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7 Fun Activities to Improve Your ESL Students’​ Listening Skills

Language learning comprises four major components – reading, writing, speaking and listening – all of which are equally important. This week, we bring you seven fun activities to improve your ESL students’ listening skills! 

1) Fill in the blank for song lyrics. 

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Find a song with well-articulated words and copy and paste the lyrics into a Word document. Remove some of the words and leave a blank in their place. If you want it to be extra challenging, you can also leave out full phrases as well. Play the song for your students two to three times and have them fill in as many of the blanks as they can. If you want, at the end of this activity, you and your students can sing the song together. 

2) Draw a story. 

Read a short story or a description of a scenery to your students and have them draw out a picture based on their interpretation. They can draw one big landscape picture or a comic strip with multiple panels. Feel free to read the story or description twice or three times so your students can catch more of its details. At the end of this activity, each student can show the class what they drew and compare the similarities and differences between their pictures!

3) Compare and contrast two audio advertisements. 

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Have your students listen to the ads of two similar products and note the similarities and differences between them. You can ask your students to draw a Venn diagram so they can organize their notes. At the end of the activity, take up their answers on the board by drawing a big Venn diagram, and have the students share their findings of similarities and differences between the two ads. 

4) Write what you hear.

Prepare a list of phrases and read them to your students while they write out word for word what they hear. It’s similar to a spelling bee, except rather than spelling out the word, they have to write the full sentences. You can change up the difficulty depending on the level of class you’re teaching. Make sure to articulate the words clearly and speak slowly for students of lower levels. For higher levels, you can try this exercise with tongue twisters to up the challenge!

5) Summarize a short story, podcast or TEDTalk. 

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Play the audio of a short story, podcast or TEDTalk two or three times and ask your students to summarize what they hear. They can take notes while listening to the audio, and then create their summary with the notes afterwards. You can also give this activity to your students as a homework assignment and have each of them listen to a different audio. Then, they have to share with the class what they learned the next day.

6) Broken telephone – word by word.

The classic game of broken telephone can be used to help students improve their listening skills. However, you can also try this alternative version which depends less on memorizing a complete sentence and more on listening clearly to each word. 

Split the class into groups of five to seven and give each team leader a different phrase, but with the same number of words and level of difficulty. The team leader whispers the first word to the next person in line, who then whispers that word to the next person until it reaches the last person. The last person writes the word on the board. As soon as one word is passed down, the team leader can whisper the next word. At the end, the fastest team with the least amount of mistakes in the sentence wins!

7) Reported interviews.

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Students are placed in pairs or can find their own partners and they have to interview each other. Some topics they can ask about include family, hobbies, childhood experiences, future goals, etc. After everyone finishes their interviews, each student reports to the class what they learned about their partner and can also assess how accurately their partner described them.

Which of these activities would you like to try with your ESL students? If you have any other activities to improve the listening skills of your students, feel free to share them in the comments below! 

Ellier Leng
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