17 Interactive ESL Listening Websites to Fit Any Student’s Mood
Teachers are known to take special pains to make learning fun for their students.
They bend over backwards to make vocabulary lessons sizzle or to encourage learners to speak in class.
But we all know that even after hours of searching for or creating the perfect activity, our moodiest learners can balk.
In this context, mood becomes much more than an approach to a sentence (indicative, subjunctive, conditional) and tense has nothing to do with grammar.
Language puns aside, student motivation can dramatically affect how they approach a learning exercise.
Now, while we can’t create the number of activities needed to match all the moods of our learners (nor should we), we can increase student engagement by providing different ways to tackle the same skill.
That’s why we’ve collected a variety of ESL listening websites that’ll match any state of mind.
17 Interactive ESL Listening Websites to Fit Any Student’s Mood
Do Your ESL Students Want to Watch a Video?
These sites gauge students’ listening skills with entertaining videos followed by comprehension questions.
The clips you find here are divided by level, including beginning, intermediate, intermediate low, intermediate high and advanced. Each category has approximately 30 YouTube videos, and each video comes with an accompanying quiz.
Students can choose any video that catches their interest, like this beginning video with Lala the penguin or this advanced video about creating a peanut oil mouse trap (don’t worry, the mice are cleaned and kept as pets after being trapped).
Create an immersive experience in your classroom with FluentU, which makes authentic content approachable for students of any level.
FluentU has videos that students of all ages can engage with, like children’s songs, movie trailers and clips, music videos, news segments, vlogs and inspirational talks (to name just a few).
While you can certainly assign specific videos for your students to watch, the program is also very self-guided, allowing students to watch videos they’re interested in. You can rest easy that they’re watching content right for them, since all videos are organized into six difficulty levels.
The videos make it easier for students to follow what’s happening thanks to accurate subtitles with a built-in contextual dictionary. This means that any time a student isn’t sure of what a word means, they can click on it to see an in-context definition with plenty of text and video examples, or add it to their flashcards to review later.
Reviews consist of different types of interactive exercises that include speaking practice on the iOS and Android apps, and questions adapt to each student’s comfort level with the words. Meanwhile, you can keep track of how your students are doing from your end, including seeing what videos they’re watching and which questions they’re getting wrong.
If you have movie buffs in your classroom, they’re going to love this site. Made up of mostly comedy and drama clips, there are three pages of popular and obscure movie trailers sure to keep your students’ attention.
If they’re not interested in watching the entire clip, the instructions tell them how much of the trailer to watch to be able to answer the followup questions.
Are They Revving to Write?
These websites have loads of dictation exercises to use for ESL listening activities. Talk about paying attention to detail!
Listen and Write
Students find their respective starting level, then click on an audio title that grabs their attention. They’re then given four different options: full mode, quick mode, blank mode and correction mode.
Each one requires the user to complete a task as they listen. For example, full mode asks learners to write a word that’s being spelled, while blank mode asks users to listen to a paragraph and fill in the blanks.
Students can also opt for using videos in the YouTube tab, instead, or they can scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and find an audio file by category.
Maybe your learners want to try their hand at listening and transcribing an entire paragraph?
If so, they’ll get the chance here. The exercises on this page are divided into three levels with increasingly longer excerpts of text: elementary, intermediate and advanced. Each level is then divided into categories, like “common questions” or “currency.”
After selecting their topic, users are given specific instructions on how to tackle the recording. Students can then see the correct answers and check their responses against them.
Have Students That Are All About Audio?
Some students might get a little distracted by videos and prefer to only focus on the words. These ESL listening websites are perfect for them!
Note that many of these platforms require Adobe Flash, so you’ll want to test them out before assigning them to students.
5 Minute English
We all know true and false responses can be tricky, but some students might welcome the challenge.
When you navigate to this page, you’ll see the listening exercises identified as such. After selecting a topic that grabs their attention, students will find control options and a transcript below. There’s a short quiz following the activity.
Make sure students check their answers afterward and encourage them to improve each time.
Easy World of English (EWE)
The main readings menu on EWE gives users clear instructions on how to tackle the texts successfully. Each level has 20 readings with an audio recording.
After listening to the audio, there are three quizzes to choose from that increase in difficulty. I appreciate that the program asks students to fill in the answer instead of selecting one of the multiple choice responses.
One of the quizzes really tests students by requiring them to look at a series of phrases and put them in the correct sequence. What a great way to encourage active listening!
The lesson archive on ELLLO will take you to a ton of audio lessons. Among other activities, students can find a section devoted to a game where they listen to a short audio description of a picture and choose the one that fits.
There are also lessons that focus on testing and expanding academic language. This collection of recordings is housed in the News Center and contains short, animated news segment clips with a followup quiz.
With over 1400 audio lessons, there’s plenty here to keep your students engaged.
The listening and speaking section here offers lots of opportunities to build your students’ comprehension skills. There are academic readings, as well as stories for children.
If short stories aren’t intellectually stimulating enough, there are also 50-word passages in the English one level or 200-250 word essays in the higher levels to listen to.
British Council Learning
The British Council boasts learning pages for adults, teenagers and kids.
The listening section on the English for adults page allows users to choose their level and select a recording. Lessons come with a preparation activity, an audio recording and two tasks to complete when finished.
Younger learners will be interested in their English for kids page, and you shouldn’t hear any complaints from teenagers about their English for teens page, which uses audio on situations and topics relevant to teenagers.
Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab
This is just one of Randall Davis’s many sites. There are hundreds of listening quizzes on a variety of topics—so many that your ESL students might have a hard time choosing where to start!
If they’re avid anglers, they could start with a two-minute recording about a fishing trip. If you’re working with beginners, they’re probably already fluent in social media, so this recording about social media web sites should be right up their alley.
When you select an exercise, Randall provides a pre-listening activity along with the audio recording and quiz.
There are even quizzes for academic purposes and life tips. Who doesn’t need more of those?
Who Wants to Play an ESL Listening Game?
I’m not going to lie, the idea of games doesn’t grab my attention like it would for most people. I definitely have to be in a certain mood. However, it’s a nice change of pace for anyone who needs a break from the typical listening exercises.
This ESL listening website turns learning into a fun experience.
As I already stated, playing games isn’t typically my thing. I’m not super competitive and sometimes the pressure is just too much. But I do like challenges that allow me to beat my previous score. This website features a plethora of audio memory games about a variety of topics that allow users to do just that.
Students are asked to match a sentence or description (i.e., the red triangle) spoken orally with its written counterpart or picture. After each game, users can see how many pairs they got correct and how many attempts were made in total.
As the name of the site clearly states, it’s geared toward young learners. However, it’s a great low-key yet stimulating activity for ESL students of all ages.
Do Your Learners Love Music?
Games may not be the way to everyone’s heart, but I know music makes mine go pitter-patter. The websites below feature videos and fill-in-the-blanks activities with popular song lyrics.
Available as an app or on the web, this resource combines music with ESL learning. English learners have their choice of video selections in American, Canadian or British English at beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert level. The category changes the number of words listeners will have to fill in.
Responses are timed, and the website keeps a record of your correct and incorrect responses. Users also have the opportunity to watch the videos as they play.
As with everything, you’ll want to make sure videos are appropriate for the age group you’re working with.
This site is similar to Lyrics Training, but the different levels change how users determine the correct answer.
For example, beginners might listen to a song and choose the correct answer from a drop-down menu, while intermediate learners listen and fill in some blanks. Proceed with caution, though, because if a song has explicit language, it won’t be edited out.
That’s where teacher mode comes in! Once you create an account, teachers can add gaps anywhere in a song they select. You can then share the link with the tune and see the students’ responses.
Just Want Some Easy Listening?
Sometimes, we just want to listen to something and not respond in a specific way. Perhaps students want to summarize a selection? Or listen and respond using a thinking stem?
These ESL listening websites will give them the opportunity to access quality content without the pressure of taking a quiz afterward.
Choose from any of the stories that come up on the homepage that strike a chord. If nothing piques your students’ interest there, they can also choose a year, a state or a collection category to see more options.
After making their selection, users can see an excerpt of the story and engaging pictures, as well as access the audio. I’d encourage listeners to try to understand as much as they can before looking at the transcript.
Available in a variety of topics, there are over 3,100 TED Talks that’ll “stir your curiosity.” Learners can search by topic or duration, or simply browse all of the available discussions right there on the homepage.
This resource is a great way to encourage the student to increase their comprehension and learn more about the world at the same time.
All Ears English
All Ears English is a podcast designed for American English learners. The description notes that it’s appropriate for intermediate to advanced students, and it covers topics that are geared toward adult professionals.
There are 300 episodes that typically last less than 20 minutes. Find episodes that deal with culture and etiquette, as well as ones that are focused on grammatical aspects of the language.
No matter their mood, students will find something they like from this list of ESL listening websites. Let’s help them tune their ears to English!