Intensive listening

A classroom activity...

Intensive Listening

An activity that is easy to do, requires almost no preparation and is super-useful for developing listening skills.

Hi there. You’ll probably realise that for your learners, listening is one of the hardest skills to develop. I’m Jo Gakonga from and this is an easy idea to use with classes – online or face to face – to improve listening skills in a motivating way.

Take three or four sentences from a reading text that you are using in class and tell the learners that they have to listen (don’t let them read!) and identify how many words there are in the sentence. Now, say each sentence at normal speed. Don’t overenunciate – and don’t grade your language speed in the way that you probably usually do with them- speak fast enough to make it challenging.

Say the sentence 2 or three times and ask them to write down just the NUMBER of words they hear (they could write this in the chat box if you’re online). Tell them to count all the words- a contraction counts as a word, too!

Here’s a random example – listen to these three sentences and count the words
· Given all the listening that we do, 7
· You’d think we'd be good at it! 9
· In fact, most of us aren’t, 7

You can make the sentences longer or more complex for your higher level learners. When they’ve guessed, go through it with them, showing them how the articles, auxiliaries, modals etc get swallowed up. Look at the examples I gave you…. (illustrations of weak forms, contractions and linkages)

Then put them in pairs or small groups (in breakout rooms online) with the rest of the text and get them to do the same thing to each other. This will give them the chance to listen to some more but also gives them an opportunity to work on their own pronunciation – trying to read text in a natural manner including the weak forms and linking.

It’s not a magic cure, but it’s a great way to improve awareness of connected speech issues and if you include it as a regular part of your lessons, it’ll definitely help them to start thinking more about and hearing the words that get swallowed up in connected speech.

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