5 listening activities that don’t require worksheets

by Britta

audioclass_blogYou may have downloaded our piñata video and watched it with your students. You probably then also downloaded the transcript and did a very simple listening activity in that you asked your students to watch the video and follow the transcript, i.e. to link the sound of the words with their written form.

Learning to listen – but how?

A few years ago, I attended a workshop by an AQA examiner and he explained that the reason that many students perform less well in their listening test is that there is not enough listening practice out there. There is a lot of listening comprehension testing but not enough practice that helps students improve listening performance.

In this context, a graded language learning video and a transcript are great tools for teaching listening skills as they help students to recognise the spoken form of words that they know.

And there are many more, of course. Worksheets with visuals such as pictures, symbols and maps help, as do tables where students listen and tick boxes or gapped texts where students listen and write.

But what do you do when there is neither a worksheet nor a transcript provided nor do you have time to create one yourself?

Luckily, there are activities to improve listening skills that don’t require worksheets  – though they do require preparation. I would always recommend that you listen to a new video/track once, before you start using it with students.

Here then are my top 5 listening activities that don’t require worksheets: 

1. Make a gesture when you hear a certain word!

Students listen and e.g. hold their thumbs up when they hear a yes or shake their heads when they hear a no. At a more advanced level they can e.g. put their hands on their head when they hear a complicated word or hold up their hands when they hear a question, a statement or a part of a sentence such as an adjective.

2. Listen for emphasis!

Students listen and e.g. hold their thumbs up when they think someone is making a positive comment on a subject or hold their thumbs down when they think someone is making a negative comment.

3.  Listen for certain information!

Students listen and repeat – shout out – the information. For a quieter alternative, they write the information down. Initially names work well (people, country, town, street etc.)

4. Predict the next word!

Students listen, you stop the video/ track and students say the word(s) that they think follows/follow next.

5. Write down the words that you can hear!

Students listen and write down as many words as they can catch. Then they exchange lists and correct their friend’s list or add more words to it with a second playing of the video/ track. 

Why don’t you try these with one of our downloadable MP3 tracks @ es.maryglasgowplus.com and let me know how it went?

How do you integrate listening into your lesson? Which listening activity works well for you?

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6 thoughts on “5 listening activities that don’t require worksheets

  1. A few years ago, I attended a workshop by an AQA examiner and he explained that the reason that many students perform less well in their listening test is that there is not enough listening practice out there. There is a lot of listening comprehension testing but not enough practice that helps students improve listening performance

    – I so agree with this comment. Other than the teacher’s input, listening activities can be quite scarce in the language classroom. I love the suggestions as well with the thumbs up and predicting the text- I will incorporate these points this week. Developing those discriminative listening skills have been a secondary focus of mine this year. After 9 years of teaching, I learned that students do not have to know every word or even the exact context in order to work on their discriminative listening skills. For example, I have used Tunein radio on my Smart phone for authentic listening exercises. This takes a bit of time and preparation, but I find a podcast of an age-appropriate show. I think last year I was listening to an online Mexican radio personality’s take on bullying. They show featured words like: acoso físcio, insultos, abuso psicológico, los maestros y los padres. The idea was to have students write down words they heard with the intention of “piecing” the story together. The goal for me is for them to isolate these sound bites first, then try to make sense of what is going on. Thinking back, I could have told them the content and then have them provide spoken text evidence of the theme.

    Last week, we ended our unit on Education around the world, and I was working with students on their Spanish essay. Well, as we all know, when the kiddies see you focused on one person for more than one minute- that is permission for them to check out. Luckily, I had just bought this Spanish CD composed by Natalie King Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole and I put it on. I had my seventh graders listen to the “Ballada” and write down words they heard. Honestly, this was a “keep you busy” task while I work with other students, but they took it to heart and had flowing lists of words I had not even taught them. These were words they came across incidentally through our reading (Mary Glasgow and mini novels are a mainstay in my class). They had corazón, amor and all of those nice fuzzy words abundant in Latin songs.

    Another idea for listening exercises is having students listen to different accents spoken in Latin America. During my student teaching practicum, I witnessed one of the neighboring teachers do this. At the time, I was learning Spanish myself and was fascinated. For us in the U.S, this is really important for students to know that ALL Spanish-speaking people are not only from Mexico- a side note is that I a teaching the that Spain is not in Mexico (I recognize that we North Americans can be very geographically challenged!). The activity she did with them was a great segue into differences among Spanish-speaking dialects and made them focus on the same greetings but by different people.

    • So many thoughts here, Alicia, enough food for thought for a whole webinar! Especially interesting to me the dialect aspect. I guess there isn’t enough graded material out there because it adds another dimension and to incorporate into an ordinary listening practice might add too many additional complications. Important for kids to know though. For a fun activity I am thinking along the lines of comparing and contrasting, having the same dialog played out in different dialects . I shall propose to our Spanish editors – Britta

  2. On that note: Just got an email from a teacher in New Jersey who says about our Audio “…is great also because it includes all the variations of pronunciations from various countries, which is something our students need to learn“. I guess having kids listen to different accents is something a lot of teachers are keen to do – Britta

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