When doing listening activities in class, a main problem I find is that students can get really nervous about it and then perform worse than they would have if they hadn’t been so worried about it. Weaker students especially can be affected by this and see it as a test they are bound to fail, worrying instead of using their skills and ability to grasp the main message.
A great game to counter these problems that is enjoyable and rewarding is Listening Snap, which makes a standard listening much more fun AND prepares the students for the material by identifying key words or chunks of the listening content before answering detailed questions about the recording.
1. Find the transcript of the listening material and highlight the main messages or words.
2. Depending on the level and the type of listening activity, select around 8 – 10 words or chunks of language you would like the students to identify.
3. Put the items on a piece of paper along with 1 or 2 “distractors” for each word. E.g. if you are doing a listening on jobs and you want the students to identify the word “journalist”, then put in “journalist”, “TV-presenter” and “author” for example. You should have a list of around 20 – 30 words of which about 30 – 40% are real words from the listening, the rest are distractors.
4. Prepare one copy of the list of words for each pair of students and cut all the items up individually. (Alternatively the students can cut up the words in class if you have a lot of students!).
Set up in class
1. Give the students the topic of the listening activity in class and elicit what the recording might be about.
2. Explain you will be playing “snap” and go through the rules of the game: when they hear a word in the recording that they have on their table, they should grab the paper before their opponent does. (Ripped papers don’t count!). They get 1 point for each correct word they have and a minus point for each word they took that was not in the recording. The aim of the game is to get as many points as possible. Once they touch a paper, they must take it (to avoid them constantly trying to get all the papers).
3. Divide the class into pairs and give each pair a copy of all the words which they spread out on their tables. Allow time for the students to read all the items.
Play the game!
1. Play the recording just once, making sure students are doing the activity appropriately. Expect some excitement, raised voices and other expressions of students being engaged!
2. After the recording ask for feedback as to which words were in the recording and elicit what they remember about each word and what was being said.
3. Award points and minus points, announce the winner per pair and also the overall winner of the activity (the student with more points than anybody else).
The students have now listened for the gist of the content, and have been able to hear from others what they remember from the story related to the main items of the listening. Continuing with the listening follow up to listen for detail (usually answering specific questions in the book about the recording) should now be a little bit easier and less stressful for all of your students.
As you can see, this isn’t just a fun game, it also gives the students more confidence for the second part of the listening and (as long as you choose the words well) should have helped their skills to focus on the most important parts of the listening, instead of trying to understand everything!
Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.