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Top 5 Listening Activities for Group Classes

Emily Smith

When you have a medium-large group of people, it can sometimes be hard to get them all to listen. Sometimes large groups can create more energy in the classroom, making it harder for your students to focus. This is especially true for younger students. Even if you do manage to get your entire class to quiet down, how do you know if they are really listening?

Listening is a skill. Even when you listen to someone speak in your native language, it may be difficult to stay focused and not let your mind drift. Imagine how much more difficult it is for your students who are listening to a second or third language! So what are some great exercises and activities to help your students get better listening skills? We’ve compiled a list of five listening activities that work well for group lessons.

Attentive Listening

1. Draw This. One way to get your group to listen is to make sure they are unaware of the fact that it’s a listening game. In “Draw This” your students will simply think they are drawing. So how does it work? Give each of your students a blank piece of paper. Now, give one drawing instruction such as “Draw a square”. Then, ask your students to pass the paper to the next student so that everyone has a new paper. Now, give another drawing instruction such as, “Under the square, draw a triangle.” Keep giving instructions until the papers have made it all the way around the room. Now see which papers have turned out correctly. You can modify the instructions according to the language level of your students.

2. Daily Quiz. In order to get your students to pay attention throughout the lesson, it’s a good idea to give them a fun listening quiz at the end of the day. You can make the questions entertaining. For example, if you told your students an anecdote about your dog, one of the questions could be “What was the dog’s name?” The quiz should only be 2-5 questions long. The student(s) who get the most right answers get a gold star. At the end of every month the student with the most gold stars gets a prize like choosing a game to play, leading an activity, or sharing with the class 15 minutes of his/her favourite film (in the language you are teaching, of course). This reward system takes the heaviness out of the word “quiz”.

Even when you listen to someone speak in your native language, it may be difficult to stay focused and not let your mind drift. Imagine how much more difficult it is for your students who are listening to a second or third language!

3. Story Listening. Read your students a story. After the story, summarize the story as a group. Call on one student to tell the first significant event in the story, then another student for the next and so on. The students will have to work hard to listen so as not to let their classmates down!

4. Landmine Listening. The name sounds scary, doesn’t it? Don’t worry; this is a simple game which your students will love! First, clear all the desks to the side of the classroom. Then, choose two students to be blindfolded and two students to direct those students. After the two are blindfolded, quickly pull chairs and desks into the center of the classroom, creating an obstacle course or “landmine”. After the landmine is set up, have the two blindfolded students start at one end of the room and have the other two give instructions on how to get through to the other side. If the blindfolded student runs into a landmine, they are out. The first one to the other side of the room wins!

5. Telephone. This is one of the oldest games in the book, but it’s still a fun one! Have your students get in a circle. One person will start the “phone call” by whispering a secret message in the ear of the person next to him/her. That person then whispers it to the next and so on. The listener only gets one chance to hear the message correctly; he/she has to pass on whatever was heard. Once the message goes all the way around the circle, the last person repeats the message out loud. Usually, it will be a scrambled up version of the original message.

These are some tried and tested listening activities for group lessons or large classes. You may want to modify the activities to fit the needs of your students. If you try any of our listening activities, let us know how it worked in your classroom!

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.