Active listening activities

Students are often asked to listen to tapes or to their teacher talking, but it can be just as useful to encourage them to listen to each other in a more active way.

Kate Joyce

Learning to listen to each other more carefully can build their ability and confidence in real-life situations, in which they will need to focus on both listening and speaking. The following activities are a fun way of getting students to concentrate more and to remember information.

  • Dual dictation
    Ask students to get into pairs to write a dialogue. When student A is speaking, student B should write down what they are saying and vice versa. When they have finished the conversation, they should check what each other has written and put the two sides of the conversation together. You could then ask students to perform their dialogues again to the rest of the class, or to swap with other pairs.
    This activity works best if you give students a theme or role-play, e.g.
    • A conversation between friends about holidays
    • An argument between siblings
    • An interview with a famous person
    • A scene from a film
  • Class memory quiz
    Ask one student at a time to go to the front of the class. Ask the rest of the class to ask them any questions they like (as long as they are not too personal!),
    • What is your favourite colour/food/band?
    • What did you have for lunch?
    • Which country would you most like to visit?

    Try to make a note of some of the answers. When all of the students (or half of the students, if you have a large group) have been interviewed, explain that you are going to hold a quiz about the class. Get the students into small teams and ask them to put their hand up if they know the answer to a question, e.g.
    • Which student likes Oasis?
    • What is Marie's favourite food?
    • Which two students would like to be famous actors?

    Award a point to the first team to answer correctly. This game can be a lot of fun, and encourages students to listen to each other.
  • Listen for lies
    Divide the class into two teams A and B. Ask one student at a time to come to the front of the class and read aloud a passage which you have chosen, e.g. a story or newspaper article. Then ask them to read it aloud again, but to make some changes. Each time a lie (or change) is read out, the students must stand up. The first team to stand up gets a point. This game requires students to listen carefully and encourages them to remember important information and details.
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