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Interesting Ways to Help ESL Students Practice Listening

written by: Leyla Norman • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 12/30/2013

These authentic English listening activities will help your English language students improve their listening skills. Use different voices and accents to expose students to a wide variety of English pronunciations and vocabulary.

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    Listen and Repeat

    listening Listening to English is one of the best ways to improve English language learners' abilities to understand and produce the language. These exercises can be implemented in an English as a Second Language classroom or by individual students to improve their command of English. It is important to utilize many different voices in listening exercises to accustom students to listening to and understanding different acceptable pronunciations as well as different accents that occur even within an English-speaking country.

    Utilize authentic sources of English language that can be replayed for or by students. Choose listening material that is relevant to the grammar point or theme you are teaching or learning. This keeps the listening assignment focused and manageable.

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    Online News Broadcasts

    Use the wealth of news broadcast recordings available on the Internet, like those on Old Time Radio, to help students learn to understand English better. The BBC and National Public Radio are just two of many news sources that post recordings or podcasts on their websites each day. Voice of America and the BBC provide websites geared toward English language learners. These recordings can be replayed as many times as necessary for students to understand their content. Another helpful site is Breaking News English, which has entire lessons built around news stories written for ESL students.

    Have students listen to the news stories without the text first and check for understanding. Ask content questions about the story. Then, have students retell the story in their own words, before they read the text and listen to the story again.

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    Students can watch short clips of English-language sitcoms, news broadcasts, cartoons, and other audio-visual media online on YouTube and Hulu. The short nature of these clips allows students to focus on small bits of language and replay it as necessary. Oftentimes, speakers' faces are shown in the videos. This allows students to emulate better pronunciation and to understand the connotations behind expressions by studying body language. Choose videos that are not geared toward new English speakers so that students can gain practice listening to different speeds and accents of the English language.

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    Play Dialogues

    Find recordings of a short play dialogue at the library or online. Give each student a copy of the dialogue, and have him or her listen to it several times. Pair students up and have them read each part of the dialogue to each other. Students then switch roles to gain practice speaking both parts. Students can listen to the dialogue once more and ask questions on pronunciation or meaning before they practice the dialogue again. Pairs of students can volunteer to act out the dialogue in front of the class as well.

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    Students should practice listening to different types of English language media whenever possible. Try to listen to many different accents and voices. Do different English listening activities throughout the day. Even just a few minutes of listening to English on the radio each day can significantly improve students' ability to understand English.

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    Content from author's own experience.

    Image: Hear Music Touchscreen by Thomas Duesing under CC by 2.0.