TESOL: How to Teach Listening Skills

Teaching listening skills issues and solutionsListening comprehension is an area that many students feel they need improvement in. They feel lost when they have to deal with English outside the classroom, and don’t always feel that they are making progress fast enough.

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How Can Teachers Help?

First, teachers need to encourage students to recognize that listening is a skill that takes practice. Students will not make a significant progress unless they are willing to listen to English outside of the classroom, even though it is challenging for them.

Teachers need to provide effective listening lessons that help students gain confidence and learn strategies that they can apply in different situations.

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What Are The Steps in an Effective Listening Lesson?

For a general listening lesson, the following steps provide a useful format:

  • Activate student interest and background knowledge with a relevant introduction

Keep the introduction fluency-focused to encourage more engagement with the topic. This helps warm students up to the topic. In the real world, we don’t usually listen to information without having some idea of what we are going to be listening to, and when given a choice, we don’t usually listen to things that aren’t of interest to us.

  • Pre-teach vocabulary

Pre-teach vocabulary that is necessary for understanding the text, but don’t turn this into an exhaustive pre-listening activity. The goal is to move into the main focus of the lesson, not to get bogged down with a huge list of new words. If you have to pre-teach too much vocabulary, it’s possible the listening material or task is too difficult for the level.

  • Give students a purpose for listening at each stage of the listening lesson.

From the students’ perspective, a new listening is often a wall of words from which they are able to glean small bits of meaning. Help them break through by giving them specific tasks for listening, especially at the lower levels. The first time they listen to a new text, give students 2-4 gist questions to ensure they have got the general idea of the listening text before you begin digging in more deeply.

  • Read for more detail

After you are sure students have a grasp of the main ideas, you can begin to focus on reading for more detailed understanding. There are many different activity types you can use, but as for the gist stage, give students a specific task for each activity.

  • Focus on language

After students have worked with the listening text, you can focus in on a grammar or vocabulary point that is featured in the listening. This stage in the lesson can expand beyond the themes of the lesson, and can help students build on the language they have worked with in the lesson. You can also focus on specific features of connected speech so that students learn the ways that language changes when spoken naturally.

  • Ask higher order questions

Give students an opportunity to use higher order thinking skills in English by including an opportunity for discussion on the ideas or themes addressed in the listening. Expand the topic beyond the strict limits of the listening text, and encourage students to make connections to their experience and to the world around them.

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Encouraging Extensive Listening Outside of Class

  • Have a regular ‘In the News’ focus in class. Encourage students to share information that they have learned from current newscasts.
  • Have students keep in a listening journal in which they note words and information that they have gleaned from their listening sources.
  • Encourage students to listen to English for at least 15 minutes a day, even if they have difficulty understanding what is being said. Regular listening will help habituate their ears to the rhythms of natural speech, which will help in the long run.

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