Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate A listening lesson A listening lesson

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    • #8274


      It’s important to build students’ confidence in listening. This means the teacher needs to make listening easy for them. What techniques in this lesson help make listening easy? Can you think of any other techniques or ideas?

      Write your ideas in a reply below. Comment on other teachers’ ideas.

    • #8359

      Steven Herder

      I always notice that there can be a wide range of listening abilities even in a class that has even been sorted by a placement test. I have two ideas that work well for me:

      1) I have developed an easy, medium, and difficult approach to listening to try to keep all students engaged in listening activities.

      Easy – Read the script and check unknown vocabulary. Then listen again with no script. Then begin comprehension questions.
      Medium – Read along with the script while listening the first time. Then listen again with no script.
      Difficult – Do the listening with no advance preparation.

      2) I also introduce a number of free online listening websites (one per week) and encourage students to practice a lot at home. I give them points for their efforts NOT for their comprehension activity scores. I ask them to keep a notebook and write four things:

      – Website name
      – Listening title
      – Summary of the listening
      – Personal comment on the topic


    • #8387

      Barbara Bujtás

      1. Before listening I give my students the context as clearly as possible so that they can use their background knowledge and predict the content, thus making hypotheses they can confirm or falsify while listening.
      I often pre-teach words or pick out key-words just to make them easier to focus on the topic.
      I hand out a summary of the text with gaps, before listening they can brainstorm ideas that may go in those gaps.

      2. After the gist question I play the whole recording, if it is difficult, I assure them that I will play the recording later with pauses. The pauses give them time to process what they have just heard.

      3. If we work with an exceptionally difficult text, I stop the recording time after time and rephrase what they have heard.

      4. Sometimes, when I know that a one-to-one student has difficulties with connected speech and separating phonemes, after the gist question I let them listen to the recording, we discuss the answers, then I give them the script to read and ask them what new information came out of reading the text, compared to just listening to it.

      5. Some students have listening-related anxieties. I use videos, and first I encourage them to rely on their eyes. After playing the video I ask them questions about the visual elements. (E.g. What color was the vase in the living room?) Then we watch the video again, to check their answers. This is now the second time they watch and hear the video. Peripherally, something may have been comprehended, only after this do we work on the straightforward comprehension work. It’s just an anxiety workaround.

      • #8418

        Thanks for sharing, Barbi. I like how you scaffold the listening activities and consider affective factors (e.g. listening anxiety), too.

        How do you feel or what do you think about allowing students to control when they pause the audio? (I had this suggested to me in a lesson observation after I’d been teaching a few years and it made a lot of sense to either teach students what to say or let them have physical control, which also seemed to help lower anxiety for some students.)

        I like how you paraphrase difficult listening tasks. In addition, I think it’s good to remind students that they don’t always need to understand everything and should also develop their tolerance of (language) ambiguity, i.e. how well they respond to unknown language or new stimuli without getting frustrated or needing to ask for help, etc.

    • #8414

      Rhett Burton

      I like to start off with listening through aural-first activities.

      1. Teaching aural patterns through rhythms
      To me, it is important that my students are exposed to patterns that will help them hear and retain the language. I am always looking for simple songs that allow me to deliver what I want students to listen to through something soothing to the ear. I often talk through song.

      2. Coloring, drawing, puzzles and block play
      I have found my students receptive to music when they are actively engaged in non-communicative activities. Many will start to hum the rhythm before they can hear the words. Slowly, over the course of hours, days, weeks, months and years, my students start to break down the song into patterns they are aware of.

      3.youtube playlist
      I am a firm believer of teaching to the senses. I love using songs and music that the ears love. I have curated some of the most listened to songs into playlist for my students to listen to when they are at home.

      4. Phonemes and syllables
      I’m careful of the words I expose my students to. I like short words which are rich with phonemes yet short with a single or double syllable. I will incorporate longer words if the context requires it or the word has a high level of teachability. Example – elephant. I teach it and students have an easy time learning it.

      • #8415

        Rhett Burton

        One thing I want to start doing is to break the songs into smaller tasks. I think I could do this through multiple sensory activities too. I also want to use more gap fills. I have stopped using them, but I really want to introduce them back into my curriculum.

      • #8419

        Thank you, Rhett, for sharing all that.

        I like how you start with songs and your clear rationale for doing so, especially as you teach young learners. Parents will also be happy no doubt to have curated playlists! It’s also good to be aware of relative ‘word difficulty’ associated with word-length/syllables, as you point out.

        What other types of listening activities do you regularly use (e.g. storytelling)?

        I think gap fills can be helpful, especially to help highlight the differences between written and spoken form, and how the sound of an individual word can change with the words around it. For young learners, of course, we have to consider their reading ability. For kids who are too young to read, however, they can get a lot out of picture sequencing activities and other tactile and kinesthetic or active-listening tasks.

      • #10554

        scott gray

        I really like songs for little learners and think it allows not just language to grow greatly but also the social aspects and dealing with emotions as I find most kids can’t separate emotion from music at the low ages. It is also great to use ‘Kaeuta’ as said here in Japan, but that I did all the time as a kid. Making your own verses or versions of the songs really starts the playing with language fun. Keep going!

        I also think using the other senses and as some studies have shown having music that doesn’t distract or take prominence actually improves attention. So yeah being able to break barriers with what it is can be great.

        A youtube playlist is something I wish I had had back in the day when I was teaching kids. I think the parents are more grateful when it is something when they have been vetted by a teacher and if guided correctly can be such a great help to kids to learn.

        Ask the only question I have is are you against exposing the kids to longer vocabulary if it is nonochallenging way? Do you you think the Mary Poppins, Superkali…. is only for learners who understand, or are there ways to task them where they just have to try and say it without understanding everything at times? Like tongue twister challenges where you can give them the meaning and just have them play with sounds?

        I guess that would be my give a suggestion, to try to make a few tasks where they hear words or sounds they will not know but where you grade the task so that they can play with the language without having to worry about not understanding everything. Well, Was nice to read yours, and just a try something different and see what happens day.

      • #10736

        Rhett Burton

        I suggest nine songs per month. Most songs are authentic with a variety of vocabulary and patterns. I sometimes play songs that are relevant to the times – but I do it as a one-off. I don’t embed into into my curriculum. The chances of me suggesting other genres of music increase with age. Grade 4 and up love a variety of music.


    • #10319

      Masatoshi Shoji

      Gist questions can give students focus on summary.
      Then, they can check in pairs.
      They can also check connections between the spoken forms and written forms.

      Listening practice in real life setting is a nice idea.
      Make a reservation of hotel or whatever is necessary.
      They will be more personalized if it is their ordinary need.

      • #10333

        Good points, Masatoshi. Yes, using easy gist questions can be helpful for the first listening, followed by more detailed or challenging questions to match the students’ abilities.

        (In the past, making a reservation would be a good real-life activity, but it’s been many years since I’ve phoned to do this due to the switch to online reservation systems.)

        What else can teachers ask students to do before listening to help make it easier?

        With low-level students or those lacking confidence, we can also use TPR (total physical response) listening tasks. For example, students tap the desk when hear specific words or phrases. You can do single or multiple TPR, too. For example, in addition to taping the desk, students raise a hand when they hear a question.

    • #10320

      Masatoshi Shoji

      Using videos and setting up a concrete context are really helpful.

      • #10332

        Yes, videos often add rich contextual cues that can help students understand the content better, plus they are usually much more engaging than just listening to audio (even with a picture).

        English Central also offers a range of language support for different levels:

    • #10551

      scott gray

      I think giving tasks and thinking about different ways to level the tasks for listening can make it easier for learners to pick up listening skills. I think now with technology and youtube that there are many ways students can see, hear, and practice their skills on their own that if given the right attitude to have tasks while listening, that gives many ways to promote autonomy. At work we use English Central and it is really great, but there are many similar ways to do that. Also with windows media player and other computer listening nowadays you can adjust the playback speed so students can make great use of it. For test prep having them listen at 1.5 or more speed seems to really help them build confidence. So simple songs. at faster speeds is a good technique.

      • #10575

        Great point about having students use more technology independently out of class.

        Youtube also allows you to adjust the playback from 0.25 – 2 times faster (in increments of 0.25).

        As per a discussion with Rhett previously, it would be great to have a checksheet of listening tasks, categorised into those with bottom-up vs top-down skills focus. With a range of activities to choose from, one could see what gets covered and what doesn’t through a course, and learners might also take greater control of their learning if they can self-select out-of-class activities.

    • #10584

      scott gray

      That would be great to have. Put it on my list and just hope it could get done sometime. Right now, such fun as work has me teaching 1st through 7th periods on Wednesday. Just taught 1 and 2 then 4 through 7 today and it is challenging. It is so nice to be back in what I feel is my area as compared to how I am learning and need to learn a lot more till I would be confident online as I am in the classroom.
      Real player used to have like half speed up to 4 times but not sure if that is still true. The other problem with tech is sometimes here today gone tomorrow.

      • #10735

        Rhett Burton

        Here today and gone tomorrow.

        This is very true for children’s songs on youtube. When I first started curating music, I had more variety from different creators. However, many of those songs were taken down for copyrights (I assume) and only the branded content remained. Now, almost all of my content comes from the major players or from creators I know personally.

    • #10740

      Rhett Burton

      Parroting (mimicking) and Repetition
      I like it when my lower level students listen and repeat what I am saying. This allows them to hear to what I am saying and then compare it to what they are saying. It is excellent for ear training and transfers to pronunciation. Parroting can receive a bad rep. It is important to know when to use it, how to use it, and then how to wean (challenge) students away from it.

      I like to repeat what I said several times. I don’t want to repeat myself like an audio recording. Instead, I like to change the pace, volume, and words per utterances. I sometimes start with the first word and the build on the sentence. ex – “I… I like… I like apples.” and then a fourth time at a natural pace – “I like apples.”

      • #10745

        I agree with your points entirely about parroting – we learn A LOT initially through parroting and mimicking what people say and do.

        With repetition, I like the varied approach you take and think many if not most teachers do this, including myself.

        However, having observed one of my son’s teachers who does this a lot but rather rapidly, I appreciate how pushy and stressful it can be for some students, even if not intended. Whilst the teacher is just trying to encourage the students, her repeating things again and again (sometimes the same way other times differently) means that there is little or no quiet time or headspace for kids to listen AND process what’s been said (even in their native language!), let along enough time to formulate and answer.

        As a result, I’m reminded again of the value of (up to ~3-4s) wait time, and recognising the difference between (a) a pause/silence that may be uncomfortable for us as a teacher but not uncomfortable for the student and in fact necessary, and (b) pauses/silences that are uncomfortable/intimidating for students.

    • #10748

      Jessica Sohn

      In this lesson, I thought setting-a-task technique is helpful. Giving them gist questions to think ahead, to have an idea before they jump into the lesson. (I think I can try this with my high level students) And overall, I think to combine it together either as reading+listening or speaking+listening would make it easier and more helpful for the students.

      For YLs, I think it will be helpful to use some fun activities along like TPR. (like mentioned above earlier)
      I’ve not yet had a class entirely focused on listening activities. But I would like to try some techniques with my students.

      • #10749

        Gist questions or tasks can be good for all levels, and TPR definitely works well with YLs but also adults. You can also adjust them to focus on whatever they need. For example, some of my students chronically dropped a/an so we did TPR listening. Each time they heard ‘a’ they raised one finger, and two fingers (politely, of course) for ‘an’. This was good especially good as those learners needed to get use to how they are unstressed, reduced sounds, e.g. We read/write in a minute but typically say/hear inna minute.

        By the way, I’ve only occasionally had ‘listening’ classes (e.g. TOEIC Listening, TOEFL Listening) but the reality is that most classes not only need to involve multiple language skills but also benefit from doing so. However, there was greater focus on listening over the other skills, particularly writing.

    • #13884

      Naoko Amano

      I would like to write about listening activities for young learners.
      I like to use music and pictures with them because it is fun and it makes them feel comfortable.

      Here are two examples:

      1) First, students listen to a song without any lyrics.
      Then, I handout strips of the lyrics, sentence by sentence, but all mixed up.
      Students listen to the music until they finish putting the lyrics in the right order on the desk.

      Watch them working together in this video (Warning: They are cute!)


      2) Second, unscramble a story using pictures
      Students listen to a short story and they put the number or write first, second, finally next to pictures on the paper.

      I give a handout with three or four pictures related to the story before they listen to the story. That help students automatically think about what will happen in the story.

      • #13908

        Great activities, Naoko, especially for young learners. And thanks for sharing the cute video, too!

        For the second, story activity, how do students check their answers?

        For both activities, at what age/ability do you think it’s good to introduce ‘work together language’ such as:
        (I think) This is first.        What do you think?          Me too.
        (Maybe) This is next.        How about you?               Hmm.
        Does this go here?

      • #13932

        Naoko Amano

        Thank you very much for our comment, Philip.

        To check students’ answer, I will show the full of the video or sometimes I read picture books.

        I haven’t let students use work together language before.  I used them and I think some students understand my instructions.

        These language are not difficult, so I think I can introduce them to elementary students. But this is effective to very active class. Even in JH students class, if they are very quiet, they don’t use them..

        Well, I think I found one of problem at my teaching.

        How can we teach these natural English language to  the students who don’t have chance to use/hear real life English out side of classroom?

      • #13956

        With new tasks for beginners, it can be helpful to provide a model. For example, you can record yourself and another person (teacher/staff) completing the task and using ‘work together language’. Later, you can record students who do this well, too, which will be even better for other students to see.

        My JHS students in Japan were almost always among the shyest and quietest (except for some very young learners (aged 3). However, working on a hands-on task together was often easier than talking to each other directly face-to-face. Being able to focus on the game/puzzle more than each other often helped them feel less shy until they got more comfortable.

    • #16336

      Rhett Burton

      Predictive Patterns
      Students find patterns in what we say. Students learn to do things before we, as teachers, even finish what we are going to say. I have level 1 students that will automatically write their name on the whiteboard as soon as I say,” Get a marker.” Students will find a lot of patterns in how we move through our lessons. Students will also start to finish my sentences when they begin to guess what I will say based on their routines and habits.

      Missing Sounds
      I also like to removing letter combinations during basic spelling quizzes. I give students most of the word but remove the graphemes. This has the students stop and focus on what they are hearing and what they need to be writing.

      • #16339

        Yes, prediction definitely a part of piecing together our understanding of what students expect to hear and what they actually hear.

        Can you give a quick example of your ‘Missing Sounds’ spelling quiz?

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