12 Examples of While-Listening Activities

While-Listening activities are activities that are completed by the students when they are listening to a passage.

While-listening activities are also called during-listening activities.

Well-designed during-listening activities can help students to:

  1. Identify what’s essential in a passage.
  2. Perceive the text structure.
  3. Keep themselves concentrated throughout the passage.
  4. Show their understanding or non-understanding of the passage.

These activities are followed by post-Listening activities and altogether make up the three stages of a listening lesson

What While-Listening Activities are there?

Most While-listening activities focus on these subskills:

#1Listening for Gist
#2Listening for Specific Information
#3Listening to the speaker’s attitude

Take into consideration these guidelines when using While-listening Tasks

  • Allow students to listen to the passage two or three times
  • Encourage students to focus on global meaning first and let the questions about details after the first listen.

There are many While-Listening activities that you can do, some of the best ones are the following:

1. Listen and Describe

“Listen and Describe” involves the teacher sharing a story with the students. However, instead of simply narrating the entire story in one go, the teacher pauses at strategic points in the narrative and prompts the students to write or verbally provide descriptions of the characters, settings, or events in the story.

This step-by-step process to implement this activity:

  • Select a Story: The teacher chooses a compelling and age-appropriate story, which could be a short story, a chapter from a novel, or a teacher-generated narrative.
  • Read Aloud: The teacher begins reading the story aloud to the class. It’s important to use expressive and engaging storytelling techniques to captivate the students’ attention.
  • Pause and Prompt: At predetermined intervals or significant junctures in the story, the teacher pauses and asks students to provide descriptions. These pauses can be based on key plot developments, character introductions, or changes in the story’s setting.
  • Writing or Discussion: Students are given a few minutes to either write down their descriptions individually or discuss their ideas in pairs or small groups.
  • Share and Discuss: After the pause, the teacher invites students to share their descriptions. This can be done through volunteer sharing or by randomly selecting students to contribute. It encourages active participation and diverse perspectives.
  • Resume the Story: Once the students have shared their descriptions and engaged in discussions, the teacher continues reading the story, and the cycle repeats at subsequent pause points.

2. True or False

The teacher tells a story and the students have to determine if the sentences that he has are true or false statements

3. Hidden Picture

The teacher gives a picture to the students about any particular subject and one of the students describes a picture and another student has to note down some of the things that their classmate says.

4. Dictation of short passages

This is an activity that has been discontinued but it helps students to practice skills, they have to listen to the sentences, they have to write them down, and they have to read and say their sentences to their teacher to make sure they got their sentences right.

5. Dictogloss 

Dictogloss is a language teaching technique in which students form small groups and summarize a target-language text.

First, the teacher prepares a text that contains examples of the grammatical form to be studied.

The teacher reads the text to the students at normal speed while they take notes. Students then work in small groups group to prepare a summary of their work using the correct grammatical structures, and finally, each group presents their work to the rest of the class.

6: Picture Dictation

The teacher describes pictures without showing them to the students and the students have to draw them

7. False Facts Dictation

The teacher reads some statements which are false facts and students have to correct them silently and then they have to discuss them with a partner.

8. Running Dictation

Running dictation involves a text stuck out of the view of the students. In pairs, the students decide who will be the runner and who the scribe.

The runner goes to the wall, memorizes a chunk of text, runs back to the scribe, and dictates it. After a minute or two, the scribe and the runner change roles.

The activity is extremely lively, with students running to and fro.

9. Listen and Do Activities

Simon Says is a classic game that works really well as a fun ESL classroom activity.

Tell the students to listen to the instructions you will give them, they can follow your actions too but at some stage, you will try and trick them so they have to be very careful not to get caught out.

Other variations of the game are stand up if and change chairs if

10. Twelve Questions

Prepare a diagram or something similar with 12 questions that students need to answer while they listen to an extended passage.

11: Gap Fill

Give students a transcript and ask students to fill in the blanks as they listen to the passage.

By filling in the blanks while listening to the passage, students will actively engage with the (1) spoken content, (2) focus on important details, and (3) sharpen their contextual understanding.

12: Multiple Choice

Ask students to read questions before they listen to the passage and then they have to select the correct answer out of 3 or 4 options.

Remember that this is the second part of a listening lesson, we need to learn more about Post-Listening activities so we can be able to say that our work has been finished.

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Manuel Campos, English Professor

Manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of EnglishPost.org, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English