Thursday, 5 June 2014


As you know, ESOL learners can struggle with listening. On the CELTA course, we advocate a kind of cycle approach: prelistening (e.g. talking about pictures related to the topic), during listening (completing a task of some kind) and a post listening (e.g. a roleplay). However, comprehension questions in coursebooks tend to be rather similar, e.g. 'How old is the speaker?' and require the learners to listen out for very specific details. I'm not sure we always do this - we would ask the speaker to repeat a point if we didn't understand something.

This article questions the value of setting comprehension questions. Thornbury (2001, 'Uncovering Grammar') also makes a distinction between comprehension and comprehending questions. The latter look more at language, e.g. "How did the speaker ask for something to be repeated? "Why do you think he said '....' in this context?' etc.

This article explains how to liven up listening lessons. If you have any ideas, let us all know by commenting below. I like to vary the way I give feedback on listening activities, e.g. holding up 'true/false cards', standing under the correct letter - a, b or c or really exploiting a task. For example, I remember when I did my diploma (many years ago!) I did a listening lesson for my external assessed lesson. I was very nervous as I was teaching a proficiency class and these learners were excellent. The listening was about a famous artwork. After listening for gist and detail, we looked at some of the language in the audio and practised this. The learners then had to use the expressions to talk about a piece of artwork they knew (pictures provided if not).

Hope you have some new ideas.

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