Liven up a Listening

Not sure what to do with a listening text coming up soon in the unit?
Don’t like the comprehension questions in the book?
Want some ideas to liven it up?


Prediction work can be a really useful pre-listening activity, preparing the students for what they are about to hear. Students can use their world knowledge of the topic area along with their linguistic knowledge in order to make predictions about content (this is often referred to as activating schematic knowledge).

  • KWL charts

This is an idea I took from JJ Wilson’s excellent book, How to Teach Listening.
KWL stands for Know, Want to know, and Learnt.
This idea encourages discussion of the topic before listening to raise students’ interest and give them a reason to listen.

The basic procedure:

1. The teacher introduces the topic of the listening, for example, ‘an interview with a travel writer’.

2. Students draw a table in their notes like this:20140323-002826.jpg

3. The teacher asks students to complete the table with information they know about the topic, and what they want to know about the topic.

4. Students compare this with partner.
The table may now look like this:20140323-002845.jpg

5. Students then listen to the recording for global understanding (a.k.a. listening for gist), and identify which of the topics in the W column, if any, the speaker mentions.

6. Students compare with a partner.

7. Students listen again for more information and complete the L column with information that they learnt.

8. Students again compare with a partner and if necessary, they listen again for more detail.

9. Open class feedback and clarification if necessary.

10. Follow up language work and discussion.

  • Bingo

A fun and engaging vocabulary prediction task.

The basic procedure:

1. The teacher introduces the topic (e.g. weather forecasts) and gets the students to brainstorm words connected to the topic area.

2. T asks students which words they think are most likely to come up in the listening text.

3. Students write the words on a bingo card in their notes.


4. Students listen to the recording and cross off the words they hear.

5. After listening students compare with a partner.

You can try this with the weather forecast below:

Whilst listening

  • Giving students different tasks

When we listen to many things in our day to day life, we are not interested in understanding everything, but just the salient points. For example, with a listening text like the weather forecast above, we are usually only interested in the part about where we live, or where we are going to be in the next few days. A text like this, therefore, lends itself very well to giving students individual tasks when practising listening for more detail.

An example:

Using the text above, the teacher could think of a number of situations, write these on cards and give them out to the students.

  • Student A is on holiday in the South of Spain and wants to know if it will be a good day for the beach.
  • Student B is going on a business trip visiting many countries in Scandinavia and wants to know what clothes to pack.
  • Student C is in the UK and has a walking trip planned for Wednesday and is hoping for good weather.
  • Student D lives in Switzerland and wants to know whether he will be able to cycle to work tomorrow or if he should take the car.
  • Student E is on holiday in Paris and wants to know if on Thursday it would be better to go to a museum, or on an open top bus city tour.
  • Student F is planning to visit the historical sites in Athens on Thursday and wants to to know if she will need an umbrella.

You can try this out if you like: choose a situation and listen to the weather forecast above.

In summary

So, I’ve looked at a couple of examples of approaching a listening lesson in a slightly different way. There are, of course, endless different activities for listening in class, but these are some of my current favourites. More may feature in a future post. So, if you like them and try them out, let me know how you get on!

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19 Responses to Liven up a Listening

  1. Pingback: Liven up a listening | TeachingEnglish | Scoop...

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  3. Casse-bonbec says:

    thanks for the tips ! I really like the KWL figure. I think I’ll try it soon!


  4. Pingback: Liven up a listening | Resources and Ideas for ...

  5. mariavaleije says:

    Really helpful, thanks!


  6. Pingback: Liven up a listening | Teaching English | Scoo...

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  8. Some really good tips! I’m definitely going to use some of them in my next listening lesson.
    A post about planning listening lessons I wrote some time ago might be interesting for the readers here:


    • jonnyingham says:

      Thanks Marec, an interesting post on your blog. I agree that perhaps much of the work we do on listening ‘tests’ learners rather than developing skills. Hope your next listening lesson goes well!


  9. Lidia says:

    Always interesting, John!


  10. Clare says:

    Thank you – reblogged on


  11. Ariana says:

    Interesting Read


  12. Agnieszka says:

    What a great and yet simple idea to give Ss differnciated tasks for the listening! Brilliant! Agnieszka


  13. Pingback: Liven up a listening | CELTA at STC |

  14. Pingback: Day 73: KWHL charts | A new day, a new thing

  15. Giulia says:

    Thank you, these are great ideas! I’ll definitely try them out soon.


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