How to Teach Listening?

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How to Teach Listening?

Listening is the Cinderella skill in the island of Methodologia, and it has always been ignored by its elder sister­­: Speaking! This has happened because productive skills were in focus; however, many thanks to Krashen’s magic of comprehensible input, listening has come into fashion and has lived happily ever after so far! We, teachers, should thus know how to teach listening effectively. This can be achieved by the following tips:  

  1. Be prepared! Listen before go into your class. You have to do a lot of things!
  2. Be sure that the voice is heard all around the classroom.
  3. Start with pre-listening: Set context and motivate your students by pre-teaching of new words, new grammatical structures, etc., previewing the listening passage, and discussing its topic. Then, ask both general and detailed questions about the listening passage and do a variety of listening tasks with your students.
  4. Try to involve your students in the content as well: Ask them “Do you agree/disagree?”
  5. Relisten and repeat as post-listening activities, since once is never enough!
  6. Utilize both bottom-up and top-down strategies:
  • Bottom-up strategy starts with sounds and gradually moves toward the final message. Bottom-up techniques focus on: sounds, phonemes, words, intonation, grammatical structures, etc.
  • Top-down strategy begins with listener’s background knowledge, and s/he actively constructs the original meaning of the speaker. Top-down techniques focus on: meaning, activation of background knowledge, global understanding, etc.
  1. Use authentic listening materials with a variety of accents and types (i.e., both monologues and dialogues).
  2. Make instructional goals explicit, since leaners should know for what and why they are listening.
  3. Consider the personal interests, needs, and goals of your students.
  4. Teach your students how to be good listeners and encourage listening strategies like:
  • Looking for keywords
  • Getting help from nonverbal cues
  • Guessing the purpose and meanings of the listening passage from the context
  • Listening for the main idea
  • Practicing note-taking
  1. Be sure of your students’ comprehension by asking them questions, doing activates/task, etc.
  2. Teach your students about the real features of listening input; for example, pause fillers (um, eh…) and facilitation devices (you know, I mean …).
  3. Have your students produce their own authentic materials.
  4. Never forget online resources and teach your students to use computer assisted listening learning. These are just a few links out of the thousands to explore:

iTunes, Podomatic

Author: Parisa Mehran



“Listening in Language Learning” by David Nunan

“The Changing Face of Listening” by John Field

“Raising Students’ Awareness of the Features of real-world Listening Input” by Wendy Y. K. Lam

How to teach English by Jeremy Harmer

Teaching by Principles by Douglas Brown

Listening by Goodith White