Listening tasks don’t always need a lot of preparation, asking students to note down the main points or creating generic questions that you can use for a range of different material can help you exploit spoken English and the massive amount of online material available. These no prep tasks are for pre-intermediate learners but they could easily work for higher levels with a bit of tweaking.
Top down and Bottom Up
It’s generally though that we understand spoken language through a mixture of bottom up and top down processes - we build up meaning from the words and sentences (bottom up) as well as using our previous knowledge to predict and get an overall impression of what is being said (top down). Knowing a bit more about this will help you know understand how your students learn, check out this great article from the British Council.
Telling stories is a lot of fun for you and your students, but don’t just jump straight in. Think about the sort of story you are going to tell. Is it a personal true story? An anecdote? A fable? Or something else? Think about if there are any words or concepts that students need to know and pre teach these before you start. You can also prepare your learners by asking them to think about a few questions before you start – these will obviously change depending on your story.
- Who is in it?
- Where did the story take place?
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- How did it happen?
- Is the story true or false?
Tell your story as your students answer the questions. Tell it as many times as they wish. Ask students to share their responses with a partner before you elicit the answers.
Give students time to think about a story they can tell. If they can’t think of one then they can use their smartphone to search for a story on the internet – consider some motivational stories. Ask students to make notes about their story – just a few key points before you ask them to share their story with their partner. Monitor as students share stories and ask for volunteers to share their stories with the rest of the class.
2. Class Guests
Tell your students you have a guest coming into your class today (this will be you). Before you start, write family / work / hobbies on the board as headings, elicit and write three questions for each e.g.
- family - how many children has he/she got
- work – where does he/she work?
- hobbies – what sport does he/she play?
Go out of the class and return as the special guest. You could turn up your collars, put on a comedy voice, put on your sunglasses or anything to show that you are someone different. You could even be a famous person or someone that your students will know. Talk for about three minutes and make sure you give answers to all the questions you wrote on the board. Leave the room and then return as yourself. Ask students to share their answers with a partner before you elicit answers from the class. Repeat if they want you to.
Perhaps you have a student who would be willing to become another special guest? Repeat the process with a new guest and more questions.
Variation: rather than asking students to listen out for the answers to questions, simply ask them to note down the main points that they hear.
3. Online Film Trailers
There are hundreds of online trailers you can show on the class computer or on student smartphones, head to YouTube and search trailers 2018/19/20. Before you begin, dictate some questions to students that they will answer as they listen:
- 1. Tell me the title.
- 2. Tell me two people in the film
- 3. Where is film?
- 4. What’s it about?
- 5. Would you like to see it?
Students share their answers before you elicit corrections.
Variation: Ask students to watch different trailers on their smartphones and then share their information.
4. Listen to Online News
Before you begin, ask students to tell you the biggest news stories of the day, write some of these as headlines on the board and discuss them. Before they listen, write question words that student will use to find information from the audio e.g.
When / When / Who / Why / How / How many
Explain to students that they don’t need to understand every word they hear as long as they can pull some meaning from the audio.
Play the first two minutes of the headlines from an online news agency such as:
- The BBC World Service Headlines
- CNN (American news)
- BBC News headlines on YouTube (turn the screen off)
- ABC News headlines (from Australia)
Ask students to share their answers with each other before you elicit the answers as a class. This might be a weekly challenge for your students – perhaps first thing on Monday morning.
Don’t forget songs in your classroom as well!
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