If you’re looking for some ESL listening games or activities, or some general advice about how to teach listening to English learners, then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for all the details you need to know about ESL listening.
ESL Listening Activities and Games to Consider
Once you have the basics of an ESL listening lesson plan down, it’s time to kick it into high gear with some of these fun ESL listening games and activities.
Here are a few ideas to get you started. Most of them involve both speaking and listening together, which is generally way more interesting than just listening alone.
#1: Videos for ESL listening Practice
Check out this post for some thoughts on using videos in the classroom, especially some activities for pre or post watching.
Videos in the ESL classroom get a bit of a bad rap for being the lazy teacher’s salvation, but you can use them for good! Just make sure that you give your students some sort of task to do while they watch. Then, follow-up on that. You can see more details about this here:
This is a challenging ESL listening activity that your students will enjoy that is heavy on the listening but also speaking, writing, grammar and vocabulary. It’s very easy to make it as easy, or difficult as you want. It also lends itself really well to group-work and collaborative learning.
Sounds like something you want to try out with your students? Find out all the details you need to know here:
#3: Running Dictation ESL Listening Game
One of my all-time favourite ESL activities, running dictation is some 4-skills awesome. Try it out and see! It’s perfect for Monday morning at 9:00 classes where there is a sum total of zero energy in your classroom!
The best thing about it is that it gets students up and out of their seats, moving around the classroom using lots of English. Plus, it’s also heavy on listening skills. Learn more here:
#4: Just a Minute
Check out this fun ESL speaking activity that you can try for a quick warm-up in your classes. Although the focus is on speaking, you can also use it for listening by requiring students to ask at least one follow-up WH question ESL.
#5: Guessing Game
Another ESL listening game that you might want to try out is a guessing game. It’s also an excellent vocabulary review game that can be used for just about any topic. Or, consider playing it as a review before a midterm or final exam.
Whatever the case, students have to give a classmate clues about certain words and that person has to guess what it is. Try out this fun ESL listening game today:
#6: Presentation Projects
Of course, presentations are all about speaking but you can also turn this into a serious listening exercise by requiring some sort of listening response. For example, students may have to ask a follow-up question to the presenter. Or, there could be an element of peer grading to the presentations as well.
Whatever the case, there are a ton of ideas here: ESL Presentation Ideas.
#7: Board Games for ESL Listening
I love to play board games in real life and I think that’s why I like to use them so much in my English classes too. It’s super easy to design your own for any topic, grammar point or vocabulary set. Where the listening comes in is that students have to listen to their classmates’ errors to decide if they are correct or not.
Want to try out some ESL board games in your TEFL classes? You can see all the details here: Board Games for ESL.
#8: More English Listening Games
#9: Chain Spelling
If you want to work on spelling, along with listening in a simple, fun activity then you’ll want to try out chain spelling. The way it works is that everyone stands up and you say a word. Students have to spell out the word, letter by letter and if they “miss,” they are out. The game continues until the last person is left standing.
#10: Podcasts for English Learners
I love to recommend some podcasts to my students who are looking to improve their English listening skills in a big way. It’s super easy to do because there are just so many good ones these days! The Serial podcast is the one that I recommend the most though.
Find out all the details you need to know, along with recommendations for ones at various levels:
#11: ESL Preposition Activity
If you teach beginners and especially kids, there will likely be an activity in most textbooks related to prepositions such as in, on, at, under, etc. A fun listening activity you can do for review is to say some statements (or have students do this) and the class has to respond to what you said. For example:
- Stand on 1 leg.
- Put your right arm behind your back.
- Turn you head to the right.
Want to find out some more options for this unit? Have a look at this: ESL Prepositions.
#12: Travel ESL Conversation Lesson
If you’re a teacher, then you’ll already know what a time-saver ready-made lesson plans can be. Something that you can just print off and take to class.
If you’re looking for something suitable for intermediate or advanced level teens, university students or adults, then check out this travel lesson plan:
#13: Talk Show ESL Icebreaker
If you’re looking for a fun, engaging ESL icebreaker activity, then consider trying out Talk Show. It’s a nice way for students to get to know each other and I find that they really enjoy it. Check it out here:
#14: Steal the Eraser ESL Listening Game
This is a fun listening game for adults that works best for beginners. It can be used to review just about any kind of vocabulary or grammar in a fun and engaging way. Try it out for yourself and I’m sure your students will like it as much as mine. Find out how to do it:
#15: Truth or Lie Game
You’re probably already familiar with this game. People make three statements, two are true and one is false. The other people have to guess which one is false. It also makes a nice listening game for adults (and teenagers too).
Students have to listen carefully so that they understand all three statements and are able to choose the lie. To pump up the listening requirement, consider having a Q/A period of 2-3 minutes where the audience is able to ask the person with the statements questions to assist them in this process.
ESL Listening Lesson Plan Template: Check This Out
If you’re getting started with teaching ESL listening and aren’t quite sure how to plan this style of lesson, the first post you’ll want to read is this one. There are some simple steps you can follow to ensure that you have the best listening lessons without a ton of preparation time.
It follows the CELTA style of listening planning, which I found to be a really useful framework to follow. Once you have this ESL listening lesson plan template down, it’s easier to venture out on your own, adapting it to suit your own style.
How to Teach ESL Listening
Back in the days when I used to teach in South Korean universities (not so long ago! This is the first semester in 8 years that I won’t be teaching), I loved to teach listening lessons. I would try to include at least a few minutes of listening into every single conversation class. They are good for a few reasons including:
- Korean students often think they’re “good” at listening when in fact they’re quite weak. Ever get met with the deer in headlights look when you ask a Korean student a very basic question such as where they’re from or what their major is? This is often because they’re quite weak at listening skills and didn’t understand what you said to them.
- ESL listening is a break from the high-energy speaking stuff most foreign teachers usually do. Introverts and quiet students often appreciate some ESL listening lessons because they don’t have to interact with another person!
- It’s a break for the teacher too! It’s tiring to always be front and center. Throw the ball back into the students’ courts by doing some listening activities which are by nature, extremely student-centred.
Need More Ideas for Improving English Listening?
Yes? I thought so. Who doesn’t want to improve their listening skills in a big way?
Are you an English student who is looking for some fun, creative ways to improve your listening? Or, you might be a teacher looking for some things to do with your students. You’ve come to the right place!
You’ll need to check out the book, 71 Ways to Practice English Listening on Amazon. There are dozens of fun, creative things you can do to improve your English listening skills. And lots of activity and game ideas, as well as homework and assignment options for your students to help them improve their English listening in a big way.
The book is available in both print and digital formats. Keep a copy on your bookshelf for when you’re feeling a bit unmotivated with English. Or, have a copy on your phone for tips on the go.
You can check it out for yourself on Amazon, but only if you want to get yourself a serious dose of ESL teaching or studying awesome:
Have your say about these ESL Listening Activities
How do you teach listening to your ESL or EFL students? Any tips or tricks to share with us or an ESL listening game that you love? Leave a comment below and let us know please! We’d love to hear from you.
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