Modern coursebooks provide some excellent recorded material, but it can be exciting to supplement this with more unusual sources of listening work. Here are some ideas.

The tape gallery

  • Find about ten interesting short jokes, stories, advertisements or poems (not more than a minute long) and record yourself reading them, each onto a different cassette.
  • Borrow two or three extra tape recorders and place them at different locations around the room.

  • Put two or three of your cassettes next to each machine. Show learners how to 'play' and 'rewind' the tapes and how to keep the volume level down. Then invite them to wander freely around the different places, changing tape or location at will, with the aim of choosing their favourite recording - or, possibly, filling in a worksheet you provide.
  • Make sure they play tapes softly and that they don't all gather round one machine - but otherwise leave the control of the activity to them.
  • Afterwards get feedback on what they enjoyed or learnt.  

Live listening

When you find that your coursebook has a fairly dull text coming up, instead of using the tape invite a colleague with a spare 5 minutes to come into your class. 

  • Sit in front of the learners and have a live 'ordinary' conversation on the same topic as the book. 
  • Make sure the class has a clear task while listening - e.g. to catch the main points that each speaker makes. 

Guest stars

  • Prepare notes for a short monologue in character (e.g. as the Queen or Britney Spears). 
  • In class announce that a guest star is coming today - but don't say who it is. The learners should listen and NOT shout out who they think you are but instead write down their guess.
  • Chat naturally for a minute or two in character - about your life, a typical day, how you feel etc.
  • At the end of your monologue let them compare their guesses in small groups (giving reasons) and then check with you. 
  • When they know who you are, they could briefly ask you a few more interview questions in character.  
  • Repeat the activity with different 'guests' as a regular slot in your lessons or ask students to prepare as 'guests'.


  • Prepare a short text that is longer than the learners could completely remember - e.g. twenty to thirty words at pre-Intermediate level.
  • Tell the class that you will read it at normal speaking speed only once, while they listen without writing, trying to understand as much as they can.
  • Afterwards they individually note down all they can recall - key words, phrases, ideas etc - then in small groups compare and see if they can reconstruct a complete text. Their aim is not to exactly reproduce the original, but to make a coherent complete text as close to the original meaning as they can.
  • You might want to re-read the text once, but don't keep reading it otherwise it just becomes a traditional dictation.  At the end see if the groups can agree on one final version on the board.