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Teaching materials

A good listener needs to be able to draw on a range of skills, including:
  • Listening for general meaning.
  • Listening for specific information.
  • Coping with unknown vocabulary.
  • Predicting what is going to be said next.
  • Using prior knowledge to aid understanding.
  • Coping with different accents.
  • Keeping up!!!
Is listening important for your students? What aspects of listening do you think are the most difficult to teach? What are your top tips for listening classes?

Thank you for all your suggestions. This topic has now closed.

Elke Maes
Listening is very important for your students. It's one of the basic skills they need to require. Therefore it is very important to use authentis material (BBC) instead of just following the textbook. Next to just the listening, you have to draw their attention on the process of 'how' they have to listen. Tell them why they have to listen to a certain text or dialogue.

    As a consequence you have to provide for interesting language activities:
  1. Pre-listening activities = for example: let them complete a grid, or a picture.
  2. While listening activities = for example: answering focussing questions, giving them a wrong summary
  3. Post listening activities = correction of the focussing questions, presenting dialogue
you have to give them a lot of opportunities to do something with the listening activity. Not just listening.

Hussam, Palestine
Good evening. Yes, listening is very important as reading, writing,speaking and other language areas. "A good listener is a good speaker" I suppose. I have been applying this rule since I started my undergraduate degree. A great development happened. Listening to native speakers' recordings and authentic – real life conversation will enhance listening skills and comprehension. I believe listening to songs another way to develop listening. Starting with short period of listening, may motivate students. I think to influence students' attitudes towards listening is the crucial issue here because most teachers, here in Palestine, neglect the listening lesson and they consider it as a waste of time. Accordingly, starting with teachers is the core point here. Then, we can move ahead and talk about teaching the neglected skill listening.

Isaías, Brazil.
Of Course it is. I would say that it is the basis for communication, once if you can not understand well,what you have listen, there will not be communication at all. So, our major concern here in Brazil is not 'what' or 'how' to learn, concerning to the English Language but where to apply what we have learnt, cause we do not have a place where we could use it,although we know many other ways for that but not a natural one. Help me to create one here in Brazil. As to the most difficult aspect of the listening, in my opinion, would be ' predicting what is going to be said ', for it requires from the students, a very keen attention to what it has been saying along the speech and that is not so easy in a crowded classroom, which is quite common here in public schools.

B. El Hajjaji, Morocco
Of the four language skills, listening is the easiest for learners: it usually takes a shorter time for a person who is exposed to a foreign language atmosphere to know what speakers around him talk about without ever being able to respond. However, teaching speaking is a different matter since what is expected of the learner is on one hand speaking the language as accurately and fluently as possible and fulfilling tasks set beforehand. This includes "prelistening", "while listening" and "post listening" activities.

I believe the biggest challenge to face in teaching listening is the number of learners a class includes: the more crowded a class is, the less fruitful this teaching. Besides, if the teaching material is not adequate enough it would be hard to achieve the objectives. Students enjoy being taught listening for it gives them the opportunity to assess themselves to what extent they are able or unable to cope with the matter. However students should be taught what they are familiar with so as to be able to correct their own pronunciation and at the same time achieve the tasks required .

Abdul Majid Mohamed Din, Malaysia
The institution where I teach and the English language programmes I handle, listening skill is an important component of the course content. The undergraduates that I teach are required to develop listening skill to prepare them to face their future working lives with some level confidence. The greatest problem that I face when handling the listening component of the course is the students' lack of prior knowledge and general world view to help in the prediction skills to listen for general meaning and specific information. They find it difficult to make meanings out of the unknown vocabulary.A small scale study carried out point to fact that they do not have the habit of reading a wide selection of materials on general and genre specific topics and some of them do not read at all apart from reading based on their core subject areas. I embarked on a wider reading programme using newspapers, magazines and other articles on a cross section of knowledge and information In internet too played a significant role in their reading habit. Now I find that the students have a better grasp of world knowledge and are able to cope with unknown and technical vocabulary. Before the students grapple with the listening tasks, I spend some time discussing the content area of the text a a pre-listening activity. It has helped my students to tackle the listening exercises with some measures of confidence and make my teaching rewarding.

M.Afonso, Angola
Listening is of paramount importance if we want our students to communicate without any constraints. For that, teachers are expected to plan listening activities to meet their students' needs. Here´s an activity: select a song or a movie. Check all the difficult words your students might not know. Check any homophone. Then pre teach the vocabulary two or three weeks before you want them to watch the video or listen to the song. Students should be encouraged to give a lot of examples (factual ones) with the new vocabulary. And finally during the listening activity and after it the students will just say 'this film or song was easy to understand'.And for the song, you could then come up with a gap-filling task - students fill in the gaps with the words previously taught.

Jean, China
In my opinion, dictation (write down every word you are listening to), repetition and video with subtitle are the key words for the effective listening and improvement. If students can practice in this way they can focus on what they are listening and get to learn subconsciously the skills mentioned above in the discussion.

Vannessa, Singapore
The students realise that listening is just as important as speaking if they want to improve. Teaching students to get the gist of the story and make notes are rather difficult as they have to synthesise the new information, produce a thought and take notes all at the same time in a new language. We usually try to work within a broad theme like COMMUNICATION or VACATION, do pre listening activities like a discussion and introduction to vocabulary before moving on to the listening activity.

Edwin, Edwardes College, Peshawar,Pakistan
Students have propensity to forget the relationship among different characters especially if the listening material/story is crowded with charactgers (like that of Dickens). I would suggest that listenings should be shorter (not more thatn 12 to 15 minutes for intermediate classes) and teacher should draw relationship diagram/tree on the board before listening and get the entire class engaged in WHO IS WHO TO WHOM .

Rvvgdattu, India

  • 1) Select an interesting incident / story for your group.
  • 2) Don't read it out, but narrate it. (You can have the material in your hands as a precaution.)
  • 3) Look at the participants and speak to them.
  • 4) Your voice should not be monotonous.
  • 5) Try to get the skill of an actor.
  • 6) See whether the participants follow you or not.
  • 7) Ask a few questions here and there.
  • 8) Now and then pretend that you do not remember the exact word. Look at them as if you need some help.
  • 9) The listener should also participate in the progress of the story.
  • 10) Let them guess what the next step would be.
  • 11) Please remember that it should be interactive.
  • 12) Let the listening task be focussed listening.

Ricardo, Brazil
I think listening is quite important, and the great challenge, in my opinion, is the speed in which native english-speaking people speak; of course that speed depends on how comfortable one feel about the language. So I think the first step would be to make students feel comfortable when speaking about a topic and, then, expose them to listenings about the same topic. And in case of beginners, previous activites or exercises on specific vocabulary will help.

BBC Learning English says:
Very interesting comments so far everyone - thanks! Dilip from the Maldives, you are talking about the difficulties that students sometimes have when distinguishing the number zero (written '0') from the letter 'O' (pronounced 'oh') - is that right?Do any of you use BBC listening materials in your classes? We'd love to hear what you use and how you use it...

Patsy, New Caledonia
The most difficult aspect in listening is to handle phonetics and the melody of the sentences. It's better to start with well known vocabulary and to introduce new items progressively

Alvin, Malaysia
The most difficult listening aspect to teach are student motivation and how this impact on their ability to absorb and handle the listening activity. IF the text is too long, or if it contains too many unknown words, does not sound funny or attractive, students tend to tune off and then speak in their native tongue.

Jesus, Mexico
Teaching listening is difficult for some students but not for others. I beleive this could be that some students have been exposed to different accents and intonations.But teaching listening shouldn't be really a hard task. I think teacher should start with vocabulary, especially pronounced like in the listening, so that ss could understand them easily, another good technique is to use cue words, pictures, or sentences which student have to put in order as they hear the listening and after, you can go over more difficult tasks like comprehension questions, restatement, etc

Young Chouguo, China
Perseverance is a must for your improvement in listening comprehension. If you have formed a habit of receiving VOA or BBC program every day, you will make it.

Vassilissa, Ukraine
I think the most difficult is to prepare students to what they are going to hear. Especially accents, intonation, manner of speech, articulation defects, etc. We're always trying to predict what we are going to hear, what vocabulary we can bump into. I always ask them to give me synonyms to the words they expect to clash with.

Taha Amer, Egypt
As a teacher, I think that phonetics related aspects are the most difficult to teach in a listening task.Helping the students to produce sentences with the same tone, intonation and rhythm is something which is not easy for a learner who studies English as a second language.

Dilip, The Maldives
Pupils here find it difficult to understand some accents. If at all they could manage some they find it difficult to answer the numbers they are asked to. In most of the cases '0' is pronounced as 'O' leading them to a total confusion! I inform the classes well in advance that 'O' stands for '0'!!!

Robert, Spain
I normally read the text as a class then go over any words or phrases that students don't understand before discussing the text-perhaps letting students ask the class any questions they would like to talk about related to the text.

Shabnam Omidvar, Iran
Hi there, As far as I am concerned the most difficult aspects are first understanding the concept of the story in general and then repeating the words and sentences. Students usually miss alot of lines and forget the sentences they have gotten as soon as the hear so I try to replay the same story for them to make notes and then retell the story from the key words they have written to remember the story.Best regards, Shabnam Omidvar