5 no-prep tasks for any listening activity

Listening seems to be one of the most challenging skills for our students to master. Books are usually packed with tons of listening tasks which usually are presented in the form of “True/False” statements, answering some questions or choosing an option in a multiple-choice task. However, when we find some material to our students’ liking, we feel that coming up with tasks will be so time-consuming that we tend to refuse even the idea of doing so. Today we want to share some simple ideas you can use with any type of listening and at almost any level. These ideas word especially nicely with stories.

5 W’s and 1 H

This task helps to develop critical thinking in your students of higher levels, but with lower levels, it can work as a simple listening practice. This technique comes from information gathering in journalism. It implies 6 questions:

  • Who is it about?
  • What happened?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
5 no prep tasks for any listening activity Skyteach

You can arrange these questions in a diadram like this: 

Then you can just print a new version for each task and write the name of the text in the middle. In case not all the information can be found in the listening task, you can ask your students to analyse and brainstorm ideas about the missing information. 

Active listening

Here, you ask your students to listen to the text carefully (this can be a storytelling activity). While listening, your students should draw what they think are the most important ideas/parts in the story. You might want to stop the story and to give them time for arranging their ideas in a picture or give them some time at the end of the activity. Later, ask them to work in pairs and try to remember the story, compare their pictures and try to retell it. If necessary, read/tell the story for the second time for them to check.


This is a variation of the previous technique. However, it asks the students to concentrate on drawing things only connected with one person/object/place. You give instructions who should focus on which person/object/thing so that later students can work in groups to rearrange the story. Tell the story twice or let them listen to it twice before proceeding. As they finish, ask them to mingle and collect all the parts of the story. Let them practise in groups.

Integrating new and old

This technique is used to teach some new vocabulary. But first, you can experiment with your students and tell them a story changing some words into the ones from a different language/some invented words from the non-existent language. Ask them to try and guess the meaning of these strange words. 

Once I went to a shop to buy some food. When I came there, I saw that they didn’t have any queso or leche for my white coffee and sandwiches. I also needed some detergente to wash my clothes. I found it next to lavalozas for washing the dishes. 

Then you can ask the students which words mean something edible/inedible in their opinion.  After that tell the same story with the new vocabulary you want them to remember. Check their understanding. 

To remember the words better, you can ask your students to draw the new words/concepts or use mnemonics. Ask students to try and tell the story in pairs using new words now: student A tells the story, student B can tick the new words. Ask students to change roles at the end of the task or in the middle of the story.

A story in 15/10/5 words

Before starting to tell a story, let your students know that they will have to summarise the main idea of the story in just 15 words. After finishing, ask them to share their ideas in groups and then summarise it in 10 words. Such shortening can then lead to actually coming up with a name for the story which will definitely reflect its main idea.

These activities may come in handy if you are super busy or have an incredible idea just before your lesson. However, never forget to check the material before using it in class — it may contain some inappropriate material for your teens. Also, you might have noticed that some of these ideas can be used with reading tasks either. Be creative and open to new things — vary your routine and share your lifehacks in our comments. Here you can find more traditional tasks for working with listening.

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