Learn how to use authentic texts to help students practise active listening skills. There is also a sample worksheet for you to download.

Active Listening

Active listening is a key skill needed for engaging in conversations and social situations. A conversation between two or more people is an interaction in which people not only speak to one another, but also listen and respond accordingly. Active listening is the name for all the ways in which we show the speaker that we are listening to what they are saying. We can show interest in what another person is saying through nonverbal communication, e.g., our use of body language and how we make eye contact, the sounds we make while we are listening, etc. We can also use words and phrases to show that we are listening and share our personal reaction to what the other person is saying. By helping students become better active listeners, we can help them to become more proficient conversationalists.


How to choose a suitable source

Active listening can be paired with many other speaking skills, such as making small talk, expressing opinions, clarifying, summarising, asking questions, making predictions, etc. So, in order to choose a text to help students develop active listening skills, we first need to consider if the text will be appropriate for the chosen speaking skill.


Consider the following questions:

  • Why would someone be interested in this text? (e.g., something new and controversial, a specific event that people might have a strong personal reaction to or that opens conversation about a larger issue.)
  • What information from the text is relevant for the task that the student needs to pick from the text? (e.g., what key events, actions, objects, or concepts will spark more discussion between students?)
  • How can you set up the task to ensure that students are speaking and listening to each other? (e.g., picking out statements that will provide topics and questions for discussion, scaffolding by asking students to first reflect on the text and think of their own opinions, etc.)


How to structure your lesson

We can teach active listening with any teaching approach, such as Task-Based learning or Presentation–Practice–Production. When introducing a text for the purpose of speaking and active listening, start with engaging students with the topic of the text and asking for a personal response.

Follow these steps for using authentic news articles for teaching active listening:


Activate students’ schemata when using authentic materials

Activate their knowledge about the topic of an article by having them read the title and subtitle and eliciting what they may know or think about it before reading. You can ask students what they think about the topic in general, or create a few quick discussion questions as a lead-in.


Get students engaged with authentic texts

Students read the article quickly to understand the main idea. This is where you can get them to check their predictions or look for the things they mentioned in the lead-in. Providing a link between the text and the students’ own ideas will create a more personal incentive for reading.


Get students to respond personally to the text

This is where you need to identify the information in the text that will be essential later in the lesson in order to provide scaffolding for the speaking activity. Try to choose statements or questions that will be good starting points for a discussion or conversation. Also, give students time to process the text and make notes about their own reactions and thoughts before they are tasked with the speaking and listening activity.


Introduce or recycle active listening concepts

You can either present key concepts to students or ask them to have a quick conversation about what they think it is and note what the other person is doing to show them that they are being listened to. Also, go over the effects of little to no active listening skills, the impact on the other speaker, and the interaction between them. Ask: When someone isn’t showing they are listening how do you feel? Discuss how important this is especially in a foreign language (because the speaker might think the listener does not understand or is confused).


Provide a list of phrases, questions, nonverbal, or other strategies or elicit these from students and write them on the board. Ask students to work in pairs and go over the list to check understanding.


Get students to share their responses and practice active listening

First, model the activity with a student by asking them a question about one of the statements and responding with one of the phrases from the useful language list.

Then, ask students to work in pairs and encourage them to ask each other questions about the statements to make conversation and to use the useful language to show interest while the other person is expressing their point of view.

If time allows, regroup students and get them to have different conversations with different classmates, encouraging students to rely a little less on their notes and on the text each time.


Follow up

Students research their own active listening habits in their first language and investigate which of these can be transferred to the English language. Ask them to share these findings in class or on a digital sharing platform or note board.



Answer Key for worksheet activities:


1-True: A, B, C


F2F: Uh-huh; Mmm

Online: LOL; IMG;

Both: Really? Oh. I see. Right. Wow. That would be… (wonderful/terrible). That sounds … (great/practical/hopeful/awful/complicating).


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