I subscribe to the school that if you are not interested then you won’t be engaged, and if you are not engaged then you don’t learn. So I try to find things that are fun for my students to listen to, and because if it’s fun, it’s also interesting and will be engaging, so that students will learn and also remember! However, my preference is for a ‘visually’ assisted listening activity. Yes, we all have to listen to things without the use of something to look at too, but in reality these days that’s only on the radio, some music or the telephone. A listening activity with video does help, students aren’t so distracted if there is also some visual content to engage them, and it does often assist them where purely listening activities can lose them along the way. Then we are back to the ‘bored and uninterested’ again! So listening and looking is good in my book!
So, how do you choose what to ‘watch’ while listening? This is where I come up against one of the most difficult aspects of teaching English to a non native speaker, which is actually coming up with ideas on which to base a lesson. This is especially evident in listening activities, where students usually have some ideas for topics, but after a few lessons I am always in need of new ideas and inspiration in order to keep my lessons interesting. I don’t want to continue using the same resources over and over, I want something that is different, but also interesting and engaging while offers a learning opportunity for students.
Some of my recent listening activities have been entitled Verbs to use to make yourself sound more intelligent, Phrases using parts of your face and Making yourself sound more interesting. These short videos are great for listening activities and I always try to get my students to listen multiple times with a short discussion in between, covering anything they haven’t understood, something that was funny, or just their opinions on the subject.
There are also resources out there that add a little twist of technology to the simple video, making them interactive so that students can highlight words or phrases in real-time and receive additional help such as definitions and how to use a word or phrase correctly. I have found that these are helpful for beginners, but once a student reaches a certain level of comprehension I steer clear of them because they tend to offer too much of a distraction.
The main thing that I have found with listening activities is not to rely too heavily on videos dedicated to learning points such as grammar or vocabulary. News items about wearing sunscreen, celebrity interviews, movie trailers or cooking tips are just as good for lessons and more interesting in many cases. Out of all of the online tools and resources that have been created, I am happiest with the simple video in my lessons, whilst most of my students have tried many other online learning aids, I believe that there is no substitute for a real professional teacher.