Listening Skills and Listening Comprehension

This article will explore the basics of teaching listening skills to ESL students, including the importance of active listening, effective teaching strategies, and engaging listening activities. With the right approach and resources, educators can help ESL learners develop their listening skills and enhance their language learning experience.

Definition of Listening Skills

Listening skills include the comprehension and acquisition of language learning. Comprehension is the understanding of the message conveyed through listening, and acquisition is the process of internalizing and incorporating the language structure and vocabulary in the communication.

Teaching listening skills to ESL students means engaging them in various activities such as listening to audio clips, participating in class discussions, using authentic materials such as audio recordings or videos, and engaging in pre-listening activities such as predicting or brainstorming.   These will improve student’s ability to comprehend and interpret spoken language.

By targeting listening skills, ESL teachers improve students overall language proficiency.

Factors That Influence Listening Comprehension

Factors That Influence Listening Comprehension in ESL Students

Proficiency level of the ESL student. Beginners struggle with basic vocabulary and sentence structures, whereas advanced learners may not understand more complex vocabulary and idioms. Student’s familiarity with the language and exposure to diverse listening experiences will influence their comprehension skills.

Background noise or interruptions can divert an ESL student’s attention.  Listening comprehension ability of ESL students is influenced by their focus as well as motivation. Active listening, which involves maintaining eye contact, using appropriate body language, and engaging in class discussions, can enhance comprehension skills. Conversely, passive listening without active participation can hinder comprehension development.

Speed of the speech is a major factor in comprehension. Native speakers often speak at a natural pace, which may be too fast for ESL students to follow.

Cultural and contextual knowledge
ESL students who are not familiar with the cultural references or contexts in English subtleties, humor, or idiomatic expressions all have major effects on comprehension.


Pre-listening Activities

Pre-listening activities are crucial when teaching listening skills to ESL students. These activities help engage students and prepare them for the listening experience. One effective approach is to incorporate predicting and guessing into the pre-listening stage.

By encouraging students to predict and guess, you engage their curiosity and interest. This engages students in the learning process so they are not just passive listeners.

Titles, characters, questions, and pictures all can be used to stimulate and engage students’ thinking and prompt discussion. Before listening to an audio clip or watching a video, students can analyze the title and make predictions about the main topic or theme.

Encourage students to speculate about the characters’ profiles or the possible situations that will be presented. Another technique is looking at related pictures can help students brainstorm ideas and encourage discussion.

For example, in a listening lesson about a travel destination, students can predict the main attractions, talk about their personal experiences, or share their opinions about the place based on the pictures shown. This engages the students, activates their prior knowledge, and sets the stage for actively engaging in a listening activity.

Listening Activities

When teaching a unit or section on listening comprehension, ESL students must be kept engaged and focused while watching or listening to audio clips or video. These activities improve student’s listening comprehension skills but also provide an interactive learning experience. Here are a few examples of during-listening activities:

1. Comprehension Questions: Pause the audio at regular intervals and ask comprehension questions. Vary the difficulty of comprehension questions.  This encourages active listening as students need to pay close attention to understand and answer the questions correctly.

2. Note-Taking: Encourage students to take notes while listening to the audio. This improves student’s ability to extract important information from the audio and identify key details.

3. Fill in the Blanks: Provide students with a transcript of the audio with certain words or phrases missing. Ask them to listen carefully and fill in the blanks with the correct information. This activity promotes focused listening and helps students practice their vocabulary and grammar skills.

4. Listen and Draw: Ask students to listen to the audio and draw a picture or diagram representing what they heard. This activity allows students to visualize the information and comprehend it in a different way.

5. Group Discussions: Divide students into small groups and assign different roles to each member, for example, note-taker, summarizer, or questioner. After listening to the audio, students discuss and share their thoughts and opinions. This activity fosters collaboration, critical thinking, and oral communication skills.

These during-listening activities provide opportunities for students to actively engage with the audio content, improve their listening comprehension skills, and enhance their overall language learning experience.