How to Teach Listening to ESL Students

How to teach listening

How and Why to Teach Listening to ESL Students

Listening is an extremely important skill if students want to speak fluently in English. No matter how well you speak, if you don’t understand what your conversation partner said, your answer will be a little awkward at best, or totally random at worst. In order to help our students, we need to include some practice with listening into our English classes. Here’s some basic advice on how to teach listening to ESL students, including a lesson plan template and some ESL listening activities.

ESL Listening Lesson Plan Template

1. Set the context. This introduces the theme of your listening topic. For example, if your listening is about shopping, you could ask students whether or not they ever buy things without trying them on and whether or not they’ve had good or bad experiences with that. Or, if your topic is travel, you could ask students what are 5 things that people do while they’re spending time waiting at an airport. It’s best to have students discuss the question for a couple minutes with their partner and then quickly elicit some answers from the class.

2. Pre-Listening Task. Next, you’ll need to assign students a pre-reading task. Some of my favorites ones are prediction tasks which lead into the next step. For example, in class last week the topic was problems while traveling. I had students think of 5 common travel problems with a partner. I then elicited some answers and wrote 3 of them on the board. You could also show them a picture and have them predict something based on that. Or, you could introduce some of the vocabulary words from the listening that you think the students won’t know.

3. Listening #1. The students listen for the overall picture the first time. You can have them see if their prediction were true, if you did this in step #2. Or, you could give them some very simple T/F questions. Basically, anything that gives them a reason to listen. Have students compare answers with a partner and then quickly go over them together with the class, but don’t spend too much time with this.You don’t want to give away too many details because they’ll listen one more time in the next step.

4. Listening #2. Give students some more difficult comprehension questions, they’ll listen again, check answers with a partner and then with the class. You can spend a bit more time discussing the answers if necessary than you would in the previous step.

5. Application. Students have to apply the concepts from the listening to their own lives in order to make it more memorable. The best kind of things you could do are something that involves students giving their opinions, such as asking them if they agree or disagree with XYZ. Or, you could have students do a survey and discuss the answers. Another idea is to have them pretend to be one of the people in the listening while the other one is a news reporter and they interview each other. Get creative and make listening fun and interesting!

More ESL Listening

The sky really is the limit and the whole world is open to you, if you have high-level students. I’ve used TV shows, movies, and even Podcasts (Serial is great) in my classes before with excellent results. Students love using authentic material because they’re relevant, interesting and gives them confidence that they can go out into the real-world and understand what people are saying. Remember that the best things to choose for ESL listening activities are things that are just slightly higher than their level. If you can assist them to understand, that’s how students make gains in their listening skills.

I hope you’ve picked up a few tips on how to teach listening to ESL students. If you’d like some ideas for speaking and listening games and activities for your classroom, check out this book on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. Less than a dollar for plenty of ESL speaking awesome.

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