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English Teaching tips: Five tips to liven up your listening lessons!

EnglishTeaching Tips listening

No more boring listening lessons: Five tips to liven them up!


No! Listening does NOT have to be boring

Picture the scene. You stand up in front of your class and gleefully announce: “Hello everyone! Today we’re going to practice listening skills!” Do your students spontaneously cheer in unison? Or is there an instantaneous, palpable drop in energy and a round of all too familiar eye rolls? For many students, the idea of a listening skills lesson doesn’t exactly ignite the soul. But the truth is that listening does NOT have to be boring. Check out these 5 tips for English teaching to make your students LOVE your listening lessons!

Let’s take for granted that you know how to first structure a listening skills lesson

Of course, completing your CELTA course at clic International House will provide you with all the tools you need to plan an effective and logical listening class. For those who have not yet completed a CELTA or TESOL/TEFL course, the structure of a listening skills lesson is very similar to a reading lesson.

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s look at five tips to liven up those listening lessons!

1. Grab the attention of the class 

Before launching into the listening, it is vital that you capture your students’ attention and create interest in the text and the topic. A typical technique you’ll learn all about on your clic CELTA course is using images or wordles to have students predict the topic, then listen to check predictions. As well as providing a focused reason for listeners to learn, prediction is motivating as it gives the learner that (hopefully!) satisfying moment of finding out they were correct. Yessssssss!

2. Mix it up! The possibilities are endless

Listening activities don’t always have to involve circling a, b or c. With a little imagination and effort, exercises can be created or adapted to increase motivation. Following on from the previous topic of prediction, why not try out J.J. Wilson’s KWL chart technique from his book How to teach listening? Tell your students the topic of the listening and ask them to draw a grid with a K (know) column, a W (want to know) column and an L (learnt) column. In the K column, students write what they already know about the topic, in the W column what they would like to know, and finally, while listening, students complete the L column. Varying types of listening activity can work especially well to increase motivation for young learners, and the IHCYLT Young Learners course at clic will inspire you with umpteen ideas. Instead of listening for specific words, make it physical by creating a word grab – print keywords from the audio on pieces of paper and students grab them as they hear them. Listen and colour. Listen and draw. The possibilities are endless!

3. Live listening: Design your own listening: yes you can!

Audios don’t always have to come from course books which can sometimes be outdated, dry or irrelevant. One of many ways you may be encouraged to adapt the course book on the clic CELTA course is by designing your own listening – not as scary as it sounds! Write your own story, come up with an amusing dialogue, have a fellow teacher help you act it out. This brings added visual benefits. Body language, facial expressions and gestures can help convey meaning, making it easier for learners to understand the ideas. Creating your own listening also means you can:

  • Tailor the subject towards your students’ interests
  • Adapt the level of challenge for your own group

Fulfil your childhood fantasy of being an actor by giving the performance of a lifetime!

4. Now you’re talking: Let your (and their) imagination run free!

Just because you are “doing a listening lesson” does not mean that students should sit passively for the entire class without participating. Pepper your class with pair work: encourage a good old chinwag in the pre-listening stage, get students comparing answers after each listen, and make sure you include a relevant and rousing finale: debates, role-plays, discussions.

5. Do it yourself! The world is bursting with unlimited and free resources

Listening doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom. There are a multitude of fantastic websites that students can use at home, such as learners can choose their favourite song and complete gap-fill activities to learn the lyrics. What could be more motivating, especially for teens and younger adults, than being able to belt out your favourite tunes without making embarrassing mistakes with the lyrics? For higher-level learners, TED allows students to spend twenty minutes watching fascinating talks on all sorts of subjects. This not only provides practice with listening skills, but also nuggets of wisdom which could be the basis for stimulating classroom discussion. Subtitles in English are available and can be used to learn new vocabulary. Also, don’t forget to recommend TV series to your students! There is something for everyone, from programmes like Friends for lower level learners, to Game of Thrones for the more advanced. Whatever your students choose, make sure it is something that interests and motivates them.


What are you waiting for? Get out there and get those students listening!