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3 Effective ESL Listening Activities for Advanced Students

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

It can be hard to find classroom activities that will both engage and educate advanced students who are well past grasping the basics, as advanced ESL students need to be drawn into the material in a way that is completely different than with beginners.

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


1. Musical ESL Listening Activities

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.

FluentU’s library offers plenty of music videos (and more) that are perfect for any level of English learner. Students can watch these clips with interactive subtitles, so they’ll be able to click on any words they don’t know to read the definition.

Fill in the Blanks Activity

This Fill in the Blanks activity is great for getting advanced students to challenge their listening skills.

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.

  • Prepare lyrics sheets with blanks for the students to fill in the correct words.
  • Start the class by playing the song. Pick a general comprehension question before you do so. Try something like: “Who do you think the singer is singing to?” “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.
  • Go through the answers as a class.
  • As an extension, 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.

2. Listening to News Radio

Listening to songs is just one way to use outside resources to create listening activities for advanced students. 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: “What country is the journalist reporting from?” or “Is this a political, cultural or local news story?”
  • 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.
  • Allow students two listens before asking them to check their answers with their neighbors and finally as a group.

3. Dictations

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.

Poems are useful thanks to their rhyming schemes, and they can be a great way to introduce students to poets from Dr. Seuss to Emily Dickinson.

When using dictation activities, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • 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 and once again 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.
  • 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!

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