It is far beyond any doubt that listening practice is vital when learning a language. Students now can be exposed to a wealth of activities which are available online and offline. However, listening activities must be designed in the way that they hook the learners and engage them totally in the learning process.
In order to have a productive listening session teacher must conduct the listening by these stages:
1. pre-listening — to prepare the learners for the listening activity, to set a context, familiarize them with the unknown vocabulary, arouse interest.
2. while-listening — this is the main task the teacher wants the learners to focus on to improve listening skills. It can be True/False statements, comprehension questions, etc.
3. after-listening — its aim is to turn the listening material into personalized use with the help of roleplays, personalized questions, simulations, etc.
This article aims at giving some practical guidance to teachers who want to spice up the listening activities.
One of the most important stages of any listening activity is the appropriate setting of the context and how well-prepared the learners are. For this purpose,
— learners may be given some pictures which they describe and try to guess the listening topic. After listening to the audio/video they may compare their initial answers to the real story.
— When learners are given some video tasks to work on, to make the pre-listening stage more engaging teacher may put the video on silent mode for them to watch the then discuss in pairs what it is about. Later on, they watch the video sound on and compare their ideas.
— Teachers need to equip learners with blocking vocabulary in order to smoothen the listening process. Key words may be taught with the help of personalized examples, pictures, definitions, etc.
— Teachers may write out the key words from the listening, work on their meaning and ask students to work in pairs and make up a possible scenario of the listening content. Later on, they compare their ideas with the original.
— Teacher may give a list of characters’ names and some very basic info about them or their photos if its is a video listening (pictures can be taken with the help of a simple screenshot), each student chooses one character and tries to predict his/her role in the overall story. When they listen to the real story, they pay attention to their character’s actions and try to understand whether their predictions were right.
— If learners are practicing multiple choice or True/False listening activity, questions/statements can be discussed in pairs and they can choose possible right answer.
These activities are the continuation of the ones mentioned in pre-listening stage. Since pre-listening stage is more about predictions, the main idea of while-listening task is to compare the guessing with the original. During while-listening activities students need to listen for gist (general information) first then listen for detail (true/false statements, comprehension questions, multiple choice questions, etc).
— After watching the video on silent mode and coming up with their predictions, learners work in pairs, one partner watches first part of the video sound on and meanwhile tells his partner what is really happening there. Then he partner does the same for him/her. In this way during while listening activity both partners need to listen carefully.
— As for the vocabulary lists, students try to signal those parts of the video where these words were used, how many times they were used and tell the story anew using the target language.
— In case when learners initially choose a character and guess his actions, during while-listening activity they pay attention only to what that character is doing whether his/her predictions were right about him.
— Learners may be also asked to write comprehension questions for their peers.
These activities mainly aim at integrating the target material into the real-life and personalized practice in order to keep the authentic use of the target language, make the learners feel that whatever they learn they turn into real-life experience in terms of language use.
— Nearly for all types of listening or video activities teacher may give learners some personalized discussion questions, like What did you like/dislike about the video? Why? How would you behave if you were the main character? Is there anything which surprised you? Do you agree/disagree with the main idea? Why? What did you learn from the video?, etc.
— They may prepare a similar video/presentation on the same topic with their vision of it, with their own ideas. For example, if they have watched a video on Job Interview tips, they may come up with a poster presentation stating their own interview tips. With more motivated and flexible students you may practice essay writing in which they reflect their thoughts on what they have listened to or watched. Essays then can be swapped and commented on.
Listening is a very useful skill for each learner and when they gradually feel progress they get more motivated. Therefore, all the mentioned techniques can come at handy when the teacher aims at providing students with meaningful and engaging listening tasks.
You can look at some more interesting ideas and useful resources:
— How to Teach Listening in the ESL Classroom: 15 Valuable Activities That Create Solid Skills
— 8 Creative and Engaging ESL Listening Activities for Adults