3 awesome listening activities for advanced esl students

3 Awesome Listening Activities for Your Advanced ESL Students

So, your advanced ESL students are bored with old-fashioned cassette tapes.

Of course they are — I mean, where did you even find cassette tapes?

Want to reward hard-working English students with some fun listening activities?

Then ditch those ancient teaching relics and read on!

You have your students playing a great line-up of vocabulary games. They are thinking in English faster than ever thanks to your timed ESL games using a ticking clock.

You have even managed to get your shyest students involved and motivate the Debbie Downers.

Now you are going to improve your students’ listening skills with more fun challenges!

Teaching an advanced English class can seem like a no-brainer at first. Your first ESL lesson plans probably started out as simplistic, bare bones outlines where you’d plan to teach a lesson and assign some relevant homework. How’d that work out for you?

Sooner or later, we teachers all realize that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to keeping students interested.

Advanced ESL students need to be drawn into the material in a way that is completely different than with beginners. They have begun to grasp the culture associated with the language and, as a result, dipping into this culture can be one of the best ways to keep advanced ESL students engaged.

When planning listening lessons, try using some of these ESL exercises to keep advanced students interested and on their toes.

3 Awesome Listening Activities for Your Advanced ESL Students

1. Musical ESL Listening Activities

When ESL students first start out on their English language learning journey, they are usually already slightly familiar with British and American culture. This can be an advantage for teachers looking to get their students interested in activities, especially once students have acquired a fairly advanced level of English.

English songs can be used in several different ways when attempting to create a useful advanced listening activity. The first step is to choose an appropriate song. Often oldies are some of the best choices given their complex lyrics, but some more modern songs can be used as well. When picking a song to use in class, consider what language point you are seeking to work on and go from there.

If you want to work on general comprehension, pick something with a story like Bohemian Rhapsody, Someone Like You, Blackbird or Hallelujah. If you want to work on different grammar points, try Yesterday for different past tenses or I Wish I Were in Love Again for the English subjunctive.

Whichever song you decide to use, the first step is to isolate the point you want to work on. Your students will be discovering it on their own. Some points may be grammar or vocabulary-related, others may be rhyming schemes or identifying different sorts of adjectives.

No matter the grammar point you decide to isolate, the next step is to prepare lyrics sheets with the isolated point blanked out. Leave a blank for the students to fill in the correct words.

Start the class by playing the song. Pick a general comprehen sion question before you do so, something less vague than “What is this song about?” Try something like: “Who do you think the singer is singing to?” “Is this a song about love or not?” “Is the song meant to be funny?” Discuss the song with the class to get things moving.

Next, pass out your prepared lyrics sheets and play the song again, asking students to fill in the blanks as they go. You may want to play the song several times.

When you are ready to check answers with the students, explain why this part of the song was blanked out. You can then ask them to create their own version of the song by replacing the blanked out term with another term of their choice, or even to write a new stanza of the song while keeping the style of the song in mind.

2. Listening to News Radio

Listening to songs is just one way to use outside resources to create listening activities for your advanced ESL learners. News radio can be another useful tool. Use a news podcast, so that you can play it several times for students. News podcasts are available via a number of channels, including the BBC and NPR.

Once you have picked the news show or story you would like your students to listen to, isolate a short portion — about 2-3 minutes and no more than 5 minutes is more than sufficient for an in-class listening essay.

Start things off by asking a general comprehension question, such as: “Who is the person concerned by the story?” “What country is the journalist reporting from?” or “Is this a political, cultural or local news story?” These sorts of questions help students to concentrate on global understanding, which is very important for foreign language learners.

Next, pass around a sheet of questions that you will have prepared ahead of time. Make sure that the questions are in the order that their answers appear in the listening portion. Questions should be multiple choice, yes/no or short answer questions. You may also want to include questions that involve listening throughout, like “How many people does the journalist interview?” This sort of question should appear at the top of the page. If you want to ask students to react to the listening portion, place these questions at the bottom of the page. Allow students two listens before asking them to check their answers with their neighbors and finally as a group.

3. Dictations

Dictations are very common in certain language learning environments. This is not frequently used in an ESL setting, but it can be an interesting technique when used correctly. Dictations will allow you to see if advanced ESL learners have any holes in their language learning.

Dictations are most useful when they juxtapose homophones. This lets teachers judge two things: (1) if the student knows the meaning of what he or she is listening to and (2) if the student knows how to properly spell different homophones. Dictations can be given in tandem with a lesson on homophones to judge if students have acquired the proper homophone spellings.

Dictations are also interesting when learning about different English spellings for the same words. Poems are useful for both sorts of dictations thanks to their rhyming schemes, and dictations can be a great way to introduce students to poets from Dr. Seuss to Emily Dickinson.

Dictations do not work when they contain too many words that a student is unfamiliar with. If a dictation contains one or two of these words, it is appropriate to write them on the board so that students can copy them down correctly.

To properly give a dictation, the text should be read three times: once at a slow but natural pace, once very slowly (stopping after each punctuation mark or line break and occasionally repeating the same line twice if it is long) and once at a slow but natural pace so that students can check their work. Students should be told not to write during the first reading, as this portion of the dictation is intended to make sure that students understand what they are hearing before they begin writing.

When testing a dictation, ask individual students to come up and write one sentence or line on the board. Other students can correct this line until the class comes up with an appropriate and correct version of the original text. The correct original text should always be copied down by the students at the end of the lesson.

These are just a few great ways to get your advanced ESL students interested in listening comprehension lessons. Consider building upon these techniques to create your own unique lessons — and don’t forget that FluentU’s English language video library is loaded with clips that are perfectly suited for in-class listening activities.

Oh, and One More Thing…

If you liked these authentic listening activities, you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.

It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.

You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.

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On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.

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For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:

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Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”

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It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.

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