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Activities to build listening skills?

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Joined: 06 May 2012
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:14 am    Post subject: Activities to build listening skills? Reply with quote

Reading, writing, listening and speaking are all important components of the English language classroom. I have intentionally and regularly included in daily activities all but listening. Though listening is obviously a very important component, I have not really thought about how to include listening as part of instruction, create activities to intentionally practice listening only and assess students' ability to listen. I suppose that through students' responses to monologue or during dialogue, you have a general understanding of their ability to listen. However, “incorrect” responses or reactions might not be a listening issue, but rather a vocabulary issue or an inability to produce output. So how do you really teach and assess the skill listening? I read in Teaching by Principles by Brown many suggestions. On theme I keep realizing, however, is that so much can be misinterpreted during instruction and the activity, so each response to each activity cannot be the sole form of instruction, practice and assessment. A variety MUST be utilized. Has anybody tried out bottom-up or top-down exercises? Which ones did you find to be the most engaging and/or effective tool/technique?
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Joined: 06 May 2012
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you bring up a great point! I too have never given much consideration to effective listening activities. I guess I always assumed that listening would automatically be included in my lessons through reading, speaking, or writing activities and that would be enough. I have come to discover that teaching students to become active listeners will require some extra attention and planning on the teacher’s end. Each of the four skills deserve their own dedicated amount of time and focus. I like the suggestions that (Brown) offers for listeners’ responses, such as, drawing a picture of what is heard, responding physically to a command, or answering questions through conversation. I think one of the most important things to teach students about listening is how to develop listening strategies. This will assist students in real world situations outside of the classroom and help them to become successful learners.
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Joined: 30 Oct 2011
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Listening is definitely a key component of language learning because without developing strong listening skills, students will struggle with other skills. Processing spoken information and conversation becomes difficult and slowed down. Also listening skills allow students to experience who English is pronounced and connected. Some activities that will allow student to practice listening skills and others could be interviews, Simon Says, or an obstacle course.
By interviewing each other students are forced to listen for the answers of the other students. This works on listening skills and speaking. Simon says can be done with vocabulary and directions for lower ELLs since the directions are not long and complex. By doing an obstacle course not only are student moving around but working on speaking and listening. You can create an obstacle course by moving the room around and blindfolding a student. Then have another student or yourself verbally guide them through the maze of desks. Student really cannot rely on facial expressions or other cues so they must rely heavily on listening to make it to the end. This can even be timed and made into a really interactive activity.
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Brie M.

Joined: 10 May 2012
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the ideas shared for listening activities. One activity I use for listening is a treasure hunt. It is fun for various levels and ages. I pre-teach the vocabulary we will be using and some years I have had my advanced students help write the directions. Then the day of the treasure hunt is a true test of listening. Students take turns reading the directions and the others have to listen and follow the direction. We carry vocabulary reminder sheets so we are truly accessing listening and not a vocabulary issue.
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Joined: 21 Aug 2012
Posts: 2
Location: Bangkok

PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First teach listening strategies: After giving ss the topic the teacher should teach ss to ask themselves these 2 questions before a listening activity:

+ What all do I already know about this topic?
+ What all do I think the lecture/recording/article will mention?

For improving listening, this should become a habit. Anticipation is vital to improving receptive language skills.

While intended for speed reading, I've printed out Paul Nation's speed reading course which contains 20 short articles written *roughly* at the 2k-most-common-words level. I read the story aloud, speed gauged to student's mean level. In the PDF package is included a quiz that I either project on OHP or give copies of. I emphasize to my university ss is meant to let ss measure themselves, it's not for points.
Ss also need to learn to relax when listening in a foreign language. The basic level of the writing not to mention worldly topics may help induce a sense of ease if done frequently enough without grading implications.
Here's where you can get the PDF:

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Joined: 13 Mar 2011
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:03 am    Post subject: Activities for listening Reply with quote

Dictations are simple and they help build listening skills. You can also use your voice to intonate different words while reading and have your students underline those words. I made some how-to videos on those.
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Joined: 27 Jan 2013
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In addition to all the great ideas above, I've found engaging and fun read aloud easy reader chapter books to be GREAT ways to build listening skills. In my esl classes, I start every class with 5-10 minutes of reading to students while I show them the book pictures and act out/pantomime what I am reading to them. I also point out special structures/vocabulary/concepts in the book that we have already learned and are charted on the walls of the classroom. Right now, I am reading aloud Bread and Jam for Frances to 11-13 year olds and they love it! After reading, I ask each student a comprehension question to answer orally. Below are some other ideas to use during read aloud time.

Ways to actively involve students in Read Aloud time
• Have students tell their partner what just happened in the story
• Have a student act out the story to the class as you read aloud
• Have pairs act out the story to each other as you read
• Students can draw events/characters in the story as teacher reads about them
• At the end of the read aloud time, have students close their eyes and imagine the next part of story
• Have students make motions with their bodies to show what is happening in the story
• Throughout the read aloud time, have students show their thumbs- in an up position if they understand, pointing down if they don’t understand the story

Hope this helps!

Check out my post about US immigration reform from a teaching/counseling perspective @
Bilingual Learner is an educational/counseling website- visit us to see our new blog!
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Joined: 04 Sep 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like to use music and videos. These are some good websites:

EFLSensei: 9 ideas for using ESL video lessons

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab Video Clips: Video clips and comprehension questions.

ESL Notes: Movie plot summary, a list of characters, vocabulary words, and cultural discussion topics.

BBC Words in the News: News articles rewritten for ESL students with video news broadcast, script, and vocabulary.

English Central: Videos with vocabulary and and a speech recognition system.

Ted Talks: Videos of notable speeches.

Movie Clips: Movie clips and trailers with new movies.

Wing Clips: Inspirational movie clips.
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Joined: 21 Jul 2006
Posts: 52

PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 4:01 pm    Post subject: Simple listening for vocabulary or short phrases Reply with quote

I use listening games to teach new vocabulary and grammar all the time. They help drill in the new language before expecting the students to be able to say it.

Here's a simple example from hundreds that I have in my various books:

Here is a version of Simon Says for adult learners of any level of English. Let's say you want to work on the simple past. Say any sentence using the grammar you want to drill, such as "I went to the park. Now touch your nose." Students touch their noses because the sentence WAS in the simple past.

If you had said "I was eating. Now touch your nose" students would not touch their nose, since the sentence was not in the simple past.

My books are on Amazon UK, US, Germany, etc. if interested, with hundreds of simple fun ideas and on my website too as PDF downloads with lots of useful extras included.

Amazon Games Book:

Teen adult games book in PDF - you can receive free samples by email from there:

All the best
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Joined: 02 Jun 2013
Posts: 3
Location: Pennsylvania

PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I teach in a special education classroom and I have found that direct instruction in listening skills has benefited my students who are native speakers, as well as my English language learners. The activity I try do at least weekly has students listen to a series of verbal directions and then perform the tasks in the classroom. The rest of the class must also listen to see if the students have followed the directions appropriately. I vary the length of the list and the complexity of the directions based on individual student ability. The students really seem to enjoy these activities and even ask about it if I forget to do it!

I use the format:

When I say go I'd like you to...
1) stand up
2) walk backwards to (name) and give a high five
3) go over to board and draw a smiley face
4) tiptoe to the mirror and look into it and say "I look good!"
5) take the eraser and erase your smiley face
6) spin over to your seat


The student will perform the activity and the rest of the class has to decide whether the student followed all of the directions. I usually give some small reward for students who were able to follow every step of the directions.

Once the students' listening skills improved, I had to start writing down the steps so I didn't forget! This activity has served as a good energizer too.
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Joined: 02 Apr 2014
Posts: 75
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Take a look at the "Pimsleur Approach"
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