

Here is a description of a lesson plan harnessing the power of WhatsApp to do a jigsaw listening activity. Jigsaw listening activities are employed to generate an ‘information gap’ that one recording delivered to the whole class will not provide. Traditionally, each group hears a different, but related recording. After listening, the full story only comes out when members of each group share the details of what they have heard together. Because of this information gap, the motivation to communicate may arise more naturally in the participants, compared with a regular peer check.
First, there are instructions on preparations you will need to do before class. Then, the entire lesson plan follows. At the end, there is a summary on the advantages of using WhatsApp in this way.

Before class

  • Create a WhatsApp group for your class.
  • Use your phone to make two recordings.  Asking colleagues to record the texts will give students exposure to voices other than your own.
  • Make sure you know where the files are on your phone.
  • You will need to ask your students to bring headphones for this lesson.
  • If possible, use a projector to show the contents of the WhatsApp group’s feed on screen with a projector. You can connect by searching for ‘WhatsApp web’ and following the instructions.
I saw everything. Two aggressive looking youths were kicking a ball around near the sports shop. It was two boys I think. Anyway, the taller one … he was wearing a hoodie and white trainers … well, he kicked the ball as hard as he could directly at the window. He smashed it completely and started laughing. He didn’t care one bit. His friend looked really upset and went inside the shop to talk to the manager. That’s when they called the police.

Well, there were three young people playing a ball game near the bakery. It was two boys and a girl I think. Anyway, the shortest one … a boy … he was wearing a T-shirt and black trainers … well, he threw the ball to one of his friends but his friend missed it and it hit the window. He looked horrified. He immediately went to try and talk to the manager of the bakery. Soon afterwards, the police arrived.

Lesson plan - Warmer
“Have a look at this picture.”
“Talk together about how you think this window got smashed.”
“Do you think it was an accident?”
“Have you ever done anything like this?”

Pre-listening
Pre-teach the following vocabulary:
Trainers (sneakers), hoodie, be horrified, to smash, youth (noun), witness, witness statement
Use these two pictures to build up the context:

Explain to students that they are police officers and have received two witness statements relating to what happened with the shop window. The police are considering the charge of criminal damage. Ask students what kind of information they would expect to find in a witness statement.  In pairs, they each need to listen to one of the recorded statements and note down details of the description. They can listen as many times as they like.

Listening task
Post both recordings to the WhatsApp group and give these instructions:
“Work together in pairs.”
“Student A: listen to the first recording posted to the WhatsApp group.”
“Student B: listen to the second recording.”
“Use your headphones so that no one can hear your recording.”
“When you listen, write down as much detail as you can about the following questions:”

  • How many people were playing outside the shop?
  • What were they playing?
  • Describe the person who damaged the window.
  • Did it seem like an accident?
  • How did they react when the glass was broken?
  • Did anyone go and speak to the manager?

“Listen at least three or four times. Make sure you have all the details. Stop, pause, rewind as much as you need to.”

After listening
“Now, talk to your partner.”
“Student A, from your notes, tell the story of what happened according to your witness.”
“Student B, stop your partner and explain when you have different information.”
“Together, try to identify all of the differences in the two stories”.
In feedback, the teacher confirms the differences between the two statements

Discussion (fluency)
“Talk about this question together.”
Do you agree that two witnesses are enough to be sure that a person is guilty of a crime?

Formal response (accuracy)

“When you are ready, write a sentence or two in response to the same question. Check the grammar of your sentence. Then, record your sentence directly to the WhatsApp group. As recordings appear, listen to what other people have said about this.”

Analysis for teachers
Here, the use of WhatsApp offers some opportunities that a traditional lesson doesn’t.

Traditional jigsaw listening
 It can be difficult to get two CD players to do a jigsaw listening. You also need two classrooms so that the noise from one recording doesn’t disrupt the other group. In a big class, individuals have very little control over how many times they hear the recording.

WhatsApp jigsaw listening
Students bring the technology with them (of course, you need to check everyone has a smartphone and WhatsApp). Noise is eliminated with headphones. Individuals can focus on specific parts of the recording as required, allowing for differentiation. It is more fun.