What is listening?
Listening skills & strategies
Principles for teaching listening
Develop a listening activity
I. What is listening?
Is listening an active or passive skill?
Let’s look at listening as
an interactive process!
Process of listening
According to Clark & Clark (1977), the following happens when we listen:
Hearer processes the “raw speech” (the actual phrases, clauses, etc.)
Hearer determines the type of speech (conversation, speech, etc.)
Hearer infers the objectives of the speaker (to persuade, request, etc.)
Hearer recalls schemata (own background knowledge)
Hearer assigns literal meaning to utterance
Hearer assigns intended meaning to utterance
Hearer determines whether information should be retained in shortterm or long-term memory
Hearer deletes the form in which the message was received
Simply put, there are many processes
interacting with the actually sounds received
by a listener.
Understanding these different processes of
attaching meaning to sound can be a helpful
starting point for a teacher to understand how
to teach listening to students.
Listening is interactive
Listening is also interactive because in most situations
listening is part of a two-way communication between a
two or more parties.
Besides lectures, sermons (religious worship), ceremonies,
and radio, what are some other forms of one-way forms
What are some two-way forms of communication?
Which list is larger?
Your list for two-way communication was
probably larger because language is used
mostly for communication between two or
Therefore, listening is a part
of an interactive process
II. Listening skills &
Before looking at the development of listening
skills with young learners, let’s look at a basic
taxonomy of listening “microskills” developed
by Jack Richards (1983).
This comprehensive list can be helpful for
teachers to recognize the individual microskills
skills that they are developing with each
Retain chunks of language of different lengths in short-term memory.
Discriminate among the distinctive sounds of English
Recognize English stress patterns, words in stressed and unstressed
positions, rhythmic structure, intonational contours, and their role in signaling
Recognize reduced forms of words.
Distinguish word boundaries, recognize a core of words, and interpret word
order patterns and their significance.
Process speech at different rates of delivery.
Process speech containing pauses, errors, corrections, and other
Recognize grammatical word classes (nouns, verbs, etc.), systems (e.g.,
tense, agreement, pluralization), patterns rules, and elliptical forms.
Detect sentence constituents and distinguish between major and minor
Listening Microskills (Cont’d)
Recognize that a particular meaning may be expressed in different
Recognize cohesive devices in spoken discourse.
Recognize the communicative functions of utterances, according to
situations, participants, goals.
Infer situations, participants, goals, using real-world knowledge.
From events, ideas, etc., described, predict outcomes, infer links and
connections between events, deduce causes and effects, and detect such
relations as main idea, supporting idea, new information, given information,
generalization, and exemplification.
Distinguish between literal and implied meanings.
Use facial, kinesic, body language, and other nonverbal clues to decipher
Develop and use a battery of listening strategies, such as detecting key
words, guessing the meaning of words form context, appeal for help, and
signaling comprehension or lack thereof.
Take a close look at this list…
Which of these listening microskills can be
appropriately developed for young learners?
If you are a teacher, which of these microskills
do you regularly develop in your listening
Which ones could you incorporate in your
listening activities more?
Listening strategies for YLs
Brewster, Ellis, and Girard (2004) mention that developing
“intelligent guessing” is very important to develop in
young learners. They suggest the following strategies:
Predicting: learners guess what they will be listening to
Guessing from context: learners guess the meaning of
a word through the context given
Recognizing discourse patterns and markers: learners
understand signal words, such as first, then, finally, but,
These are strategies that teachers should help
learners develop. If learners develop the use
of these strategies independent of the teacher,
then they will be improving their ability to listen
effectively on their own.
Consider the list of microskills again. Which
ones can teacher encourage young learners to
use? Which ones are appropriate for your
particular student profile?
III. Principles for teaching
listening (Brown, 2001)
When designing listening activities for
your students, it is important to follow
these 6 principles as compiled by Brown:
1. In an interactive, four-skills curriculum, make
sure that you don’t overlook the importance of
techniques that specifically develop listening
Most likely your YL program integrates all four skills
interactively, which is the ideal situation for
communicative language teaching. However, it is still
very important to focus on learners’ development of
listening, especially for young learners who are just at
the beginning stages of developing their
comprehension of target language.
2. Use techniques that are intrinsically motivating.
All activities should take into consideration learners’
background knowledge, interests, and goals to make
the activities motivating and fun for students.
3. Utilize authentic language and contexts.
Activities should try to use authentic language and realworld contexts as much as possible to make the
learning more meaningful, motivating, and useful for
4. Carefully consider the form of listener’s
Often we ask students, “Do you understand?” Of
course, the response is always, “Yes!” However, how
can you know if students truly understand without
something concrete or observable?
Lund (1990) provided a comprehensive list of ways to
check students’ comprehension:
Doing: listener responds physically to a command
Choosing: listener selects from alternatives such as pictures,
objects, and texts
Transferring: listener draws a picture of what is heard
Answering: listener answers questions about the message
Condensing: listener outlines or takes notes on a lecture
Extending: listener provides an ending to a story heard
Duplicating: listener translates the message into the native
language or repeats it verbatim
Modeling: listener orders a meal, for example, after listening to
a model order
Conversing: listener engages in a conversation that indicates
appropriate processing of information
5. Encourage the development of listening
Again, it is extremely important to build listening
strategies. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Building strategies that help students improve their
listening comprehension beyond the classroom should
be the most important goal.
See the following list of important strategies to build:
Listening strategies to build:
looking for keywords
looking for nonverbal cues to meaning
predicting a speaker’s purpose by the context of the
associating information with one’s existing cognitive
structure (activating background information)
guessing at meanings
listening for the general gist
various test-taking strategies for listening comprehension
6. Include both bottom-up and top-down listening
It is important to use both bottom-up and top-down
techniques when teaching listening. With young
learners who are at the beginning stages, it could be
easy to focus too much on bottom-up techniques, so be
very wary of which of the skills each listening activity
focuses on and strike a good balance between the two.
Bottom-up processing = proceeds from sounds to
words to grammatical relationships to lexical meanings,
etc. to a final message.
Bottom-up techniques usually focus on sounds, words,
intonation, grammatical structures, and other components
of spoken language.
Students listen to a pair of words and circle if the words are same or different.
Students match a word they hear with its picture.
Students listen to a short dialogue and fill in the blanks of a transcript.
Top-down processing = begins with the schemata or
background knowledge that the listener brings to the text.
Top-down techniques focus on the activation of
background knowledge and the meaning of the text.
Students listen to some utterances and describe the emotional
reaction they hear: happy, sad, etc.
Students listen to a sentence describing a picture and select the
Students listen to a conversation and choose a picture showing the
correct location of the dialogue.
IV. Develop a listening
When developing a listening activity, be
sure to set up the activity in three distinct
Before the listening activity, prepare students
for the activity by
• activating schema
• connecting the activity to their
• getting them to predict what they will
be listening to
• introducing useful words and
While students are listening, be sure that they
are actively listening by
• using of visuals, such as pictures,
facial expressions, body movement
• asking them questions and eliciting
• having them respond to the listening
by doing, choosing, etc.
After the listening activity, be sure to follow-up
with some comprehension checking activities
which can include the same types of activities
In addition, the post-listening activities can flow
smoothly into a speaking activity that practices
the language learned in the listening activity.
V. Classroom language
Remember that the classroom language you use is an ongoing development of learners’ listening skills. In
addition, to the language objectives set up in your school
curriculum, consider the types of classroom language
used and set up your own objectives based on them.
Using English as the medium of communication in your
classroom naturally develops students’ listening
What kinds of listening strategies can you build through
the consistent use of classroom language in English?
Brewster, J., Ellis, G., & Girard, D. (2004). The
primary English teacher’s guide. Essex: Penguin
Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by principles: an
interactive approach to language pedagogy. White
Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.