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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > teaching kids to listen    

teaching kids to listen


teaching kids to listen
I know I asked for advice on how to get kids to speak so this seems contradictory but it isn �t really..
After a year with lots of discipline issues we (our English staff) have decided we want to start the year by teaching kids to listen - to each other and to us. We came to the conclusion that in order to learn to speak a language one must first listen. We also believe that especially for the struggling kids, it is much harder to dare to read or speak if other students are blabbering right thru their efforts or blurting out answers they still are looking for. In short, for speech to be meaningful, someone needs to be listening (and preferably not only the teacher :) And therre you go, no contradiction with my previous request....
Did any of you come accross, or have figured out by yourself, methods to focus specifically on (respectful) listening, appropriate for primary school kids? It isn �t necessarily about English listening comprehension , simply the value of listening to each other....

23 Aug 2011      

alien boy

great idea MarionG

most of us who have had kids can really relate to your observation, I �m sure!

Cheers & good luck!

23 Aug 2011     

Bosnia and Herzegovina

I completely understand you. The first step of learning  a foreign language is listening to each other,BUT....I  found it really difficult especially with young learners.They can`t concetrate on it or  if they can it lasts for a short time....
I like your critical review and it makes me thinking about it.....
Good luck!!!

23 Aug 2011     

United States

Try some various listening games to help promote this skill. One such game would be a scene building activity. Give each student a piece of paper and a pencil. Start off by describing a scene. Students should draw the scene based on what they hear from you. You can also let students contribute their own ideas one by one so the crafted scene was produced by everyone. This can also be used with making an alien or monster (5 eyes, 7 arms, etc). Another idea would be to find a coursebook that has audio activities. Also, you could try music activities. Play a song (based on their level) and ask comprehension questions or let them fill out a worksheet with missing song lyrics. I hope I was of some help! Richard creator of www.keepupesl.net

23 Aug 2011     

maryse pey�

Hi dear,
1 thing I often do and that actually works is : make them close their eyes and ask them to concentrate to what is said in order to recognize the most possible words.
Closing their eyes makes them focuse on the sounds, on the music of the language. And they are very proud when they are able to repeat what they recognize and hear. It is a way to show them that being concentrated on 1 spot, here listening, can be very grateful.
Most of us are visual persons. So the kids will be very surprised at first but will soon adopt that method helping them to improve another of their capacities. Then they will naturally do that as they will find easier the understanding. And this is a very very very pleasant feeling !
That way you will help the auditive students but with them you will have to develop and improve their visual capacity.
Hope this will help.
Plenty of hugs.

23 Aug 2011     


dear chokosaki, thank you but the ideas you suggested i �ve used before, esp. the monster variety is popular with my young students.  They work more on actual listening comprehension, I hope to find something to teach them the importance of listening itself, in order to establish a more fruitful, secure, pleasant and efficient teaching and learning environment.  Maryse, your idea of having them listen and try to recognize as much as possible might be useful. Maybe I can use language a bit above their level - for example, simply introduce myself and tell about my hobbies etc.- and challenge them to tell what they �caught �. (even in their mother tongue) Most students love to hear personal stuff from teachers, so if I stop everytime someone is disruptive, they would get the message I suppose........ I would also introduce the whole exercise by explaining what the benifits are of listening, not only in the process of learning a language, but also for the atmosphere in the classroom.

Any more ideas anyone? I �d love to hear them!

23 Aug 2011     

Russian Federation

I fully agree about importance of teaching RESPECTFUL listening, often have the same problems with junior students. English colleagues shared once the idea of posters for classroom, I think they wouldn �t mind if I share with you.

1."When I listen..." - "...I sit quietly and look at the person who is talking

 ...I listen carefully to make sure that I understand

 ...I wait until the other person has finished before I speak

 ...I ask a question if I don�t understand"

2.the same poster about speaking "When I speak... - 


...I make sure that people are ready to listen. 

...I look at the people I�m talking to

...I speak clearly sothat everyone can hear 

...I let other have a turn and join in

we usually pronounce this together in the beginning of a lesson, then if somebody is a bit naughty when listening, I just point to the rule. 

there is also good old exercise, kids say something you tell them (a word or a short sentence, or even ask questions) and others should repeat the previous, add their own, one by one - the chain of words is growing bigger, so kids should concentrate on listening to remember each other �s answers. e.g. you ask kids to tell their favourite colour. Tim says: my favourite colour is red. Bob says: Tim �s favourite colour is red and my favourite colour is green. Mary says: Tim �s ...., Bob �s..... My..., etc. with younger kids - just name colours.

hope that will be usefullSmile


23 Aug 2011     


That is a nice idea indeed, mining-anna. I use a similar exercise, just as a vocabulary booster game when we learn "I come to school by..." In my hardest class this exercise was impossible, simply because they wouldn �t listen to each other (especially those whose turn had been already) I never thought of it as an exercise to practice listening to each other. I will use this kind of exercise again but now make a conscious shift in emphasis. Added advantage of a game like this in the beginning of the school year is that it would also allow me to learn the names of the students faster! great idea, thanks!

23 Aug 2011     


I think the following article is quite helpful:
An activity you can do to teach them how important it is to listen to what others want to tell us is the following.Ask your students to stand up and one by one go to the walls of the classroom and stay there facing the wall.Then,tell them to start talking about an exciting experience they had without looking at each other.You will find out that at first they talk but later on one by one stops because they understand that there is no point in talking when no one listens to you.
Ask them to sit down and tell you how they felt.At least some of them will become better listeners after that.
Hope I �ve been of help

23 Aug 2011     


Hi, Marion:)
Here �s a game we played in the summer drama camp that teaches children to listen to the person next to them. Maybe not exactly what you need but the kids will enjoy it:)

Making Rain

Traditional Game


This is a game of sound without words.  It works best on a wooden floor.  Everyone stands in a circle.  The leader starts a motion, and the motion goes around the circle like "The Wave" at a ballpark � you don �t start it until the person on your left does.  This way, the sound moves and builds.  You are making a rainstorm together.  Don �t speak, just listen. The participants have to close their eyes.


The motions are, in order:

1.     Rub palms together (rising wind)

2.    Snap fingers (first drops of rain)

3.    Pat hands on thighs (harder rain)

4.    Pat hands on thighs & stomp feet on floor simultaneously (adding thunder to rain)

5.    Just pat hands on thighs (thunder moves on)

6.    Snap fingers (rain is stopping)

7.    Rub palms together (winds moving on)

8.    Put hands at your sides (storm moves on)

9.    When everyone is silent, you say, "And that �s making rain."

I saw this pic on one of the sites and just loved it so much that I decided to share it with you:)

"I hear with my little ears..."

Have a look at this link


Here�s another one



23 Aug 2011     


Hi Marion
I �m just taking part in a teacher training program organised by the Hungarian staff of Oxford University Press. One of the lecturers highlighted the same problem: how to teach kids first to listen, then reproduse, produce with prompts, and finally use the language freely.
You can use small cards with classroom English. Every student gets two cards and they have to incorporate their sentences during the lesson. The aim is to get rid of their cards by the end of the lesson. It �s a nice game, a good drill and pupil have to listen very carefully. They not only have to use their cards properly, but correct the others as well. Plus they get used to using English during the class. Before it becomes boring, you can find another topic and create the cards with words, chunks or sentences to the topic. So it seems quite a universal way to use from beginners to adults.
Another task with short dialogues. First practise intonation using emoticons. Good fun.
Then ask the students to role play it. Eg. one of them acts his/her part as he/she was worried, the other bored/impatient etc. Game again plus drill plus active listening.
The next step to add or change some information in the conversation. Again speaking practice and active listening. And from here everything is up to your creativity.
Hope I could help you.
And finally the teacher trainer name is �gnes Enyedi from ELTE University in Budapest

23 Aug 2011     

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