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10 English Listening Games for the Classroom

    Spoken language has many important advantages: You can hear the language being spoken at the actual speed, the intonation and the proper pronunciation. English Listening activities Games and Activities add an element of fun to the learning process which keeps students interested; it allows the students to retain more information. Students are also exposed to many different accents from all over the world. In this article I discuss ten English listening games for the classroom.

    Simon Says

    If you need some listening files to use in the classroom, I’ve added two great links to websites where you can find listening resources. The first one is ‘Randall’s ESL listening lab’ – where you can find resources for all levels; the second is called ‘Listen a Minute’ – when you just want short audio clips to use in your classroom.

    The most commonly used game when young students are restless and you don’t know what to do, turn to ‘Old Faithful’ – Simon Says!

    “Simon says: Touch your ears! Simon says: Rub your head! Simon says: Turn around; jump up! You’re out!” Kids love this game because it gets them active. You can also up the listening factor by saying: “Simon says: Touch something starting with the letter A!” and students have to run around the class and find something that starts with the letter A. You can also do rhyming and different things, it is only up to your own imagination, but this is a great one to use. I’m not adding it to the ten, I’m just reminding you of this fantastic game to use for listening.


    Dictogloss is a simple activity to use for advanced learners. The teacher tells an interesting story to the students and they have to memorize it. After that you put them into groups and they have to retell the story, using their own words. After that you can break them up and make new groups and they have to retell the story in those groups.

    A good idea is to record yourself when you tell the story the first time to show them the original at the end. This is a fun activity because students practice their listening skills and they learn how to substitute different words and keep the meaning intact.

    Musical Chairs

    All the students stand up and you ask them one question. You then play the audio and as soon as the students hear the answer, they have to sit down. The last one to sit down, loses. They can also do an activity such as walk like a zombie, or bounce like a rabbit and as soon as they hear the answer, they have to stop. This is just a fun thing to keep students busy and also focus on listening.

    Listen and Throw

    Split the class into teams and hand each team a different colored paper. Students roll it up into balls which they will use to answer with. In the front of the classroom, you put three bins: A, B and C. Then you play the audio and as soon as the students hear the answer, they have to throw the ball into whichever answer it is. It doesn’t matter if they win or lose, they actually do something active. You can also do a different activity where you use a ball. You ask a question and throw it to a student; when they catch it, they have to answer. That student then asks a question to a friend. You go around the class, that means that the students have to actively listen to the questions and be ready to catch.

    If you have a really big class, split it into different groups so that students have a better chance of participating.

    Minimal Pairs

    Something that is particularly difficult for ESL students’ listening to the difference between words that sound the same, but might be written a little bit differently. These are words like leave – live, feel – fill, three – tree, fit – feet, etc. So, here’s a great game you can play.

    Have a set of cards printed out for all these troublesome words; divide the class into two teams and let them line up. You will say the word and then one student in the front from each team has to quickly find the card and lift it up. You can also make it a little bit more difficult by using the word in a sentence and then they have to search around, pick up the card and show it and their team gets a point.

    These days we have access to fantastic books that were written for a younger audience and English learners. Have students listen to an audiobook or a story, then they have to write a book report. They can do a presentation, or they can give a summary of each chapter. I did another video on classic book series that you can use with younger students, or with English learners.

    Movie Vocabulary

    Find a movie clip and watch it for interesting vocabulary that you write down. Then make a list of all these interesting words that you can hand to the students. While they’re watching this video clip, they have to check what words they hear. Afterwards you can discuss it with the students to find the meaning and use it in sentences. Another fun thing you can do, is they can re-enact some of the scenes from the video clip.

    Telephone Game

    I had this game in my speaking activities video (see link). Create two teams and then pick two leaders. The rest of the students have to close their ears and you can play music in the background so that they don’t listen. Then give each leader a sentence that they have to tell the rest of their team. Then they tell each person and it goes around and at the end they reveal what the final sentence is. You can also record your sentences before you show it to the students.

    Make a Monster together

    So, pick two students. They go to the front of the class to the board and then have to draw a monster according to what the rest of the class tells them. So, you can ask how many hands does it have, how many eyes, how big is it, is a tall or short? They then have to draw the monster according to all the students shouting out their ideas. Another idea is you get to students to look away while you draw something on the board; a scene of something happening. Take a picture of it with your phone and then erase it. The two students come in and then the rest of the class has to direct them what to draw. Afterwards you can compare it to the original. This is a really fun game and very easy to do in class if you don’t know what to do and you’ve got some time left.

    Song Gap Fill

    Songs are a great way to engage reluctant learners, so why not use the most recent pop song? Give each student or pair of students the song’s lyrics with some missing words. Students listen to the song and have to write in the correct lyric. To make it easier, you can have a box with a list of missing words at the top of the page. Play the song and pause if necessary; the aim is for the students to fill in the missing words. At the end you go through the song and you see which students have all the words correct and you can also go over the meaning of these words.

    Step-by-step Instructions

    Another important listening skill that students must develop is learning how to understand step-by-step instructions. Hand students a city map and give them instructions on how to find a certain place. They can also do it with their friends to find different locations, or students have to bring a recipe for a meal that they read to a partner and the partner has to write step by step what they have to do. They can also repeat it back to the person who read it.

    Summary: Key rules

    I hope you get to use these games in your classroom. Here are a few things you need to consider when doing ESL listening exercises in your class:

    • Keep your class in order if there’s chaos the listening activity won’t work; so make sure that the students are calm in listening and then start with activity.
    • Keep the exercises simple and easy when students don’t understand what is expected of them or the activity is too complicated, they won’t enjoy it and the activity will be a failure.
    • Have real-life conversations. The idea behind using listening activities is for students to your real life talk to help them because learning is only important for us if we can make it real to ourselves.
    • Lastly, start with a clear accent; students first need to understand the language and learn the basics, after that you can expose them to all these beautiful accents out there in the world.

    Okay everyone, I hope you enjoyed this lesson.


    LISTENING RESOURCES: Randall’s ESL Listening Lab ► Listen a minute ►

    10 Fantastic Games for normal or online class ► ?10 Online Teaching Tips ►

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