What comes to mind when you think about teaching listening?

Have you been (over)using the typical pre/while/post- tasks, e.g, guesswork, multiple choice/ gap fills and post-listening discussions?

Do you feel that your listening classes have become rather predictable and would like to try something different?

If your answer is yes, here’s a list of 20 tasks you can try. All of them can be used in  both online and face-to-face classes.

Field, J. (2010). Listening in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

1. Drawing attention to functional language (page 21)

When: After listening for gist/detail.

Why: To focus on functional language

Procedure: Teacher plays a part of the recording that contains contextualised examples of language functions. Then, she asks questions to elicit the form and meaning.


Teacher:What did Jane say about the bags?

Students: She wanted to carry them.

Teacher: Do you remember the words she used?

Students: I’ll carry the bags

Teacher: Yes. So what was she doing?

Students: She was promising?

Teacher: Not quite.

Students: She offered.

Teacher: Exactly. Now you try. Offer to make me a sandwich.

Student: I’ll make you a sandwich.

Teacher: Offer to pay for lunch.

Student: I’ll pay for lunch.

2. Listening homework page 51

When: After class, at home

Why: To encourage students to continue practising listening out of class.

Procedure: Teacher gives students a worksheet broken down to stages- see sample below. She shares a link to a recording or video. Alternatively, she posts an audio file in google classroom and asks learners to listen and do the tasks.


Stage 1: Play the whole recording. You will hear…. What…?

Aim: To establish context and answer a global question.

Stage 2: Listen carefully and answer the questions.

Aim: To listen for detail

Stage 3: Replay and check what you’ve written.

Aim: To monitor/evaluate answers

Stage 4: Listen to the part…as far as… Fill in the gaps.

Aims: To focus on specific language and  practise spelling

Stage 5: Listen to the next part as far as….Can you guess the meaning of these words? (include a set of words)

Aim: To infer meaning of unknown words from context

Stage 6: Listen to the part….Answer a multiple choice question.

Aim: To infer an answer not explicitly stated

Stage 7: Turn the worksheet over and check your answers.

Aims: To monitor progress, take control of learning as the teacher will not always be present to help.

Stage 8: Listen again with the transcript. Replay any parts you find difficult to follow.

Aim: To compare sound to form.

3. Feedback sheet for reflective study (page 93)

When: post-listening

Why: To encourage self-diagnosis. A reflective phase during which learners consider individual problems and mark them out for further practice.  

Procedure: The teacher gives a handout with questions such as:

Roughly how many words did you understand the first time/ second time/ when reading with the transcript? (10-20-50%, etc)

Using the transcript, write down some words you didn’t recognize.

Now look at these words and write why you weren’t able to recognise them.

Write down any group of words you didn’t recognise. What was the problem?

How has your listening improved as a result of this practise?

*If you have the book you can just use the writer’s sample sheet.

4. Online activation, page 183

When: Between the first and second part of the listening

Why: to train learners to make connections between lexical items that belong to the same field. e,g, doctor, patient, hospital. Anticipating them will facilitate recognition if they occur.

Procedure: Teacher plays  the first part. Students write down the important words that they  hear. Then, they think of what words they expect to hear in the next part of the recording. Then, they listen and check.

5. Key word hypotheses (page 197)

When: pre-listening

Why: to predict content using the given words.

Procedure. Teacher projects / writes on the board the key words of a short recording. Learners predict what they will hear. They listen and check.

6. Known form new word (page 225)

Why: To draw attention to polysemous words that occur in the recording.

When: Pre-listening 

Procedure: Teacher dictates sentences with familiar words in a new sense. Learners discuss meaning.

Eg: Paulo is a bright student.

They built a house at the foot of the mountain.

7. Use of world knowledge in L1 (page 227)

When: Pre and while listening.

Why: To use L1 and context to infer meaning of unknown words.

Procedure: Teacher gives ss the topic of the recording and asks them to discuss in L1 what they might hear. Teacher writes predictions on the board (in L1). After playing the recording once to process for meaning, she plays it again. When new words/phrases occur, teacher pauses recording and asks learners if they fit any of the L1 predictions listed.

*You will need to speak your students’ L1 for this task.

Wilson, J. (2008). How to teach listening. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.

8. Pause and predict (page 85)

Why: To engage learners in listening, train them to become active listeners by anticipating information they’re likely to hear.

When: while listening

The teacher pauses the recording frequently and asks learners what they think will happen next.

9. Guided note taking (page 89)

When: while listening

Why: To help them understand transition points and structure of the passage. To practise note-taking, identifying key information.

Procedure: Teacher gives learners a worksheet with clear subheadings. They listen and complete the information missing.

10. Break it down (page 98)

When: Post-listening task

Why: to engage learners with content and on a second level with form.

Procedure: Students write a summary of the passage. First a 50-word one, then a 30-word one and finally a 10-word sentence.

11. Genre transfer (page 101)

When: Post-listening

Why: To practise writing different text types while  consolidating new language learned. To provide a creative and productive task.

Procedure: Learners transfer the text to another genre, e.g from a monologue to an interview.

12. Illustrate  (page 103)

When: while/ post-listening

Why: A creative response activity, to check comprehension in a fun way. Ideal for late classes, young learners, creative students.

Procedure: Students listen and draw an image/images that represent scenes from the passage. Then they talk about their pictures and discuss similarities and differences.

Newton, J. and Nation, I., 2009. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening And Speaking. New York. Routledge.

13. Listening grids (page 27)

When: While listening

Why: to facilitate understanding of the passage, focusing on listening not writing.

Procedure: students listen to a recording  and tick boxes to choose information they hear.

Example: Listen and tick the places the speakers have visited.

14. Information transfer (page 30)

When: While listening

Why: to facilitate understanding of the text.

Procedure: After listening once for gist, teacher tells learners to listen and complete a table.

15. Dicto-comp (page 69)

This is similar to dictogloss but students don’t take notes during the dictation. They listen carefully and then try to reproduce what they heard.  It can also be done individually

When: post- listening

Why: listening for meaning, check comprehension, practise writing, paraphrasing.

Procedure: The teacher reads a passage/ plays a recording a few times. Students just listen and then write what they remember.

Vandergrift, L. and Goh, C. (2012). Teaching and learning second language listening. New York. Routledge.

16. Narrative completion (page 172)

When: Post-listening

Why: To practise both top down and bottom up strategies.

Procedure: Teacher  reads a story/plays a recording. One part is missing; it can be  the start, middle part or ending. Students speculate on missing content using knowledge of the topic and cues from the text.

Wajnryb, R. and Maley, A., 2015. Grammar Dictation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

17. Dictogloss.

After listening for meaning, the teacher plays a part of the recording a couple of times. Students take notes and reconstruct the text in groups.

More on dictogloss here

Teaching listening, Goodith, W.,,1998. Listening . Oxford: Oxford University Press

18. Word bingo

Why: To practise selective listening, to notice specific lexical items/ focus on connected speech.

Procedure: Teacher plays recording once to process for meaning. Then she distributes the  bingo sheet. She tells  learners to read it, listen again and tick the (any number) phrases they hear.

When they have ticked all of them (you decide how many) , they shout Bingo!

They read the  transcript to check answers .

*You can download bingo worksheets here.

Lackman, K., n.d.. Lexical Approach Activities. Ken Lackman and Associates. (page 14)

19. Gapping texts/ songs to focus on lexical chunks

When: While listening

Why: to focus on language chunks instead of single words.

Teacher gives students a gapped worksheet and tell them to listen and complete with two or three-word chunks.

You can download a sample song worksheet here.

Rost, M., 2002. Listening Tasks And Language Acquisition. (page 25)

20. Clarification activity

When: post listening.

Why: to help ss use active listening strategies.

Procedure: After listening, students use these models of clarification questions to talk about their uncertainties.


What does… mean.?

I couldn’t catch the part after..

I heard a phrase that sounded like…I’m not familiar with that



A final note

Teachers often ask how they can improve their teaching skills, at least this is what I often see in various Facebook groups. In these difficult times, if you can’t afford a teacher training course, buy books! Don’t underestimate their usefulness!

These specific books were great help when studying for my DELTA Module 2 listening assignment. I highly recommend them because they are very easy to read and include tons of useful and practical activities. If you want to improve your ability to teach listening, you should buy at least two of them, in my humble opinion!

Thanks for reading and feel free to add more ideas in the comments.