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Listen: Music and Broadcast Activities Make Teaching ESL Fun and Effective

written by: KellenKautzman • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 12/30/2013

A great way to help English language learners is to have them listen to spoken English as often as possible. Here are some ideas on incorporating music, podcasts, interviews, and news to improve your students' listening skills.

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    Introduce music to your students and have the lyrics printed on sheets available to them as well. Be authentic with your choices. Most students are interested in pop culture, rock, hip-hop, reggaeton, etc. All you need to do, as an excellent teacher, is find appropriate songs to study that meet the curriculum and have grammatical, cultural, and pedagogical benefits.

    You can also have your students create and perform songs in your classroom to help promote active listening. Assign an extra credit project, in which students can sing or rap while the other students listen. Work with your young musicians prior to the event to create a mini-lesson out of their song or rap. Have the other students write down the lyrics as they hear them and have them answer questions about the music, after the music is finished.

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    Podcast There are thousands of podcasts online that offer listening and pronunciation practice. By their very nature podcasts will contain audio. Many of these podcasts will provide a transcript. If they don’t provide a transcript you can write one yourself or simply design your lesson without it. Check on iTunes or simply type “ESL Podcasts" into a search engine for listings. Some podcasts even offer free ESL MP3s.

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    Show footage of interviews and have students listen and analyze the interview. There are countless interviews on YouTube and news channel websites. Once students are familiar with interview format, have them interview one another, asking questions that correspond with the grammar points you have been covering in class. Make sure to keep the topics appropriate and entertaining. Teaching your students interviewing skills not only helps them understand English better, it also preps them to feel comfortable in job interviews.

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    News CBS, NBC, CNN, and ESPN are all streaming news online. When teaching your listening ESL lesson, have your students attempt to write a transcript of the words said on the news while listening to the audio from the news cast. You could write an entire unit on listening to the news, news vocabulary, and transcribing news stories and current events.

    You could also intersperse news stories in the curriculum, when relevant. Say, for example, that you were teaching a unit on the past tense. You could find a story on a presidential election where the reporter uses the past tense often.

    This kind of authentic study of the English language is very useful to embed in the minds of ESL learners. It also makes your students more likely to watch the news and be global minded citizens.

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    Using podcasts, news, music and interviews gives your ESL students a chance to practice authentic listening skills in a variety of settings. You will truly be giving your ESL students a gift if you incorporate these concepts well into your classroom. Assigning your students some music or a podcast to listen to on their own can also make a great take home assignment.