An Evidence-Based Approach to Develop Listening Skills and Pragmatic Knowledge
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This paper outlines one way to integrate pragmatic development into an English as a Second Language (ESL) class, focusing on listening skills. Pragmatics is the aspect of language that focuses on how users choose among available forms to communicate within a social context and co-create meaning. Pragmatic development is viewed through the lens of communicative competence and speech act theory. Communicative competence refers to focusing on student communicative abilities and skills rather than a form-focused, grammar guided language teaching approach. Speech act theory refers to understanding utterances and their intended functions in communication. An “evidence-based approach” is one supported by theory and research. According to second language acquisition (SLA), listening, and pragmatics theory, an evidence-based approach to develop listening and pragmatic knowledge would include the following principles: (a) deliberate practice, (b) opportunities for noticing forms, gaps, and holes, (c) meaningful interaction, (d) a focus on both one-way and two-way communication, (e) vocabulary development, (f) sound discrimination and finally, (g) attention to speech acts and their forms and uses. The focus of the early sections of the paper articulate the theoretical foundation of these principles followed by an example demo lesson unit that illustrates one way to integrate pragmatics and listening skills for an ESL class of 12 intermediate to upper intermediate students in a Minneapolis private university classroom. The demo lesson unit demonstrates the principles identified for teaching pragmatics integrated with listening development for a ten-lesson course. The single instructional focus of this demo lesson unit is the speech act of suggestions.