QUESTION: Many of my advanced learners have a sound knowledge of English. However, their performance in speaking fluently and interacting in conversation needs improvement. I'd like for them to have extra listening practice. Any ideas?

ANSWER:  "Listen for a bit and jot down notes" is an easy and light supplementary activity,  which could well become a ritual in your f2f or online lesson.  This activity, appropriate for upper-intermediate and above, requires intensive listening and note-taking. Because the recorded news briefs used are short in length, learners can have the opportunity to hear them over and over again without much concern for taking up class time on additional listening activity.  Other than providing learners with relevant listening practice, the notes that they  take can serve as a springboard for stimulating discussions in class.  Doing a bit of writing can help those learners who need to increase their fluency to join in the class discussion with increased confidence.


1.  Select a brief (3 minutes maximum) radio news podcast, short video of today's news headlines or a news report link for your learners to listen to.

Suggested sources:

Video:  One-minute World News

Audio onlyBBC Minute (on BBC Website under 'World' category)

NOTE:  To find further sources, type 'News Headlines' in your search.

2.  Either send learners a grid like the one below or ask them to make a grid of their own.

Note-Taking Grid












































Procedure A  (in Online class):   

First listening: 

Play the news and ask your learners to listen and count the number of news items reported. 

NoteMost news headlines will report 3-8 separate news items, one right after the other.  The Note-taking grids can be printed with a number of extra rows.

Second listening:

Learners  note down a title of each news item and take down any names of people and,  also, any place names mentioned.

Third listening:

They write down the event or occurrence (What?) .  Additional notes can include any details describing the way in which the event happened (How?) and reasons or causes (Why?).

Procedure B   (Self-Study):  

As part of their homework, send a link to your learners.   Ask the learners to listen on their own to complete their grids.  When they meet with you, they can check their notes for accuracy and discuss what they learned, their opinions and speculations on repercussions of some of the news events.

III.  ADAPTATION for elementary learners:  Listening for one category at a time: either names, places, day of the week or times,  elementary learners often feel good about discerning bits of information from an authentic online broadcast designed for proficient listeners of English.

Suzanne and Lilika

February 2021