Developing listening skills

When exploring listening with our learners, it’s important for both teachers and learners to be aware of how and why we listen, and some of the processes and sub-skills involved.

  1. In our day-to-day lives, we listen for different purposes. For example, in general conversation we respond to what others have said to us, in an academic context we might listen to lectures and take notes, and when travelling we might listen to public announcements and compare these to a written timetable.
  2. We listen in different ways in different contexts. For example, when we listen to a podcast while commuting or doing housework, we probably won’t listen attentively to every utterance. Compare this to how we might listen (and relisten) to an online video which demonstrates how to cook a new recipe.
  3. When listening to a longer turn of speech (eg a lecture or presentation), we may not understand or hear everything that is said. However, we can use our previous knowledge of the topic to help us ‘fill in the blanks’ and understand the main ideas.
  4. It can take time to adjust to a speaker’s pronunciation, accent and speed at which they speak, and this may require a listener to ask for clarification, repetition, etc.
  5. In the real world, background noises like other conversations, traffic and loud music, can hinder our ability to hear. This may also require listeners to ask speakers to repeat or speak louder.

About this guide for teachers

This resource is for English language teachers looking to explore and develop listening skills with their language learners. It includes:

  • Techniques for the English language classroom
  • Guidance on adapting and creating listening resources by using authentic materials, coursebooks and classroom resource sites
  • Ideas for questions that can be used to assess a learner's listening skills, organised into key focus areas
  • Details of further support resources and CPD opportunities

All guides in this series

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