Friday, 29 August 2014

Livening Up Listening

Listening is often deemed to be one of the hardest skills for learners and can be a difficult skill to teach and develop. Once you have your degree and experience of listening to authentic/native level language, it can often be difficult to relate to our learners who haven't had the same experiences as us. In this post I aim to show you a few ways in which you can develop listening skills.

Gap fill 

This type of activity can be easily created and differentiated and helps pupils to concentrate on specific vocabulary items. Many pupils find the length of listening passages to be daunting so by signposting where they need to be looking, it can really improve confidence. You can give lower ability pupils the words required for the gaps while higher ability may have red herrings/homophones thrown in which makes them apply some knowledge of grammar or contextual knowledge to ensure they are correct. In a similar respect, giving pupils starts of sentences, for example 'Juan likes to play _______ on _______', increases the challenge by making pupils translate what they hear.

Listening Bingo

Give pupils variations of the same grid filled with structures from the listening passage they are about to hear. As they hear each one, they tick it off. Throw Red Herrings in to ensure that pupils don't just tick everything off on their grid after the first listen! To differentiate, higher ability pupils can have more to listen out for or you could give them more difficult structures.

Word ordering

Another simple activity to really focus pupils listening skills can be to give them a list of words on the board or on strips of paper and get them to put them into the order in which they appear. Doing this before completing a listening activity can boost confidence while familiarising pupils with vocabulary and the structure of the passage.

Chaotic listening

Don't be put off by the title! Passing out index cards or strips of paper with vocabulary from the passage on to pupils around the room and getting them to stand up and sit back down quickly every time they hear their word(s) can really challenge pupils while adding a little bit of light relief and fun to your lesson. For an extra challenge, get pupils to try and figure out who has the same words as them! 

Back to Back Speaking/Listening 

Give two pupils the same text but with different words missing. One pupil reads the text up the gap and then their partner takes over. The pupil has to listen to the word they are missing and note it down. Their partner carries on until their first gap and so on and so forth. As pupils are speaking to one another it also helps with pronunciation too! 


I find that pupils listening to authentic music can be a real motivator and really helps them to develop their accent and intonation. Listening to music is something that our pupils do on a daily basis and with access to such a wide range of sources thanks to the internet, it's one of the most easily accessible forms of language. Even while pupils are working, I play music and encourage them to 'Beat the Song'. This type of exposure can work wonders and even playing them translated versions of current chart songs can really help to tune their ear.




In terms of video there's a whole wealth of resources out there varying in difficulty. Children's shows such as Spongebob have universal appeal and while older pupils may find programmes like Peppa Pig childish, it's a great way of exposing pupils to basic vocabulary with images to aid their comprehension. I came across a programme called Doki whilst in Mexico which follows a cartoon dog discovering exploring aspects of daily life which went down a great with lower year groups.


Peppa Cochon

Choice grids

Give pupils options to help them! Give weaker pupils multiple choice options for a listening activity to help support them. Some pupils struggle to note down the information so giving them the option to tick/circle one of three choices really speeds up their response time and allows them to not fall behind.

Transcript Practice 

I believe this is essential at KS4/5 especially. Once pupils have listened to a passage and tackled the activity, give them the transcript and let them listen for a 3rd/4th time to make their own corrections. Pupils working with a transcript and correcting their own work is excellent for AfL and lets them take the lead. Just telling them "the answer is 'x' because you heard 'y'" means nothing to them whatsoever. Harking back to the start if the post, just because you can hear it, doesn't mean your pupils can. These also serve as a great way of revising at home when pupils can access exam audio again for example.


At A-Level I hated dictation with a passion. Being on the other side of the table has really allowed me to see the benefits of dictation activities whether it be a 'Running Dictation' carried out between pupils with very little teacher input or a teacher led dictation of a passage.

This is a four skill activity which really engages pupils while practicing vital language skills. I often place pieces of text outside the classroom and have pupils working in pairs. One pupils goes outside to read a sentence or text and has to memorise it. They then return to the classroom and recite this sentence to their partner who must listen attentively and write the sentence down exactly as their partner has said it. Pupils tend to get really involved with this type of activity without really realising the multiple benefits. This can also be easily differentiated by having a 1 star, 2 star and 3 star text for example increasing in difficulty.

SIDE-NOTE: I've actually caught pupils taking photos with camera phones because they were being lazy so just keep an eye out!

Draw Answers

Why not let pupils doodle their answers rather than writing them out in full? Obviously this isn't great for assessments as only your pupils know what they've put but when faced with lots of information sometime a quick doodle will show that pupil has understood without missing the next answer or section of text.

Have you got any ideas for making listening more interesting?
Leave a comment below or get in touch over at @MLMusings

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