A fun way to improve your students' listening skills

I did the following listening project with a class of intermediate students at the start of term and they have all become better listeners, but, more importantly, are more motivated to learn English through songs. The website to use is Lyrics Training (19,000 likes on facebook).

Get your students to improve their listening!

Before you set up the project
Before introducing it to your students have a play and see how it works. The basic idea is that students listen to the songs and have to complete the lyrics as they listen. There are three levels, beginner, intermediate, and expert. As the level gets higher you have to complete more lyrics; expert is the full lyrics. Try and have a go at completing one of your favourite songs, it’s not as easy as you might think. Imagine how intensely a non-English speaker has to listen to complete a song.

How to set up the project
When I introduced this idea I asked the students to have a chat about these questions.

  • How important do you think listening is?
  • What do you do outside class to improve your listening?
  • How can you get better at listening in your own time?

Once you have the discussed the importance of listening to music, or watching series and films in their own time, ask for a volunteer. Here’s where you need whiteboard technology and a keyboard. You ask the volunteer to tell you a name of a song and type it into lyrics training. If the song doesn’t come up then just keep asking until one does; lyrics training has a load. Then you get the class to help the volunteer type in the lyrics as they listen. It’s fun and gets them involved.

Get them to jot down the website address and on a blank page to write down ‘Songs that I’ve listened to this term’ as a title. Every week they have to listen to three songs (I use that as a minimum but you can do more or less, depending on the group) and write down the title in their notebook, along with the date (important for you to keep track of their progress).

Song discussions
Once a week at the start of class you have a ten minute ‘Song Discussion’ time where students discuss the songs they have listened to in the last week. Here are some questions that I asked mine.

  • What’s the best/worst song you listened to this week?
  • Which had the best/funniest/most interesting video?
  • How did the song make you feel?
  • Which song had the best/most powerful/sad/funny lyrics?
  • Which song would you choose your worst enemy to listen to?
  • Which song is the most uplifting/inspiring/depressing?
  • Hum the song and guess the title.

There are loads of questions you can ask. You can even link it in with the grammar point or speaking skills that your doing that week. If you’re worried that they won’t listen to the songs, don’t be, once they see everyone else involved and talking about the songs that they’ve listened to then they’ll want to join in.

What are the benefits?

  • Students love it.
  • It’s fun.
  • There are loads of songs and different levels.
  • Students will have to listen hard and notice aspects of connected speech.
  • Students will boost their vocabulary.
  • You don’t have to do much to monitor it, just keep a check on their song list every now and then.

Considering how challenging listening is and how important the skill is to get a high level of English I’ve found this listening project really useful for my students and they get better as term goes on. You can even do it in other languages if you’re trying to learn. I’ve just done one in Spanish. Hope this helps, let me know how you get on.

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