How to Teach Listening?

The teacher’s aim regarding the process of teaching is to make sure that students understand, assimilate and use English properly and get the information provided during classes. A student should be able to speak, read, write and listen correctly the language taught, and that is why we, teachers, focus on the receptive skills (listening and reading) and the productive skills (writing and speaking).
In this paper, I’ve decided to focus on the listening skills and to provide some examples of how to teach them in a modern way.

First of all, we should remember the distinction between different kinds of listening:
a) to get the general overview of the main story or message of a conversation;
b) to catch specific details such as names, numbers, addresses, etc.

As Jim Scrivener mentioned in his book, “Learning Teaching”, the teachers should use a sequence of tasks as a route map through a listening lesson. You start with a simple task, let students do it successfully, then you move on to set a more difficult task on the same recording and in the end, you provide feedback.

Harmer provided several listening activities in his book called “The Practice of English Language Teaching”, such as:

a) Listening with video (students can hear people speaking and in the same time see them)

To make this activity more attractive, we can use some techniques:
– Silent viewing (the teacher plays the video tape with the sound turned off, so the students might imagine what the characters are saying);
– Freeze frame (the teacher freezes a frame on the screen, so the students can predict what the characters will say);
– Sound only (students listen to the sound only and try to draw the place where the action happens, the characters, the weather, etc);
– Jigsaw listening (it is oriented to communication) and the steps are these:
1. The students work in groups and listen to separate small parts of a longer recording, i.e. each group hears different things.
2. They then meet up, perhaps in pairs, threes or fours, with people from groups that listened to other parts of the recording.
3. They report to each other on what they have heard and compare ideas and reach a conclusion or consensus.

The recordings can play different events: accident reports, a party, at the office, diary information from three people, a description of a place or a person, etc.

b) Listening to confirm expectations

The teacher elicits information from the students about what they know, don’t know or they aren’t sure about a topic, for example United Kingdom. The table is divided in three columns and students write on it what they know, don’t know and aren’t sure about the topic. Then they are asked to listen to a tape about United Kingdom and see if they did well the task.

c) Listening to extract specific information

The students are asked to fill in some blanks by listening to a record (weather forecast, TV news, the report of an accident, a story, etc)

d) Listening for communicative tasks

They are asked to listen to some tapes in order to perform some kind of communicative task which is as much like real life as possible (Filling in forms, Directions and Jigsaw listening).

e) Listening for general understanding

Students listen to conversations in order to get a general idea of what the main points are.

f) Listening for detail

One way of having students listen to a tape in a detailed way is to give them a script dictation. All this means that they are given the tape script with some of the words blanked out.

There are many other ways of teaching listening for all levels, in a modern and pleasant way, such as:
Listen and…
• choose the correct picture;
• walk/sit/move according to the instructions;
• choose the best answer for each question;
• say a reply to each comment you hear;
• decide which person is saying which sentence;
• draw a picture of what you hear being described;
• pick up and show the correct picture;
• listen again until you have learned the poem by heart, etc.

There are other listening activities that you can do, suitable for most classes at intermediate level or above:
• News headlines (recording the news headlines every day and setting tasks related to them);
• Home recording (interviewing people about different topics suitable and interesting for the class, followed by “fill in” exercises, using the words from the records);
• Live listening (listening to real people speaking in the class is probably the most pleasant and interactive way of practicing English)
• The Tape Gallery (the teacher records himself reading some interesting short jokes, stories or poems and invites the students to walk freely in the classroom and listen to what they want);
• Guest stars (the teacher pretends that he is a star and chats naturally for a minute or two about his life, hobbies, typical day, etc. After that, the students have to guess who the star is).
• What’s wrong with my story? (the teacher tells a story with parts that do not match the recording, e.g. characters use a car rather than walking. Learners discuss and agree which noises don’t fit with the story);
• Verb hunting (the teacher plays the recording a few times and the learners find as many verbs as possible).

“Practice of English Language Teaching”, Jeremy Harmer, Longman, 2001
“Learning Teaching”, Jim Scrivener, Macmillan, 2005


prof. Laura-Emilia Bamiopol

Școala Gimnazială Sfântul Andrei, Brăila (Brăila) , România
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