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Listening activity ideas for adult learners

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Because of the way course materials are designed, teachers often use traditional listening exercises in class like gap-fills and multiple-choice questions, to develop their students’ listening skills. These tasks primarily focus on details and comprehension but sometimes lack a broader aim. Let’s explore alternative and engaging listening activity ideas for English practice that you can do with your adult learners. These activities and techniques encourage students to connect with real-life situations, enhance comprehension and promote interaction. 

Using clips from movies and series 

Using clips can help students practise authentic listening, whilst engaging students with things that they are likely to be interested in. 

You could have students watch clips for a variety of purposes, such as: 

  • becoming familiar with various accents and colloquial expressions
  • retelling or summarising the content in their own words 
  • whole class or pair discussions about what might happen next 
  • making notes on the main ideas and then writing a review about the film or series 

Using transcripts for role-playing

This active listening activity reinforces listening skills but also improves speaking and oral fluency.

  • Give out transcripts of audio materials, such as interviews, podcasts or news reports. Ask students to read along as they listen, paying particular attention to intonation, pronunciation and stress patterns.
  • After listening and reading, students act out the dialogues with a partner. 
  • You could also have students change parts of the transcript to their own ideas. 

Using music

Music offers an excellent opportunity to expose students to authentic language that isn’t typically taught in traditional lessons. So, what are some ways of using music for English listening practice? 

  • Instead of using single-word gaps, try removing chunks of phrases, idiomatic expressions or unusual grammar constructs. 
  • On the first listening, challenge students to focus on the number of parts they can hear (how many words in each gap). This exercise can be especially useful for distinguishing contractions and connected speech.

Using podcasts and news

You could start by finding out whether your students listen to podcasts and what topics they enjoy. That way, you can personalise the class to your students’ interests. 

  • While listening to the podcast, have students focus on details and then summarise what they heard either orally or in writing, with their partners.
  • You could also assign different parts of the podcast to different pairs or groups. So, if there is a true crime podcast that tells a chronological story, have one group listen to the first part, the next group the second part and so on. You can then do a mingling activity where students try to piece together the complete story.  

With news, you can combine English listening practice with reading skills. 

  • Have students find a news story online that interests them. Have them look for the same story on different online sources to see how it’s being told from different viewpoints. 
  • You can have students listen to the story rather than read it. Alternatively, have students write the news story in their own words to tell a partner. The partner then writes down the key points they hear. 
  • This active listening activity practises students’ authentic listening of peers. 

Using vlogs and social media clips

  • Create an engaging listening activity where partners plan a holiday together to a chosen destination. They need to gather information about the place before their trip, by watching short videos related to it.
  • For each video, instruct students to take notes on the summary and key points. After watching all the clips, they can report to the class what they’ve discovered about the destination, including information about local cuisine, tourist attractions and special events.

By incorporating these diverse listening activities for adults into your lessons, you can help your students develop their listening and communication skills and overall proficiency in English. 

1 COMMENT

  1. “retelling or summarising the content in their own words” works best if the content is really interesting and if the listeners to the retelling or summary haven’t heard or watched the original material.
    OK, you’ve got to find a way to organise that information gap, but I’m sure you can suggest some ways to do that, right?

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