The Right Stuff: 3 Brilliant Beginner Listening Activities

The Right Stuff
3 Brilliant Beginner Listening Activities

Joyce B
by Joyce B 13,745 views

Engaging beginner level students with useful listening exercises is crucial to their success as learners and continued development.

Listening tends to be an extreme area of challenge for these students and it is necessary to bring in brilliant, bright listening activities to build confidence and stimulate conversation.

For any listening exercise it is essential that the directions and the aims are clearly defined. The exercises should always contain communication tasks so that learners are actively listening and also using their listening skills to speak up. Some options might be to have listeners obtain facts, find the main idea, follow directions, or display general understanding in order to respond or craft questions.

Try These 3 Brilliant Listening Activities with Your Beginner Students

  1. 1

    Chinese Whispers or Telephone

    Chinese Whispers, otherwise known as Telephone is a popular and easily adaptable game that can lead to a lot of fun listening and speaking. The game consists of one phrase or line being whispered from student to student until the end when they discover if they were able to replicate it accurately. The bigger the line of people the whisper must go through the more humorous and numerous the errors will be. The rules of the game are simple, but you could always add more guidelines if you want to make play more challenging. First, students must whisper the phrase or sentence to each other. Second, it is a good idea to have a list of the phrases, sentences or sayings that you want students to practice. You could write them on cards or on folded pieces of paper. You want to make sure that only the person who begins has access to the card. Often with beginners, the teacher should be the originator of the sentence that will go around. It not only takes the pressure off student number one, but it ensures that the sentence is read correctly at least once. However, once the class has played a few rounds, it's wise to challenge the first student to decipher the message on the card and then whisper it to the next person. The whispering is an interesting element because students are not used to talking so quietly and it takes more effort to annunciate when whispering. It's not just a listening exercise, but one that focuses on speaking and the miscommunication that can so often occur during communications. Students of all ages and levels really get a kick out of the game Telephone.

  2. 2


    Storytelling, even in a very simple form demonstrates natural language, and on-the-spot comprehension. Start out by explaining that you are going to tell a brief story about something that happened in your life the previous week. For example: “I went to Prague this weekend. I met some friends and had a great time.” It is then the students job to think of questions to gain more detail about your experience. They should refer back to the board for question structures, and utilize Wh-questions like who, what, where and when. After they have exhausted all the options of questioning, tell them your story utilizing all the answers to the questions that they asked you. This shows them not only how to tell a story, but what details to include, and how to listen and ask for specific details.

    If you want to add more detail to this activity, you could put students in pairs and have each partner talk briefly about something that happened to him/her last week. The second member of the pair listens and asks follow up questions trying to form a question for each of the six Wh- information question words. The first member answers the follow-up questions, elaborating on the story as initially told. Members of the pair switch roles so each person has a chance to tell a story and answer questions.

    This activity can be adapted for different grammar points, and is especially good for practicing beginning tenses. Students could talk about their daily routine, explain their family, outline a future goal or challenge, or explain a sequence. This activity can be as short or as detailed as you desire, and students can put their own spin on the stories as well as the questions.

  3. 3


    Putting students into pairs to do short, simple interviews on a variety of topics is a wonderful way to get them acquainted while they are speaking and listening intently. For beginners interviews should focus on question creation, tense work, and familiar vocabulary. Because beginners often rely heavily upon using exactly the structures that are detailed out for them, interviews challenge them to combine everything they are learning into one conversation. Any chance to work on different types of questions and how to create them will be an invaluable resource for students at this level. You can organize interviews by giving groups of words that they must then create into questions and ask their partner. For example family/weekend would lead to questions about what the family did this weekend, perhaps utilizing some question types written out on the board. You could also do interviews that are more free-form, where you give the students a topic like hobbies. They would then ask each other 5 to 7 questions on that topic. With any interview, you want to be sure that each half of the pair takes turns asking the questions. You will also want to be sure to build in time for each set of pairs to debrief or paraphrase what they discussed to the larger group.

Listening exercises for beginners are central to their language development and each and every class should incorporate many different exercises focused on listening.

Keep students involved, motivated, and listening to one another for stellar results!

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