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Listening Activities
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Listening requires students to predict upcoming information, guess at unknown words and phrases, identify relevant information, discard irrelevant information, and understand any inferred ideas. As such, listening should be considered an active not a passive exercise in the classroom.

The activities below focus on these important needs, and may easily be incorporated into any lesson. It should be noted that students should focus on only one aspect of listening at any given time, such as listening for inferred ideas, listening for gist, or listening for key words. If the teacher assigns more than one task at a time, then students won't be able to accomplish any single task with a high degree of success.


Idea #1: The teacher reads aloud a monologue with prewritten fillers, pauses, and repetition. This mimics real speaking, yet allows the teacher to read the monologue more than once. Students receive a copy of the text without the fillers, pauses, etc. Students simultaneously listen and mark any differences between the written copy and what was heard. This raises awareness of fillers and similar aspects, and moves students away from artificial listening activities.

Idea #2: The teacher reads aloud a monologue or dialogue, or plays a podcast to the class. Students listen, but don't take notes. Because students won't take notes during this activity, the monologue/dialogue shouldn't be longer than a few minutes. Students next get into pairs/groups, and compare what they heard. Details are less important than general ideas. The teacher repeats the monologue once or twice more, with students again returning to pairs/groups to confirm and correct previous discussions, as well as add information.

Idea#3: Students listen to one side of a conversation. They next get into pairs or small groups and discuss what was heard. This step is then followed with students discussing the topic and/or purpose of the conversation, as well as identifying who the speakers might be (friends, customer and clerk, teacher and student, etc.) For the final steps, students listen to the whole conversation, then discuss the accuracy of their guesses.

Idea #4: Students listen to the teacher read a monologue. They note discourse markers such as "however," "but," "in addition to," and so on, as well as the sentence/contents in which these words appear. This raises awareness of the importance of such markers, which allow the listener to better anticipate what may be said. With improved realization of the function of these words, they are more likely to pop out of the text for easier listening.

Idea #5: This activity can be done assigned as homework for students. They listen to a short podcast of about five minutes or less, transcribing the contents word for word. They may listen to the podcast more than once, working towards accuracy. If incorporated into the listening task, this improves use of vocabulary and high frequency phrases. It also highlights any recurring weaknesses which students may have, such as plurals, articles, etc. With increased exposure to this sort of activity, not only does listening improve, but accuracy and fluency improve as well.

Idea #6: Students listen to the first sentence of a paragraph. News articles or other monologues on a specific topic work best here. After listening to the first sentence, students discuss what information the paragraph might contain. This sort of prediction exercise readies students for a longer listening task, allowing them also to activate pre-existing knowledge.

Idea #7: The teacher purposely interjects a nonsense word into a monologue or dialogue. However, he should tell the students beforehand. The word won't obscure the meaning of the sentence, but it will require students to successfully ignore the word and still understand the sentence. This activity works well with students who insist they must hear and understand every single word to understand the contents.

Idea #8: Students predict responses in a dialogue. This requires students to analyze a sentence and consider all the possible meanings it implies. For example:

A: It's Thursday!
B: Yeah, only one more day to go until the weekend!

-or-

B: I'm glad tomorrow's a holiday.

-or-

B: We've got a big meeting presentation today.

Listeners always anticipate what will next be said, which cuts down on the listening load. Students need to focus on what was said as well as what will be said.

Idea #9: Students first receive a script with a number of words missing. Students read the script and then discuss what words might fit in the blanks. They do this in pairs or small groups. Once students have finished this step, the teacher reads the script aloud. Students listen for the missing words. To add challenge to the activity, students listen without looking at the script. They must then better recall the missing words, the sentences in which they appear, and the context.

Idea #10: The teacher reads a sentence or two aloud. Students must decide the place and/or situation. This requires students to guess at information and make inferences. For example:

A: I wonder when the movie ends.

-or-

A: Bob in HR says he needs the report. I need you to finish it by noon.