The lesson plan below shows how you can adapt a textbook or exam based listening activity. The focus is on exploiting the students’ own knowledge, and the language in the text, by spending more time examining the language before and after the listening activity itself.
In the example we’re looking at a Cambridge First listening exam part 1, and how the activity can help identify distracters (parts of the recording that are intended to mislead students). However, the same idea could be used with various levels in non-exam classes with a little adaptation.
How to play
Students read the questions one by one in pairs. As they go through them, they discuss and try to predict what words or phrases they might hear during the recording. For each potential answer, they should write down two or three phrases. This should include synonyms and paraphrasing of the possible answers.
Here’s an example listening question:
Listen to this man talking about a film he saw recently. What is his opinion of the lead actor?
- A – He is funny
- B – He is intimidating
- C – He is terrible
Students’ notes might look like this:
- A – hilarious, made me laugh, humorous
- B – tall, scary, imposing
- C – awful, really bad, much worse than…
Once students have finished, do the listening task as normal. In my lesson, students listened to the recording twice, completed the task on their own, and didn’t check their answers with each other until after the second time the recording had been played.
Once students have discussed their answers in pairs, and compared their predictions to what they actually heard, replay the recording, pausing between each question and go through the answers with the class. This gives students a chance to self-correct before the answers are revealed and allows you to discuss any difficulties students may have had.
Finally, give students the recording script and ask them to find any words that they included in their predictions. For every match, they get a point.
For students who weren’t able to write many predictions, or who finish quickly, ask them to underline new and useful words and phrases in the text and write them on the board for discussion once every group has finished.
With my FCE class, we also focused on distracters. In our example, possible distracters are ‘terrifying’ – which would indicate the answer is ‘B – intimidating’, but students may think it has a similar meaning to ‘terrible’ and guess ‘C’.
For a final feedback stage students discuss their predictions in groups. This helps to exploit the language that the stronger students generated at the start. Alternatively, you could focus on the new language from the audio script, using the phrases that students wrote on the board as a starting point.
This activity doesn’t require much preparation, but does take up a lot of time in class, so depending on how much time you can allow for a single listening activity, you may want to skip the 3rd listen of the recording. Instead, ask students to check their answers by reading the script and finding the correct answers.
I think this approach to a listening activity works particularly well with mixed ability classes. The stronger students are given a chance to demonstrate their wider vocabulary during the prediction stage. Also, if the listening task isn’t difficult for them, they have the added task of identifying distracters and selecting useful new language from the text.
For weaker students, they have longer to consider and discuss the questions before the listening tasks begins. They also have an opportunity to analyse the script and discover the correct answers for themselves during the extended feedback.
It’s worth noting that the activity as it’s written above wouldn’t suit every listening task. First, the text should be worth taking this much time over; it has to have interesting new language and be challenging for some of your students. Second, the questions have to be in a format that allows students to make these kinds of predictions. If the questions aren’t set out this way, you could add a few questions of your own to highlight parts of the audio that you think are worthwhile.
Thanks for reading!