Great Ideas for Teaching Listening Skills in the ESL Classroom
Of the four language skills taught in an ESL classroom, listening skills are often overlooked as teachers can be unsure how to make these lessons interesting and relevant to their students. However, as listening skills are a fundamental part of the language learning process, it is vital that we give them the classroom time they deserve. The good news is that there are many ways to make listening skills lessons both fun and productive. Here are 6 ideas for livening up your lesson plans.
One simple way to engage your students in a listening lesson is to use popular culture as a tool. Most students would much rather listen to music, TV shows, movies, or podcasts than sit through a dry monologue from a textbook. To add more complexity you can assign each student specific words to listen out for during the task. This can also be a good opportunity to introduce or further highlight reductions such as gimme, oughta, and dunno that you may well come across in the dialogue.
This type of activity is also a great time to work on unfamiliar words. The students should be encouraged to make a note of any words they don’t know so you can teach them later. If the students are working without a script they will need to guess the spelling of the unfamiliar word and perhaps write down some surrounding words to help identify the mystery vocabulary. This activity is not only great fun for the students but also valuable practice for further learning outside of the classroom.
This activity takes little planning and will get the whole class involved. Divide the students into pairs and supply each pair with a ‘secret phrase’ that is appropriate for the language level of the class. For lower levels an example might be “I love pizza” or “My car is red”, while higher levels could have tougher phrases such as “Joe plays football every Saturday” or “My dog was abducted by aliens last night.”
Give the pairs of students 5 to 10 minutes to come up with a dialogue that includes their secret phrase. Each pair then performs their dialogue in front of the whole class. While each pair presents their dialogue, the rest of the class must listen and try to pick out the secret phrase and write down what they think it might be. After each pair has completed their turn, the rest of the class reveal their guesses and any that are correct win a point. If nobody guesses the correct phrase, the performing pair get the point.
For this activity you need to prepare a number of different printouts that have celebrities shown in grid form. It doesn’t matter if the students don’t know the identity of every celebrity as they will then need to describe facial features rather than just give a name. Place the class into pairs and give one of them a celebrity grid and the other a blank version of the grid and a pile of celebrity faces cut out individually. Each pair should then sit back to back and be instructed not to peak over each other’s shoulders.
The students with the celebrity grid have to give instructions to their partner on how to fill out the blank grid. For example, the student’s instructions might be “The picture of George Clooney should be in the bottom right corner and Beyoncé should be in the square above George.” To help things along you may need to pre-teach a few words such as column and row before the activity starts.
Describe the Picture
Another variation on the celebrity game is to give one member of the pair a picture and the other a blank piece of paper. The picture can be printed off the internet or you can make your own. Sitting back to back, the first student must describe the different parts of the picture to their partner who then draws the descriptions onto the blank page. Once complete, the partners switch roles and the first student is given a different picture to describe. Once everyone has had a go at describing and drawing you can compare the pictures to see who has got the closest to the originals.
Listen and Quiz
If your students have access to computers, tablets or smartphones, provide each one with a specific song, short script or podcast to listen to. Each student should listen through their assigned piece several times and then come up with a set number of quiz questions based on what they have heard. The class then listens to each student’s piece in turn and completes the associated quiz for each one. This activity provides plenty of listening practice when producing and answering the questions, and your students will love the chance to be the teacher in charge of setting questions.
If your lesson is focused on the study of specific vowel sounds, this activity can be very useful and a lot of fun. The simple version of the activity is to give each student two different colored cards, each of which is assigned to a specific vowel sound. For example, a green card could be assigned to the /ae/ sound as in “cat”, while a yellow card could be assigned to the /ei/ sound as in “day”. The teacher can then read through a list of words and each time the students hear one of these vowel sounds they raise the appropriate card in the air.
To take the activity to the next level, you can add more colored cards that are assigned to different vowel sounds and then read through another word list. Finally, the teacher can read out whole sentences where each word contains a different vowel sound. The students must put their colored cards in the correct order to match the sounds they heard in the sentence.
Also Read: The 5 Best TEFL Games for Adult Students
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Are you ready to teach listening skills in the classroom?
Despite what some teachers may think, listening skills lessons in an ESL class can be enjoyable, productive and easy to plan. Hopefully some of these ideas have given you the boost you need to revamp your lesson plans.
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