All Ears Up Here: Listening Practice for Every Level

All Ears Up Here
Listening Practice for Every Level

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 17,551 views

If you teach listening class, you probably have a good staple of materials you use with your students.

Most text books come with recorded files or cds, and you have your favorite websites to go to for all sorts of listening activities. But what happens when you teach multiple levels of listening? That is one class with beginners, intermediate students, and advanced learners all at the same time. How do you make one activity work for beginners, intermediates, and advanced students? Here are two ideas for making one activity work for a variety of levels. And you may just get inspired to use some not so typical materials in class.

3 Different Level Ideas for Using Music

  1. What is one way to get anyone to start talking? Ask them what type of music they like to listen to. Music is a universal – people in every culture all around the world make music. Sometimes it means chanting to a didgeridoo and other times it’s a pop album complete with glitter studded cover. But everyone loves music, and that goes for ESL students at every level, too. But how do you make listening to music work for every level of learner?

  2. 1

    Beginning Students

    For beginners, keep it simple. Choose songs with easily discernable lyrics, and use each song as the basis for a cloze activity. Students don’t have to understand every word in the song. Instead you can choose specific words for them to focus on. Type up the lyrics to the song and then delete key words that you want students to listen for. Then as you play the song, have students fill in the missing words. Be sure to play each song at least twice or even better three times so they can listen and double check their answers.

  3. 2

    Intermediate Students

    Don’t put away that speaker if you teach intermediate students. Ask your class members to choose songs that you will listen to and learn in class. Again, grab the lyrics for your students and create cloze exercise if you like, but keep going. Ask students to guess the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary in the song and use these words for your favorite lexicon building activities. Then have students learn to sing the song. This will not only be fun but will also be good for pronunciation practice, intonation, and rhythm in English.

  4. 3

    Advanced Students

    Your advanced students love music, too. You can do both of the above activities with them and still see benefits. The more difficult the words are to distinguish in the song, the more challenging the activities will be. For your advanced students, consider making rhyming words in the song ones they have to listen for. This will give them good practice with minimal pairs. Once they know the way a song is supposed to be sung and you’ve had some classroom karaoke, challenge students to write a parody of the song. If they aren’t familiar with parodies, choose a Weird Al Yankovic as an example. He takes popular melodies and writes his own lyrics to them. One of my favorites is Word Crimes which also teaches some English grammar in the process. Then have groups perform their parodies in front of the class, extra credit to anyone who performs the song on an instrument instead of using the YouTube karaoke accompaniment.

3 Different Level Ideas for Using Video Lectures

  1. YouTube may be one of the greatest resources an ESL teacher has. With a click of a button, you can bring real life listening into any classroom around the world, even if you are the only native English speaker in town. One of my favorite things about YouTube is the college lectures anyone can watch. I’m a student at heart and love learning about new things whenever I can. It’s a bonus when those learning opportunities are free. You can use resources like this with your ESL students, and you should especially when your students are planning on doing their upper education in English speaking colleges and universities.

  2. 1

    Beginning Students

    Beginning students may struggle when it comes to listening to college lectures. For students at this level, the best thing you can do is give them exposure to things they already know. In other words, choose a basic lecture that does not give them new information but is a repeat of what they have already learned, either in your class or in another setting. Start by introducing the topic the lecture will cover. Ask students to brainstorm what they already know about that topic on a piece of paper. Play a short section of the lecture to expose students to speech patterns in English, and give them a transcript to follow along with. Three times is usually good when it comes to playing videos for beginning students. Then ask them what they learned from the video. See if they can answer basic comprehension questions about the lecture or put the main points of the speaker in order. Then let them practice talking about the same topic.

  3. 2

    Intermediate Students

    Intermediate students have more listening skills and should be able to do more with a college lecture. They should be able to gather new information from a native speaker as they watch the lecture. Try giving them a blank outline and see if they can fill in the major points the professor makes. See what vocabulary they can define from the context, and follow up the video with a short quiz to see how much students understood. Help ease your students’ worries by not grading or collecting their quizzes.

  4. 3

    Advanced Students

    Advanced students should be ready to sit in a lecture, at least once they complete your ESL program. So by exposing them to academic lectures now you are preparing them for the next level of English they will encounter. For these students, play the lecture and have them take notes just like they would if they were members of the class. Talk about any challenges they faced as they listened, and see if students got the most important points of the lecture by giving them a quiz afterwards. Then challenge students to craft a response to what they heard either supporting or refuting an opinion the lecturer expressed.

Not every activity is appropriate for every level ESL student, but some like listening to music or college lectures are more flexible than others.

If you are teaching listening, and particularly if you have a mixed level class, try one of these activities and see that you don’t have to recreate the wheel for every member of your class.

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