Listen Up!: Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Listening

Listen Up!: Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Listening

Teaching listening is a challenging process. It’s vital to understand the key principles behind teaching this crucial skill.

In this short article, I will describe several things you should avoid when teaching listening, and, along the way, I will give you several practical suggestions for improving your ability to teach listening.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Listening

  1. 1

    You Didn’t Use a Pre-listening Activity

    Students need to warm up to a listening track; otherwise it’s hard for them to follow what they’re hearing. A good pre-listening activity prepares students for what they’re about to hear, so that they are more likely to understand it. Aim for one or more of these goals: getting students to reflect on what they already know about the subject of the listening track, explaining a few key words in the listening, or asking students to predict the contents of the listening.

  2. 2

    You Didn’t Check the Equipment before You Began the Lesson

    It’s highly anticlimactic to prepare students to listen, and suddenly discover you don’t have the recording set up. Before the lesson begins, find the track on the CD or audio file and play the first few seconds, so that you can check the sound quality and volume. Get it set up beforehand, and you won’t have to fumble around to find the right place on the CD. In addition, you will come across as very “in charge” of your teaching.

  3. 3

    You Only Played the Listening Track Once

    Students need to hear a listening track several times to get the most out of it. A number of research studies indicate that repeating the input can improve comprehension greatly. If students have a challenging task, such as answering a list of comprehension questions, they might need to listen several times to get the answers.

  4. 4

    You Didn’t Connect Listening to Other Skills (and the Systems)

    Always remember to include other skills. Students can produce a summary of what they heard, either by speaking or by writing. Alternatively, you can assign them to evaluate the listening. They can also read a transcript of the listening, to understand sections that were difficult for them. Moreover, you can focus on the grammar, vocabulary or discourse patterns that appear in the listening.

  5. 5

    You Don’t Use a Variety of Listening Material Regularly

    You need to familiarize your students with all kinds of listening material (monologues, dialogues, interviews, radio advertisements, speeches, skits, songs) as well as a diverse range of voices (male, female, old, young, native speaker, non-native speaker). This prepares students for listening in the real world, where everyone doesn’t speak like the actors and actresses on the coursebook audio CD. Also, it adds some much-needed variety to your listening class.

  6. 6

    You Don’t Use a Wide Range of Listening Activities in Your Lessons

    When teaching listening, some teachers fail to do more than provide a list of comprehension questions. It’s important to use a lively mix of listening activities in your lessons, including dictation, live listening, TPR activities, competitive games, and interactive listening.

  7. 7

    You Don’t Invite Your Students to Personalize the Listening

    Don’t forget to include an activity that helps students relate the listening text to their own lives. For example, if they’re listening to someone stating an opinion, they can think about whether they agree with the speaker or not. Or if they’re listening to someone describe a wedding in their country, you can get students to compare it with weddings in their own country.

    Next time you plan to do listening practice with your class, go over this article and look for what you should avoid.

    And check out BusyTeacher’s numerous articles and worksheets for teaching listening.

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