How to Write Lesson Plans
Listening Lessons

Below are my ideas on how to write lesson plans for ESL listening lessons. It's vital to add listening components to English lessons so that students become accustomed to different accents, the speed of natural speech, and aspects of the language which are specific to the spoken word (informal speech, inflection, connected speech, contractions etc).

With the internet being so freely accessible nowadays, listening lessons have become so much more interesting, as we are not limited to the teacher's voice, the radio, songs and course book CD's, but we now also have an infinite number of video clips, movies and news channels available at our disposal. These can provide great variety and interest in the classroom, but it's important to know how to use these materials effectively so that the students not only have a good time, but also learn something along the way. Here are some guidelines to help you:

How to Write Lesson Plans
Listening Lessons

  1. Set up the equipment
  2. Warmer - set the context
  3. Pre-teach essential vocabulary
  4. Gist task
  5. First listening
  6. Feedback
  7. Detailed task
  8. Second listening
  9. Feedback
  10. Follow-on Speaking Activity
  11. Extension task

Set up the Equipment

As most listenings require some use of equipment (unless the teacher or a guest are doing the talking), make sure you get to the lesson with enough time to set everything up, and make sure the equipment is working! If there's a technical problem, the first thing to try is to switch off the equiment and then switch it back on again. If you are using a computer and a website, make sure you have the correct web address, so you don't waste time having to find it again through the search engines.

Warmer - Set the Context

Start the lesson by getting the students interested in the subject. Some ideas on how to do this include:

  • Give the students a quiz about the subject e.g. for a listening lesson about how elephants communicate, give them a multiple choice quiz about basic facts about elephants
  • Get the students to tell you anything they know about a subject e.g. if the students will be watching a documentary on Einstein, ask the students for anything they may already know about him
  • Give the students some quotes about the subject, or by the person that the lesson will be about (e.g. for a lesson on Einstein, give them quotes by Einstein) to discuss
  • Give the students some information, so that they have to guess the remainder of the information e.g. you can give the students the title, and they have to guess what the listening is about. When teaching about the Google Ngram, tell them that Google have digitized 5 million books, and ask them what they would propose to do with the information.

Pre-teach Essential Vocabulary

It's a very good idea to teach some vocabulary before they watch or listen to the chosen listening, as it will help the students to better understand what is going on. When deciding which words to choose, bear the following in mind:

  • choose words that are appropriate for the students' level
  • don't teach more than 8 words
  • choose words that will help the students to understand the listening

As a follow on task from teaching the vocabulary - if the vocabulary is appropriate, you can get the students to guess what will be in the listening on the basis of the new vocabulary.

Listening for Gist

There are 2 types of listening that you want the students to practise .....

  • gist - listening to get the overall general idea
  • detail - to get specific information

The first time the students listen, they will be doing it for gist. Give the students 2 or 3 general questions which will check their overall understanding. Make sure the students know what their listening purpose is and give clear instructions. Remember that listening tasks are generally more difficult for the students than reading, so make sure the tasks are at the correct level.

First Listening

Play the video clip or listening once.


Get the students to feedback their answers. They can either do this directly to the teacher, or discuss it in pairs and groups before presenting their conclusions.

Detail Listening

The students will now listen again, this time focussing on more specific detail within the listening. There are different activities that you can do to achive this, which range from very little preparation to lots of preparation .... so it depends how much time you want to give to the task:

  • give the students general questions which they need to answer 
  • tell the students to listen out for the specific vocabulary that you taught them earlier in the lesson. They need to tell you in what context the word is being used, and with which collocations
  • write the transcript out of the whole, or part of the text, but leave out some phrases and words. The students need to fill these in as they listen.
  • the students need to summarise as much as they can remember
  • if the students are good at these activities, tell them that they are going to listen first, and then you are going to ask them questions aferwards, so they have to concentrate on remembering as much as possible.

Detail Listening & Feedback

Let the students watch/listen for the second time, and get feeback from them again.

NOTE: For more advanced classes, I use longer listenings, and only do the detail listening task. But in order to do this, students' understanding of spoken English needs to be very good.

How to Write Lesson Plans
Follow on & Extension Tasks

The follow on tasks and Extension activites used for listening lessons are the same as those used in How to Write Lesson Plans - Reading Lessons.

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