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ESL Listening Activities for Upper Intermediate Students

Updated on January 25, 2013

ESL Listening Activities

How to improve Listening Skills for Upper Intermediate ESL Students?
How to improve Listening Skills for Upper Intermediate ESL Students? | Source

ESL Listening Activities

Being able to listen and understand a person who is speaking is a fundamental skill necessary to learning any language. This article describes two ESL listening activities that may be useful in teaching listening to students of English as a Second Language. These activities can be used separately or they can be used in the same lesson plan. If used together the first activity will help to model the second activity for the students.

ESL listening Activity 1: Listening to the Teacher Read

In this ESL listening activity the teacher will read a passage while the students listen and fill in the blanks on a student handout. The advantage of this listening activity is that it mimics one of the test types in the listening portion of the IELTS test. Students preparing for the IELTS will benefit from this similarity. It should also be useful in helping other students improve their listening skills. Another advantage of this is that it is very low tech. You don't need any special equipment in the classroom.

Creating an ESL Listening Activity

Step 1 in creating an ESL Listening Activity.
Step 1 in creating an ESL Listening Activity. | Source

Create a Reading and Listening Worksheet

Find a paragraph from a book, newspaper, magazine or something online. Copy the paragraph into a word document. Copy and paste it so that the paragraph appears twice in the same document. Label the top copy “Teacher's Reference” and the one at the bottom “Student Handout.” With the paragraph under “Student Handout” select a word from each sentence, preferably a verb or a noun and remove the word replacing it with a long underscore. This gives you blanks for the student to write in.

For example: It was the best of ___________, it was the worst of ____________.

You now have a template for a reading and listening worksheet that you can print out. Saving the template will allow you to repeat this same exercise later with different students. You'll also be able to change the template to tailor it to the needs of different classes. In addition, nothing is ever perfect the first time you use it. With this in mind you will find that every time you use something like this in a class you will become aware of things that you will want to change for the next time you use it. Whenever you you discover something that doesn't work the way you like or you think something may work better a different way you can go back and change the template.

Creating an ESL Listening Activity

Step 2 in creating an ESL Listening Activity.
Step 2 in creating an ESL Listening Activity. | Source

Some Recommendations

As stated above things are rarely perfect the first time we use them. These recommendations are changes that I've made to my own templates over time. When you set up your template use double-spacing in order to give the students room to write between the lines. Regardless of the source material you use there will likely be some words that different students may not be familiar with. The better students will want to write in the definitions for those words. Using double-space gives them the room they need to make notes. If the paragraph is short enough you'll be able to fit the “Teacher's Reference” and the “Student Handout” on the same page. Once you print it out you can then cut the page in half to separate them. If you are able to get them on the same page I would recommend pasting the “Student Handout” in to the document twice more. This will give you a second page in the document with two student handouts on it. After printing the template you can then make as many copies as you need from the second page. If the paragraph is too long to fit twice on the same page then adjust the document so that the student handout is on page two by itself. You may also want to mark the words on the Teacher's Reference that are missing from the Student Handout to help you remember which words they are listening for.

Creating an ESL Listening Activity

Step 3 in creating an ESL Listening Activity
Step 3 in creating an ESL Listening Activity | Source

How to Use This in Class

When you use this in the class first explain that you will be doing a listening exercise. Explain that you will read them a passage and that they will have to fill in the blanks with the missing words that they hear you speak. Once you've explained the exercise pass out the student handouts. Make sure that the students understand what they will be doing. If everyone understands begin reading. Read through the paragraph slowly. Pause once you've finished and read through it a second time. After the second reading you can ask the students to tell you what words go in each blank. If there are blanks that they don't have filled in you can read that sentence to them again emphasizing the word that is missing. It is common for different students to miss different words. A few will hear them all the first time. Most will hear about half correctly the first time. The students may help each other if there is a word that one or two of them aren't understanding. This is fine. If there is a word that none of them understand then it may be a word that they are not familiar with and you'll need to explain it to them.

Creating an ESL Listening Activity

Step 4 in Creating an ESL Listening Activity.
Step 4 in Creating an ESL Listening Activity. | Source

ESL Listening Activity Two: Listening to Another Student Read (Pair Work)

One of the complaints I've heard from some of my students is that they find it easy to understand me when I speak but they sometimes don't understand when their fellow students are speaking in English. There could be many different reasons for this. It may be the student speaking has poor pronunciation or grammar. It may also be that the students don't communicate with each other in English enough. This activity will give them practice listening to each other speak in English. It will also give you the opportunity to move around the class and help people with their pronunciation. An advantage of this in a larger class you can get more of the students talking and actively using English. Another advantage for students prepairing for the IELTS test is that in this excersize they get to practice listening, reading, and speaking in one class. These are three of the four parts of the IELTS test.

For pair work I would look for paragraphs short enough that you can fit them twice on one page double-spaced. You will also want to have two different paragraphs for this because you will be doing the listening activity twice.

Copy the stories into a word document just like I describe above. Instead of “Teacher's Reference” and “Student Handout” label the two copies as “Reader's Copy” and “Listener's Copy.” Again remove a word from each sentence in the Listener's Copy.

Creating an ESL Listening Activity

An example of a fished ESL listening Activity.
An example of a fished ESL listening Activity. | Source

How to Use This in Class

Divide the students into pairs. Explain that in each pair one of the students will be reading while the other is listening. Make sure that they understand before you give them the handouts. As you pass out the handouts give the listener his copy first and explain again that he is supposed to listen for the missing words. Then give the reader his copy and explain that he is supposed to read the story to the listener. You want to make sure they understand this in order to keep them from simply showing each other their copies.

While they are reading to each other you will want to move around the class. Listen to how they are pronouncing the words and correct any errors you hear. Some of them will have questions for you about specific words or phrases in the paragraphs that you may have to clarify. Also you might find that one or two of the students don't understand what they're doing. You may have to explain it to them again. Often one of the students who does understand will help explain. You may avoid this trouble if you use this activity as a follow up to the first activity.

After the students have read through the first paragraph check to see if the listeners have the correct words. If they don't have the correct words you'll need to help them with this just like with the first activity. When all the listeners have the correct words repeat the activity with the second paragraph. Switch the pairs will switch so that the people who were readers the first time are now the listeners.

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2012. Wesley Meacham- This article is copyright protected and is the property of Wesley Meacham. All images in this article, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Wesley Meacham. Please do not copy this article in whole or in part without giving credit to the original author.


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