A framework for planning a listening skills lesson

By developing their ability to listen well we develop our students' ability to become more independent learners, as by hearing accurately they are much more likely to be able to reproduce accurately, refine their understanding of grammar and develop their own vocabulary.

A framework for planning a listening skills lesson - listening article
Nik Peachey, teacher, trainer and materials writer, British Council

In this article I intend to outline a framework that can be used to design a listening lesson that will develop your students' listening skills and look at some of the issues involved.

  • The basic framework
  • Pre-listening
  • While listening
  • Post-listening
  • Applying the framework to a song
  • Some conclusions

The basic framework
The basic framework on which you can construct a listening lesson can be divided into three main stages.

  • Pre-listening, during which we help our students prepare to listen.
  • While listening, during which we help to focus their attention on the listening text and guide the development of their understanding of it.
  • Post-listening, during which we help our students integrate what they have learnt from the text into their existing knowledge.

There are certain goals that should be achieved before students attempt to listen to any text. These are motivation, contextualisation, and preparation.

  • Motivation
    It is enormously important that before listening students are motivated to listen, so you should try to select a text that they will find interesting and then design tasks that will arouse your students' interest and curiosity.
  • Contextualisation
    When we listen in our everyday lives we hear language within its natural environment, and that environment gives us a huge amount of information about the linguistic content we are likely to hear. Listening to a tape recording in a classroom is a very unnatural process. The text has been taken from its original environment and we need to design tasks that will help students to contextualise the listening and access their existing knowledge and expectations to help them understand the text.
  • Preparation
    To do the task we set students while they listen there could be specific vocabulary or expressions that students will need. It's vital that we cover this before they start to listen as we want the challenge within the lesson to be an act of listening not of understanding what they have to do.

While listening
When we listen to something in our everyday lives we do so for a reason. Students too need a reason to listen that will focus their attention. For our students to really develop their listening skills they will need to listen a number of times - three or four usually works quite well - as I've found that the first time many students listen to a text they are nervous and have to tune in to accents and the speed at which the people are speaking.

Ideally the listening tasks we design for them should guide them through the text and should be graded so that the first listening task they do is quite easy and helps them to get a general understanding of the text. Sometimes a single question at this stage will be enough, not putting the students under too much pressure.

The second task for the second time students listen should demand a greater and more detailed understanding of the text. Make sure though that the task doesn't demand too much of a response. Writing long responses as they listen can be very demanding and is a separate skill in itself, so keep the tasks to single words, ticking or some sort of graphical response.

The third listening task could just be a matter of checking their own answers from the second task or could lead students towards some more subtle interpretations of the text.

Listening to a foreign language is a very intensive and demanding activity and for this reason I think it's very important that students should have 'breathing' or 'thinking' space between listenings. I usually get my students to compare their answers between listenings as this gives them the chance not only to have a break from the listening, but also to check their understanding with a peer and so reconsider before listening again.

There are two common forms that post-listening tasks can take. These are reactions to the content of the text, and analysis of the linguistic features used to express the content.

  • Reaction to the text
    Of these two I find that tasks that focus students reaction to the content are most important. Again this is something that we naturally do in our everyday lives. Because we listen for a reason, there is generally a following reaction. This could be discussion as a response to what we've heard - do they agree or disagree or even believe what they have heard? - or it could be some kind of reuse of the information they have heard.
  • Analysis of language
    The second of these two post-listening task types involves focusing students on linguistic features of the text. This is important in terms of developing their knowledge of language, but less so in terms of developing students' listening skills. It could take the form of an analysis of verb forms from a script of the listening text or vocabulary or collocation work. This is a good time to do form focused work as the students have already developed an understanding of the text and so will find dealing with the forms that express those meanings much easier.

Applying the framework to a song
Here is an example of how you could use this framework to exploit a song:

  • Pre-listening
    • Students brainstorm kinds of songs
    • Students describe one of their favourite songs and what they like about it
    • Students predict some word or expressions that might be in a love song
  • While listening
    • Students listen and decide if the song is happy or sad
    • Students listen again and order the lines or verses of the song
    • Students listen again to check their answers or read a summary of the song with errors in and correct them.
  • Post-listening
    • Focus on content
      • Discuss what they liked / didn't like about the song
      • Decide whether they would buy it / who they would buy it for
      • Write a review of the song for a newspaper or website
      • Write another verse for the song
    • Focus on form
      • Students look at the lyrics from the song and identify the verb forms
      • Students find new words in the song and find out what they mean
      • Students make notes of common collocations within the song

Within this article I have tried to describe a framework for listening development that could be applied to any listening text. This isn't the only way to develop our students listening or to structure a listening lesson, but it is a way that I have found to be effective and motivating for my students.


Submitted by SamiraGuliyeva on Tue, 09/12/2023 - 09:24


Submitted by Marvin on Sun, 04/05/2020 - 20:08

Thank you very much, this is going to help me a lot of! 

Submitted by Djaffar Dahache on Fri, 01/24/2020 - 19:18

I wish you had provided us with a song with lyrics or a listening script and some activities to illustrate the steps you suggested.

Submitted by Cath McLellan on Tue, 01/28/2020 - 10:36

In reply to by Djaffar Dahache

Hi Djaffar,

This is to give you a framework for the listening which you can apply to different types of listenings. You can find lyrics to songs online easily - so the idea would be to try some of the ideas suggested - for example, cutting up the different lines of the song and asking students to re-order them, or blanking out some words for the them to listen to.  Most coursebooks have tapescripts at the back, and you can use these in the ways suggested. 

Hope you can use some of these ideas with your students,

Best wishes,

TE Team

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Thu, 03/14/2019 - 14:29

Teaching listening is one of the difficult parts in the field of teaching. First of all, I think that listening is not like other skills that teachers can teach it to their students, teachers can motivate them to practice and improve their listening, some students ask me how do we can improve our listening? and always my answer is to listen and listen and listen at least a quarter every night, without practice, it is impossible to improve your listening. Teachers must make students interested in listening. I always ask this question of myself how I can pull it off and interest them? This article is so great and motivate and engage students in the class especially the part of "Applying the framework to a song" it is a very very interesting part that I love in this article, this framework for the classrooms are great and it makes have plans and frameworks for teaching listening in the class and be pleased with themselves.

Submitted by ArezooMaghsoudi on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 10:31

Briefly it was great. Academically its logical to follow these steps in a row, but i think it needs a professional teacher who can manage students and also learners needs. In my opinion as a teacher, its a good idea to consider learners need first then evaluate the steps and make the final decision.

Submitted by Elahepourdang on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 08:17

This article is really great and help me a lot because these days l am studying about this subject and your article help me a lot

Submitted by ArezooMaghsoudi on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 07:58

Thanks a lot for such a good article. I will use it in my classes.

Submitted by zar.beyk on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 06:30

It's funny how you think you already know the process of teaching listening and then you find an article that mentions many small details about the teaching process. I loved the idea of applying the framework to a song. I will apply this method in my class and I'm sure my students will love it. It's also very important to focus on the pre-listening activities as I realized I need to put more effort on it than before.

Submitted by atena khalilpour on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 05:27

As we know, listening and speaking are the most complicated parts of English language training for EFL. While listening to a tape record is different from listening to content in the real world, it is vital for these students to have such exercises and tasks. As a creative teacher, we can combine all four skills in post listening. For example, students can write a paragraph about the subject after listening. Or Role play can play an effective role in learning vocabulary and form in the long run. Also, searching for relevant content is very effective in learning. Students can collect new and interesting content from newspapers, TVs and the Internet in different cultures and societies about what has just been learned (for example, about health).Alternatively, we may want to engage the students in a discussion of the merits of the views that were expressed in the listening segment.

Submitted by Sanazpdr on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 19:05

I actually use this framework in my teaching.I think each of them should accomplish in‌ teaching listening according to the level of course.so,we must recognize them in appropriate way and do well.

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 15:37

This article is so useful for teaching a listening lesson, especially the part of " Applying the framework to a song". These plans make students engage and it is so effective; students motivate by this framework in the class and enjoy it. These techniques are great Soheila Kamalzadeh

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 13:38

Soheila: This article is so useful for teaching a listening lesson, especially the part of " Applying the framework to a song". These plans make students engage and it is so effective; students motivate by this framework in the class and enjoy it. These techniques are great. Soheia Kamalzadeh

Submitted by f65f65f65 on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 13:03

I found this article very interesting and useful , we always hope that our students are listening carefully to our lessons but unfortunately we find that they are not paying attention to what we are saying them and this can affect their learning , in this article there are some good points that we can use them in our classroom that can be helpful for students . in this case students retain more of the information we are giving them. thank you so much for sharing this wonderful article .

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 12:27

This article is so useful for teaching a listening lesson, especially the part of " Applying the framework to a song". These plans make students engage and it is so effective; students motivate by this framework in the class and enjoy it. These are great techniques. Soheia Kamalzadeh

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 12:24

This article is so useful for teaching a listening lesson, especially the part of " Applying the framework to a song". These plans make students engage and it is so effective; students motivate by this framework in the class and enjoy it. These are great techniques. Soheia Kamalzadeh

Submitted by f65f65f65 on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 12:16

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful article, I really found it very interesting and useful. I will try to use it in my teaching.

Submitted by Soheila Kamalzadeh on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 11:50

This article is so useful for teaching a listening lesson, especially the part of " Applying the framework to a song". These plans make students engage and it is so effective; students motivate by this framework in the class and enjoy it. These techniques are great. Soheia Kamalzadeh

Submitted by avafk95 on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 11:26

I have never tested this type of listening teaching. but I believe students are gonna love it, because looking at the example I was interested, so I think students will feel the same, thanks for your fruitful article

Submitted by Mahshidsoleimani on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 10:54

That was a perfect article. Thanks for sharing.There were lots of ideas. The creativity is the key point that all the teachers should have.After reading this article,really sth rings a bell...Always we know some theories but we dont have any idea for how to apply them.. This article is really useful. Thanks a million.

Submitted by hanie on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 09:32

I appreciate all these steps which are mentioned in this article and it's clear that all are essential parts of teaching listening but sometimes its hard or even impossible to perform exactly based on the lesson plan and strategies. All teachers know that every session you are going to face with unexpected problem or question which is sometimes hard to handle, so it's better to adapt your teaching strategies with your class needs.

Submitted by hanie on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 09:25

Motivation is the fundamental base for all aspects of teaching and learning. With enough motivation we can be sure that all parts of our lesson plan will be covered step by step. also all strategies which are mentioned before are practical and important.

Submitted by Fateme Dehghan… on Sun, 03/10/2019 - 23:39

I will apply this in my teaching. Thank u Dr Moludi for introducing this framework by British Council

Submitted by Somayeh Momeni on Sun, 03/10/2019 - 22:30

I really enjoyed reading this article. You pointed out some useful techniques for teaching listening.Thank you and keep these good articles coming.

Submitted by F.Z1374 on Sun, 03/10/2019 - 21:31

It is so useful and I gain lots of vital techniques and strategies from the article and I do all my best to apply these strategies in my classes.

Submitted by MasoomehBahramikia on Sun, 03/10/2019 - 17:10

Thank you so much for your great help with listening skill. My students have problems such as: not making prediction of what the speaker talks about or not guessing unknown words or phrases. With your introduced strategy I think they will be better at listening.

Submitted by Negin.zkrzdh on Wed, 03/06/2019 - 22:05

what I found in almost all the lines was that, most of the suggestions are applicable to other skills specially to Reading as well as Listening since they are both receptive skills. What I strongly believe is the matter of "motivation" in each and every part of a framework. it plays a pivotal role in any kinda course. I think we have to consider different aspects and then decide how many times we should play the same audio. the part which introduced while-listening framework of a song was really interesting to me, as was said to ask SS to read a summary of the song with errors in and correct them; we can do so with an audio of a short story & then provide them with its transcription including errors to be corrected. I found post listening procedure very familiar to my own classes, as I also want SS to re/activate what they have already heard and learnt, by agreeing or disagreeing or through individualization. your article was brief but really fruitful and practical and also applicable into real context of a classroom. much appreciated

Submitted by aysan.khalili on Wed, 03/06/2019 - 13:41

tnx for your great tips,I really belive that this approach will open a whole new window for experiencing listening skills by students.I mostly had the motivation problem,most of the students were bored of listening because the accents were unfamiliar to them,but by some tips I made them feel that listening is not a big deal for them. 1.listening to a nonnative English speech 2.listen to a specefic same English music for a period of time,I mean just the part of that(first 2 mins) 3.playing an English music or piece of news or even part of a movie while you are busy with other stuffs There are lots of frameworks which you can use for boosting your listening skills,but I think that each person has his/her own way of improving,any way tnx again for your precious article.

Submitted by AhmedZourob on Tue, 09/13/2016 - 04:15

I would like to thank you for this masterpiece which contains much useful information for a teacher of English. In fact, this article refreshed the information I have about the three stages on teaching listening and added some great ones. One of the things I found interesting is the focus on form part which will increase students linguistic knowledge, new words, new verb forms, etc. Thanks again.

Submitted by Biggest Nige on Sun, 12/07/2014 - 20:04

Thank you for this. A really thorough piece. I've got a listening class that I need to deliver next week and this has given me just what I need to finish it off. Please accept 50 tip top teacher points!! :-)

Submitted by AndrewWeiler on Tue, 01/21/2014 - 22:43

One of the problems I have with this article is the notion that one should set aside time to "teach listening skills". The reality is, as the author has said, that listening skills are fundamental to language learning. And as, in a class, listening and speaking happen "all" the time, we need to be ensure that students are continually "working" to improve their listening skills...not just at an allotted time. This is what one strategy that can create long term improvements in our students language learning skills. What this means is that teachers need to continually work in ways that require students to be attentive and focussed on what they are listening to. This way they will learn to do the same outside the class, not just when they are doing listening exercises. Here are some further ideas in the same vein...http://www.strategiesinlanguagelearning.com/improving-listening-skills/

Submitted by Louis André Badji on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 10:36

Thank you to help us better tackle with Listening lessons. Because teachers nowadays, especially in Senegal, neglect this skill which is very important in the process of Language Teaching/Learning. 

Thank You!

Submitted by ashrafmosa on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 20:39

Thank you for your great effort

Submitted by israt jahan on Sat, 02/02/2013 - 09:34

In reply to by ashrafmosa

it's really effective to the new learners. will try to apply this method when i will teach my students.

Submitted by PMGhimire on Sat, 06/02/2012 - 07:28

I am very happy to have such  a plan. I will apply this in my teaching. Thank you team.


Submitted by rajendra prasa… on Sun, 01/22/2012 - 15:15

I found it very useful to the children while teaching Listening skills. Each and every student paid attention and tried to understand.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas. The issue I am facing difficulty with is often times the topic of the listening is already determined by the text book. I can't change it to something else that is more interesting. How can I motiviate students and generate discussion?  Additionally, during a short period of the time listening and reading are combined. I know some students are struggling with listening and I would like to help them. If you could elaborate more on the pre-listening activities, then that would be great.

Submitted by khdoojah on Tue, 12/13/2011 - 20:33

emmmmm quite interesting..

thank you so much for this article.

yes! it is the wide used steps to teach listening... and it is really efficient.

I want to add sth ; but I don't know if it is allowed to me:)

sth that  really annoys me while listening sessions: is that the multimedia (of course in our context which is EFl context)is being a problem for teaching or learning listening interactivelly.

when the session of listening is performed by a native speaker... I think it is quite easier fo the learners to interact; negotite with the speaker... but when litening through media.. it is quite difficult..

Submitted by Proficient on Tue, 12/13/2011 - 19:42

In order to have good skills in listening comprehension and in speaking in English, a learner should practise listening to audio and video aids in English (dialogues, thematic texts and narrative stories). It is preferable to have English transcripts of audio and video material. I suggest that learners practise listening comprehension with subsequent speaking on a variety of topics and with materials for all levels on a regular long-term basis in the following sequence:

1. Listen to each sentence several times. At the same time see each sentence in the transcript.

2. Make sure you understand everything clearly in each sentence in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

3. Without looking into the transcript, try to repeat each sentence (say it aloud) exactly as you have heard it. Being able to repeat a sentence means that a learner has remembered its content.

4. Listen to that particular conversation or text (story) in short paragraphs or chunks, say each paragraph aloud, and compare to the transcript.

5. Listen to the whole conversation or story without interruption several times, and try to tell the content of the whole conversation or text (story) you've heard. You can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on that particular dialogue or text to make easier for you to convey the content in English. It is important to compare what you've said to the transcript.
When practising listening comprehension in English, it is expedient to record one's speech on audio to compare it with the original audio/video recording containing listening material.

I believe that for practising listening comprehension and speaking in English it is a good idea to include various practical topics for potential needs of learners with comprehensive vocabulary on each topic. As you know the content of materials matters a great deal.

Thematic dialogues, questions and answers on conversation topics, thematic texts (informative texts and narrative stories), grammatical usage sentences and sentences with difficult vocabulary on various topics, especially with fixed phrases and idioms can be used in practising listening comprehension in English.
It's effective to practise English listening comprehension and speaking using transcripts, books, audio and video aids even on one's own as I described above to provide additional solid practice and to accelerate mastering of English.

Submitted by mustapha boughoulid on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 15:07


In fact, I believe in the fact that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. However, planning any lesson in such a way is, with no doubt, going not only to motivate students, but to engage them as well. all what students need is something new. When you teach then through songs, games, storytelling, etc they really like it because it's something that attracts them.


Mustapha Boughoulid from Morocco

Submitted by Gulshan Huseynli on Fri, 05/20/2011 - 17:49

Thank you very much for this article. I took part in the trainings where "listening"workshop  was involved, but I never fully understand it. I am kinesthetic learner and also I like to learn everything organised, otherwise I can't understand or learn. I appreciate a lot that at the end of your article you summarised your ideas and put it in a framework that I think teahers can carry this information with themselves until they acquire it deeply. Could you also put here one of  your listening lesson plan according to this framework as a example where you show the steps of the framework? I don't mean to post lesson plan to the Lesson plan section of this site, just here as a continuation of your article. Hope to hear back from you soon.

Submitted by samantha.elliott on Fri, 04/08/2011 - 20:14

I actually used your example of "applying the framework to a song" in one of my classes where quite a few of the teens have a tendency to do other things instead of paying attention.  Following the steps you listed, I was able to use the framework based around some pop music.  I used the pre/during/post listening techniques and was astonished that the kids who tended to "do other things" actually paid attention and even joined in. Kudos on this excellent article!


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