In many classrooms, when it comes to listening practice, teachers play the listening track, get students to answer questions about details or gist, then move right on to the next section of the coursebook. However, I recommend giving students additional practice to improve their listening skills. Several research studies on teaching listening (see, e.g., Brown, 2011, pp. 25–27) have indicated that repeating the listening input is one of the best ways of increasing listening comprehension.
These 10 activities are short and easy to set up. They’re ideal for helping students review a listening track from earlier in the lesson or from a previous week.
1. Find the Changes
Write up eight sentences that appear in the listening track on the board. Change four of the sentences by adding, deleting, or changing words, while keeping all the sentences grammatically correct. Tell the class to read over the sentences on the board, and listen. If they hear anything different, they should go to the board and change it to match the listening.
2. Stand Up for Your Word
Choose 10 to 15 words that appear in your listening track. Give each student a slip of paper with a word on it (if you have more students than slips of paper, you can make duplicates of some words). Tell students to listen carefully for their word and stand up each time they hear it.
3. What Was That?
Play the listening track for the students, but stop it periodically. Pause and ask students “What did you hear?” If you have a very quiet class, call on individual students to tell you the last two or three words they heard. Repeat several times.
4. What Comes Next?
Play the listening track for the students, but stop near the beginning or middle of each sentence. Pause and ask students “What words come next?” Then continue the track to confirm their guesses. Repeat several times.
5. Any Questions?
Stop at the end of the first sentence. Call on a student to repeat the sentence and make a question about it. For example, if the first sentence is “Sorry, I’m late,” the student might ask “Why was she late?” or “Is she always late?” Repeat with each sentence, each time calling on a different student.
6. On The Board
Tell the class that as you play the listening track, you are going to hand out markers. If they receive a marker, they need to go to the board and write down a word or phrase that they hear in the listening. Tell them that they can’t write anything down that another student writes. You can increase the difficulty by limiting students to writing something specific you’ve been studying in class: only verbs, only pronouns, only past tense phrases, and so on.
7. In Other Words
Write 10 words on the board that have a similar meaning to words that appear in the listening track. Tell students to listen for words that mean the same thing as the words on the board, and go write them next to their “twin” when they hear them.
8. Listen and Repeat With Changes
Play the listening track, sentence by sentence. Ask students to repeat the sentences out loud, but change one word each time. Occasionally ask a student how he or she changed the sentence.
9. Walk and Talk
Tell the students to listen carefully and try to remember as much as possible. After the listening track has ended, tell students to walk around the classroom in pairs, and tell their partner everything they remember from the listening.
10. A Cinematic Experience
Encourage students to put their heads on their desks and close their eyes. Turn off the lights and tell the class to imagine the track as a Hollywood movie as they listen.
Most of these activities involve student interaction, oral responses, and movement, but nearly all of them can be altered into writing activities as well. Additionally, rather than having students listen for or change random words in the listening track, try having them listen for vocabulary, structures, or other aspects of language that you’ve been studying.
Brown, S. (2011). Listening myths. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Hall Houston teaches undergraduate students at Kainan University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. He is the author of several books and articles about ELT.