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Teaching English listening lessons is an important part of short and long-term plans for all English teachers. This blog post explains why listening for understanding is important and how to plan a basic English listening lesson for any teachers who want to focus on this area.
Listening makes up roughly 45% of all communication, with written communication only 16% of the total. So, why do we spend so much time on grammar and writing skills in English lessons, when there are more useful we can teach our students?
There are two main reasons why we don’t teach more listening. Firstly, the conventional way to divide lesson planning is to plan for the 4 key skills; reading, writing, speaking, and listening. So we give 25% of our lessons to each skill. Although this is a logical way to plan, it does not reflect the time we need to practice each skill or its importance.
The other reason is that listening is difficult and it does not suit all learners. Some students prefer the predictability of learning grammar skills and drills. It’s something they can work hard to master and it shows measurable results. Listening, on the other hand, takes longer to learn and is harder to measure. Just when students build up confidence and can listen for understanding, the topic or accent changes and they feel like they are starting from scratch again.
We understand how hard this can be for English teachers. That’s why we approach English listening lessons with a method that reflects real-life learning. At The English Classroom, we have recorded over 2500 native English sound clips into all lessons so students can practice listening in every English lesson you teach. Sometimes they read along with the text and other times they have focus listening lessons. Loosely based on the idea of active listening, our lessons practice the listening skill without the students knowing it!
For teachers who find pronunciation difficult - it supports you too!
If you decide it is time to plan an English listening lesson yourself, follow these steps to get the best results from your students.
You can’t start an English listening lesson with no information about the topic. That's like walking into a conversation halfway through and trying to figure out the subject. Discuss the topic of the English listening lesson in your local language if your students are beginner level. Talk about the topic, what concepts might be discussed, and what knowledge the students already have that will support them through the task.
Help your students to prepare for the listening task so they will have the best chance of success. This might mean identifying and translating keywords they will need or sentences they might hear. Write this key vocabulary on the board or ask students to write them in their books so they can reference the material through the listening task. This will support those who need it the most and students will be less likely to switch off.
Give students a focus in the listening task. If the students have one clear task to focus on, they won’t feel overwhelmed and it will give them something tangible to achieve. When they achieve the focus of the task, it will boost their confidence for next time.
A focus for the task might be to listen for a loose understanding.
What did the boy do?
What was the purpose of the speech?
You can also give a focus based on previous lessons or skills. For example, combine grammar skills and listening by asking the students to identify all adjectives they hear or to identify where the wrong pronouns are used.
The listening lesson doesn’t end with the task.
What did the students learn?
How can they use this in their own spoken English?
What area might they want to practice next time?
Apply the learnings of the English listening lesson to the students' own lives and learn to make it meaningful to them.
Follow these 4 basic steps for each English listening lesson and your students will get the most out of each experience. If you prefer, sign up for our resources at The English Classroom, for pre-planned lessons and courses that you can start teaching with immediately.
Over the coming weeks, we will look more closely at English listening lessons, including activities to use in your classroom and new ideas to inspire you with. So stay tuned!
Don’t forget to follow us on social media for more tips and connections with other English teachers through our online community.
Written by Jennifer Gardner
Owner of The English Classroom