What types of pre-listening activities are there?
Pre-listening activities play a very important role in helping students to learn how to listen in the foreign language. They help teachers find out about what students already know about the topic, and the prepare for the vocabulary and language structures in the text. Pre-listening activities also help students prepare for what they are going to hear, and helps mitigate the anxiety which comes from listening in a foreign language, by providing a clear context. Moreover, pre-listening activities can offer opportunities for class discussion and more interaction among students.
Here are some pre-listening activities which can be adapted easily for different classes and levels, as well as for general English and EAP listening lessons:
- What’s your guess? Show eye-catching images, maps, or diagrams to help students guess the theme(s) of the listening text. Students can write pre-listening comprehension questions, then listen to see if their questions are answered.
- Brainstorming & Word webs: Give students the topic of the listening and elicit words from them. With students’ help draw semantic webs on the board with the words, focusing on the relationships between the words, the topic, and sub-topics that might come up in the listening.
- Teach me: Give each student a couple of words and/or expressions. Ask them to explain the words/expressions to one another in pairs. They may refer to the dictionary if they need to. Quickly check with the whole group, and students then predict if the words/phrases will occur in the listening itself. Students can listen and tick the ones they hear.
- Chinese whispers: Arrange students in two lines, whisper a word/expression to the first in the line, who whispers it on to the next in line, and so on until the last student in the line shouts out the word/expression they hear or writes the word/expression on the board. Score points for correct words. Use a sentence or expression related to the theme of the listening.
- Sing along: Teach students a short song, a rhyme, or a jazz chant on a topic related to the text they are going to listen to.
- Graphic organizers: Give students a blank graphic organizer which summarizes the information in the text under headings. Students listen and fill-in key words that they hear in the correct places.
- Have your say: If the listening involves a controversial issue or question – such as ‘What should be the minimum driving age?’ – have students give their opinions first. Students then listen to the text and see what opinions are voiced. You can also have a quick ‘anonymous’ poll, whose results can be revealed at the end of the lesson.
- Let me read it first: Give students the first lines of the transcript of the text they are going to listen to. You could even give them the whole transcript and very little time to read it (just for them to get the gist of the text). Then work on listening for specific information without students reading the transcript. This is an effective activity for complex texts with many details.
- Mime it: If there is a dialog in the listening, mime part of it, to arouse students’ interest.
- What do I need to do, teacher? Write instructions in point form for the listening in the wrong order. Ask students to order them. This activity may help relax students for the listening, as they know exactly what is going to happen next
- Note-taking: Discuss the topic with students and have them brainstorm headings to take notes under. Then brainstorm the sort of transition words they might hear.
- Who’s who? If students are going to listen to a dialog (or text) with several characters (and of course if identifying the characters is not going to be one of the tasks in the listening!) give them an overview of who’s who in the listening