How do you improve listening skills in an English class?

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have found, like other posters, that Socratic seminars and student-to-student discussions are crucial in developing listening skills.  I provide a little positive reinforcement to encourage good listening habits during our discussions.  Students earn points, not only for responding verbally during the discussions but also for listening participation.  In my class, they have to respond at least once to a comment from another student, and they keep their listening points by not interrupting others or participating in other activities which demonstrate that they are not listening to whoever has the floor.

In a more formal style of truly listening, my students participate in a version of the National Forensic League's debate style known as Public Forum which requires two students to sit across from two other students.  Each student has a very specific role in the debate and must wait to his designated time slot to speak.  While his opponent is speaking, he takes notes on the speech so that he can refute or question points made by the opponent.  My students always make comments about how they never really listened to someone on the opposing side of an argument before participating in a format such as this.  The general guidelines for Public Forum can be found on the NFL's site, and it's simply patterned after the political show Crossfire on PBS.


coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A technique which I have always found to be very successful in improving listening skills in the teaching of English is the good old practice of dictation. If you set your students a dictation task, even on the simplest piece, you (and they) will be amazed at the number of simplest things they miss. For example, have your students listen to a basic simple essay title question and short extract from literature. You dictate, they take notes. Have them spend five minutes looking over their notes and then take the notes away. Now ask them several basic questions on the text, starting with easy ones and getting more difficult. You will be surprised that some of them are not even answering the essay title that was set (they didn't take it in or are answering a different question due to not listening carefully enough to exactly what the examiner was asking for.) Ask about minor details next, colors,times,setting,dates,names,literary devices etc. To finish, keep their original responses and get them to answer the questions again - this time with the text in front of them.

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another technique has been referred to as "The circle of conversation."  This means that conversation in the classroom should neither be a one-way street from teacher-to-student, nor  even a two-way street from teacher-to-student and then back again.  Rather, conversation in the classroom should be circular: students should be directing their speaking, and listening, to each other.

So, when Johnny raises his hand to give an answer to your question, let it be known that you're going to ask someone else to repeat Johnny's answer.  With older students, you can ask another student to comment or add on to Johnny's answer.  In this way, students are "forced" to listen to the teacher, and -- more importantly -- to one another.  It also means that correct answers will be heard more than once, thus providing reinforcement.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To focus on listening skills, I would give short reading check quizzes verbally. My students knew the drill. I would ask each question, wait a moment, repeat the question one time only, and then move on. I would use simple true/false statements for this activity or frame short questions with short answers.

Occasionally, we would listen to a story rather than read it. I would stop at appropriate places from time to time to ask basic questions requiring written answers. Since students did not know exactly when I would stop the story, they stayed engaged.

Also, when teams gave class presentations, I would have the class take notes over the material that was presented and follow up with short open-note quizzes over major points of information.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great ideas from the posters, but my answer is going to step away from the norm slightly. What do we observe about the students that causes us to think they are not listening. Are minor details escaping them? Are they failing to grasp the larger picture? Are they missing important instructions? All of these things could be indicative of not listening, but they could indicate other issues as well. One thing we must consider, is that many students who don't appear to be listening might already be processing something they've "listened" to.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having taught French as well as English, I am in full agreement with coachingcorner about the value of old-fashioned dictation practice.

Another technique I've used with great success is to videotape a Socratic seminar then play it back for the students to critique as a class. When they see themselves and hear their own words, then assess them against a rubric, they become aware of many listening and speaking issues.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think in a classroom setting students have to have a reason to listen. I t has been my experience that if you raise their level of involvement in class discussions and when they know that they are going to be called upon to add to discussions they become more attentive and better listeners. If you are talking about just increasing listenining skills in conversation poster #5 has given you great information to work from.

thewanderlust878 | Student

I think that the best way to improve listening skills in English (or in any language really) would be to speak the language, and listen to peers/teachers speak the same words as well. Sometimes listening to yourself speak and then comparing it to how others say it is not only going to help you speak better, but also help you learn to listen to the different tones, dialects, and accents of other people speaking the language. 

Another good method is to watch TV shows or movies in that language. I am currently minoring in Japanese, and I find that I can pick up on words faster as well as speak them faster myself if I watch anime or Japanese movies on a regular basis. Many times, if you find a show that you like, you get so immersed in it that you don't realize how much you are learning until you surprise yourself by better speaking and listening skills. 

Hope this helps!

atlas | Student

cheap auto insurance quotessaying it and the way you put your examples, increases the attention of the students. Making the explanation funny helps increase the attention of students too.

atlas | Student

nd they keep their listening points by not interrupting others or participating in other activities which demonstrate that they are not listening to whoever has the floor.  Austin Real Estate

shaila | Student

I am a student and of course I can't give you any suggessions because you my every means know better than me. You might feel a bit offened.

The first thing a student dislikes about a teacher is when he/she start giving lectures. Especially history, economics, accounting, commerce and so on. What we students find intrest is when we start to learn about new things. When the lecture contains unknown, interesting informations. If the lecture is on something boring then perhaps the way of saying it and the way you put your examples, increases the attention of the students. Making the explanation funny helps increase the attention of students too.

Next thing that might increase their attention in english will be to find the funny parts of the characters and in the plot of the summary.

Hope it'll help you. Let me know, please.

epollock | Student

Try simply reading aloud to the students and then assess them on what they have just heard. Not only can you read to them, but other students as well, so that they have many opportunities to listen to different types of speech patterns.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Listening skills are same irrespective of the language used for communication. I am giving below some guidelines for good listening skill practices:

  1. Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Remind yourself that it is very important for you to listen and understand every word of what is being said.
  2. Avoid distraction that may draw your attention from what is being said.
  3. Avoid rehearsing in your mind the your response to what others are saying.
  4. Do not interrupt other person while he or she is still speaking. Also avoid replying back instantly after the other person has stopped speaking. Take a second or two to begin your response.
  5. Make the talker feel at ease. Create a positive impression about your interest in listening to what is being said. This includes maintaining appropriate body posture, and appropriate vocal responses to indicate your interest and understanding.
  6. Ask questions for clarification.
  7. Go easy on arguments and criticism.
  8. Avoid discussions under condition of stress.