Supporting Quality English Teaching

Improving listening skills

Improving listening skills

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Anthony Smyth

Anthony Smyth

Are you listening out there blog readers?

Hi, I’m Anthony and last time I blogged about grammar skills. Today, I want to focus on listening skills.

I’ve found many students have become very competent in reading English but feel out of their depth when listening to English dialogues. All too often, listening tasks are sidelined because “they are boring” or simply used in a test format.  Let’s be honest, how often do you test listening skills rather than develop them?  It’s our job to challenge and develop students’ listening skills using a variety of activities.
I have talked to fellow teachers about ideas they use regularly in class. Here are eight all time favourites for you to try, or remember to use, or experiment with.  Which one do you like best?

Listening Ideas

1.Deduction from voice
A simple statement repeated in a variety of ways from which students try to deduce (according to the way is said) what is being suggested.
Eg: “It’s hot in here, isn’t it?” = “Can we open a window?”
This focuses attention on what the speaker means rather than the words used.

2. TPR heaven
Students listen to some recorded instructions and do exactly what they are asked to do. As a follow up, students write their own set of instructions for others to follow.
Eg: Copy a Word document to a PowerPoint slide; prepare a simple stew.

Encourage YL to have fun with listening

Encourage YL to have fun with listening

3. Action verbs
This is more for Young Learners and lower levels. Students hear a set of action and mime them. Eg: reading a book, uncorking a bottle of wine. Well the last example is clearly for adults, but you get the gist!

4. Jigsaw listening
Use three or more CD players in different corners of the class. Spilt the listening text so there is vital information in each part. Students make notes as they listen, then collate their information with a partners so as to answer some set questions or do an info-gap task referring to the whole recording.

5. Information gap
Form filling. Students listen in order to complete a form/table/set of locations on a map/drawing or diagram.

6. Sound effects
Four possible tasks:
a) Students identify sounds (where? who? why?)
b) Students listen to a fixed set sound effects (or music) and build a story to match. This is performed like a radion show.
c) Students have a selection of sound effects and they use some of them to liven up a story they create.
d) Students listen and use modal of deduction to say what might happen next.

Fun with Listening

Fun with Listening

7. Purpose
Students listen to a number of extracts and match them with the purpose. Eg: a speech / a radio advert / a conversation between strangers / quit a job. They also decide on and create the wider context.

8. Similarities / Differences
Play two recordings, one after another. Students listen out for similarities / differences between the two. They then summarise the main points found.

You can download all the listening ideas here.

What do you think about those ideas? Do you have better ways of developing rather than just testing your students listening skills? Remember that you can share them with us via comments section below, I’m all ears for your suggestions ;-)