8 Creative and Engaging ESL Listening Activities for Adults (2023)

8 Creative and Engaging ESL Listening Activities for Adults (1)

By 8 Creative and Engaging ESL Listening Activities for Adults (2)Rebecca Thering and syondavis Last updated:

We know that listening practice is vital when learning any language.

But let’s be honest, the CDs that come with ESL textbooks absolutely need supplements.

Hearing the same voices over and over can get boring, and the topics could be more current.

So how can we liven it up for our adult students?

We need to mix in some spiritedcreativity to our ESL listening activities!

Especially for adults, where it sometimes takes more to entertain while teaching them, original English listening activities will go a long way. Just like children, adults learn better when they’re interested and engaged.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

The Importance of ESL Listening Activities for Adults

Speaking and listening are both critical to the success of learning a language. In order for a student to have speaking success, he or she must first listen to the language being spoken.

The listening practice is critical because it reinforces previously learned material, builds the student’s confidence and improves the skill of natural pronunciation.

Reinforces Learning

After going through vocabulary words and reading comprehension exercises, it’s important to do anEnglish listening activity to reinforce what information the brain is trying to process.

The more times your brain gets to encounter the material, the better!

Builds Confidence in Understanding

Students are encouraged when they hear words that they understand. Read or play appropriate material that is suited for their skill level.

Students should be able to understand many of the words and the general concept of the material that they are listening to, but there should still be words that are new to them in the audio.

(Video) Active Listening

Improves Natural Pronunciation

Listening to native English speakers helps ESL students improve their enunciation, pronunciation and natural flow of words.

We’ve established that adults – like kids – benefit from interesting listening exercises and engaging lessons. “Ok great, I believe it, but where can I find some? I’m not creative!,” you might be thinking.

Not to worry! There are plenty of listening activities and games that can be used effectively with ESL students. And right now we’re going to introduce to you eight creative ESL listening activities for adults.

With some of these, encourage your adult students to have a little fun, let down their guard and show their inner child.

1. Watch Clips from Movies and TV Shows

Everyone loves a good movie and a little television, and both can be used for many different ESL activities in the classroom. You can always write out some comprehension questions for your students to answer during a full-length film, but what else could we do?

A great way to incorporate this type of media into class is to pick short clips of movies that fit with the lesson you are teaching that day.

Watching these clips at the start of class is not only great for reinforcing curriculum, but it also helps students get a feel for American culture and everyday conversational language. It’s really entertaining too!

If you’re not sure which shows to start with, here are some ’90s sitcoms that work really well for English learners.

Here’s another English listening activity using one of these clips: Show a list of names of the main characters that are in the clip you’re going to watch. Have all of the students pick one character to pay a special amount of attention to. At the end of the movie or video clip, have students fill out a questionnaire or do a miniature report on their chosen character.

Questions can include: What is his/her name? What is his/her job? What was he/she trying to say? Describe how he/she looked. What was his/her personality like?

2. Encourage Students to Watch the News at Home for Fun, In-class Activities

Assigning students homework that involves watching the news in English is beneficial in more ways than one. Not only does it give students another medium of listening to English, but it also gives them something to talk about with other English speakers.This will help students engage in the culture, which is so vital to the English language learning process.

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Here’s an extension: Have students do current event presentations in the classroom to report on the information they learned from watching the news.

This way, not only are students listening, but they are also retaining information and getting tons of speaking practice, too.

(Video) Why do young people feel so lonely? 6 Minute English

A fun group project students can do after watching the news at home is to be news reporters in the classroom.

Students can take highlights from the news, write them down, practice and finally report the news in groups to the class. Add a cool news channel logo to project on the screen behind them for extra flare that students will love!

3. Use Music: Write Songs and Sing in Class

People of all ages and cultural backgrounds appreciate music.

Listening to music in the classroom helps with vocabulary memorization and word pronunciation. It also helps students to get a deeper grasp of word meanings and is a great way to explain rhyming words.

A cool way to incorporate music in the classroom is to have students split into groups and write simple songs using vocabulary words that they learned that week. Using a familiar tune and just writing new words for the song is a good idea for the less-creative folks.

Have students perform the songs for the classroom and encourage everyone to sing along!

Here’s a twist on your classic fill-in-the-blanks listening activity: Give students song lyric sheets with some of the lyrics missing. Listen to the song a couple of times, and instruct the students to fill in the blanks.

To check for the correct answers, go around the room and have each person sing out a line. They have to sing it, or it doesn’t count!

4. Use Authentic Content from FluentU

One of the challenges of using movies, TV shows, news and music with students is that it’s authentic content, and the natural speech in native English speech can be too difficult for English learners to keep up with.

FluentU was designed to overcome the obstacles of teaching with authentic content.

The program introduces English vocab and grammar naturally, through clips and short videos like movie trailers, music videos, vlogs, news segments, funny commercials and more. All videos have interactive transcripts and subtitles that allow students to click on words to see their meaning.

Students will, more specifically, get contextual definitions, audio pronunciations, example sentences, clips from other FluentU videos where the word is used and the option to add the word as a flashcard. Flashcard decks can then be reviewed by students at their pace—the program adapts to their learning and presents them with personalized questions.

On the iOS and Android apps, students can even speak their answers to quiz questions for some speaking practice.

(Video) The Power and Importance of...READING! | Luke Bakic | TEDxYouth@TBSWarsaw

FluentU is a robust learning experience that’s easy for you to set up and maintain, and entertaining for students to use.

5. Act Out Scenarios in Role Play

Come up with scenarios for students to act out in front of the classroom. For example, if the lesson for that day is on “Introductions,” consider the following brief script:

Student 1: “Hello, my name is Jacob”

Student 2: “Nice to meet you, I am Mary.”

Student 1: “Nice to meet you too.”

After having two students volunteer to act out the scene in front of the class, ask the rest of the class comprehension questions. This activity works well with a wide range of lessons such as restaurant etiquette, job interviewsand food/cooking.

6. Read Aloud in Class: Partner Gap-fill Activity

Reading aloud is an oldie but goodie.

Reading in front of the class can encourage students to feel confident about reading, speaking and listening to English. This is often practiced with popcorn reading, where students pop in and out, taking turns reading in a random order.

Another way to give students fantastic listening practice while reading aloud is a partner gap-fill activity. Have students sit in pairs, and then give each partner their own copy of the text sample, either A or B (A pair is comprised of one A and one B).

Although the text sample is the same, the A and B worksheets are not. Each worksheet has blanks in different places. Where A has a blank, B does not.

Pairs take turns reading aloud their full sentences, so that their partner can fill in their blanks. The students should continue doing this until they have no more blanks!

Note: This is also a great activity to practice spelling. Before starting, make sure students know how to ask questions like, “How do you spell ~?” and “Could you say that again?”

If you’re in need of a text to read aloud, there are tons of resources online that are available for little or no cost at all. Don’t be afraid to do your research and use what is out there!Here are some great places to start looking:

7. Embed Questions into TED Talks or YouTube Videos

Podcastslike TED Talks are a great resource for advanced listening exercises in the classroom, but how can we spice it up a notch?

If your students are ready for more content-filled material, useTED-Ed to create a listening activity/lesson around a TED Talk. TED-Ed allows you to embed questions (multiple choice, open-ended and discussion) into the TED Talk of your choice.

(Video) 3 Ways to Express Your Thoughts So That Everyone Will Understand You | Alan Alda | Big Think

Browse through public TED-Ed lessons or follow these step-by-step instructions to make one of your own! These can be used in front of the class in a big group, or for individual practice in a computer lab.

For lower level and intermediate students, you can turn a YouTube video into an interactive quiz with blubbr. Advertised as a platform to “play and create video trivia with friends,” blubbr can just as easily be used as a fantastic ESL listening tool.

Just as with TED-Ed, you can browse already made blubbr quizzes, or make your own. When making your own, you have complete control to customize the English level, as you’re choosing the video and writing the questions.

8. Play with ESL Listening Apps

In addition to podcasts and YouTube clips, phone apps are a revolutionary tool in the world of learning. There are so many new listening resources that are readily available at the touch of a finger.

Here are two ESL apps that are great for listening activities – both inside and outside of the classroom.

Speech Tutor – by Synapse Apps

Cost: $9.99

One of the greatest challenges ESL students face is learning how to pronounce words correctly. Because different languages use different parts of the mouth to speak, it can be hard to get used to making English consonant and vowel sounds.

In this phenomenal app, students can listen to and see exactly how the sound is made by watching a virtual mouth say it. This app helps with improving clarity of sounds and fluency of words while developing a natural English accent.

Learn English – by Hello Hello

iTunes | Google Play
Cost: $0.00

Learn English is great for listening to conversational English. The app functions by showing the student animated videos of scenarios and checking for comprehension.

One of the coolest features of this app is the talkback-recording feature. After each scenario, the student is encouraged to record him or herself repeating the dialogue they just listened to on the video. The student can then listen to the recording and be able to identify the words they said correctly and the words that need improvement.

Listening activities are necessary when learning a new language, and luckily they’re also a great way to introduce new topics, reinforce curriculum or check for understanding.

Using any of these ESL listening activities for adults is a sure way to grab ahold of their interest and propel their English skills up and along on the road to English fluency!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


How do you make ESL class fun for adults? ›

18 Ideas for ESL Speaking Activities for Adults
  1. Short Talks. Create a stack of topic cards for your students, so that each student will have their own card. ...
  2. Show and Tell. ...
  3. Video Dictionary. ...
  4. PechaKucha. ...
  5. Bingo. ...
  6. Two Texts. ...
  7. Running Dictation. ...
  8. Surveys and Interviews.
17 May 2021

What are good activities for teaching listening? ›

Listening Activities for Elementary Students
  • Draw this. For younger students, or for students first being introduced to active listening, start with something hands-on and familiar, like drawing. ...
  • Don't speak twice. ...
  • Simon says. ...
  • Telephone. ...
  • Popcorn storytelling. ...
  • My favorite toss. ...
  • Audio stories.
20 Apr 2022

What activities promote active listening? ›

  • Read stories to your child. ...
  • Cook with your child. ...
  • Have conversations about things your child is interested in. ...
  • Play the telephone game. ...
  • Create a list of questions with your child for him or her to ask you or a sibling. ...
  • Play the “spot the change” game.
13 Jun 2017

How can I make teaching adults fun? ›

Here are some strategies you can use to motivate adult learners, based on their characteristics.
Allow for Choice and Self-directed Learning
  1. Provide options. ...
  2. Facilitate exploration. ...
  3. Enable testing out. ...
  4. Create active learning. ...
  5. Simulate the workplace. ...
  6. Respect the audience.

What are the 8 steps of active listening? ›

How to Become an Active Listener in 8 Steps
  1. Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something. ...
  2. Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. ...
  3. Open and guide the conversation. ...
  4. Drill down to the details. ...
  5. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to check your understanding. ...
  6. Encourage with positive feedback.

What are 7 key parts of active listening? ›

7 active listening techniques
  • Focus on the intent and purpose of the conversation. ...
  • Pay attention to body language. ...
  • Give encouraging verbal cues. ...
  • Clarify and paraphrase information. ...
  • Ask questions. ...
  • Refrain from judgment. ...
  • Summarize, share, and reflect.
31 May 2022

What are the 10 listening strategies? ›

10 tips for active listening
  • Face the speaker and have eye contact. ...
  • “Listen” to non-verbal cues too. ...
  • Don't interrupt. ...
  • Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. ...
  • Don't start planning what to say next. ...
  • Don't impose your opinions or solutions. ...
  • Stay focused. ...
  • Ask questions.

What are the 5 simple exercises for better listening? ›

Follow the acronym, RASA:

Receive: Pay attention to the speaker. Appreciate: Making small noises like “mmm” to show you are listening. Summarize: Reflect back what you heard. Ask: Ask questions and be curious after they finish speaking.

How do you teach active listening to adults? ›

Ask open-ended questions to learn more. Paraphrase and summarize what the other person is saying to make sure you fully understand. Practice non-judgmental listening by setting aside their own biases or points of view. Demonstrate patience by focusing on the other person, instead of your own thoughts.

What are the 3 A's of active listening? ›

Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is a conscious activity based on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment. These skills are known collectively as triple-A listening.

What is the best teaching method for adults? ›

  • Keep your lessons relevant. ...
  • Focus on your learners' life experience. ...
  • Tell stories as you're teaching. ...
  • Break up information to avoid cognitive overload. ...
  • Provide feedback in the moment of need. ...
  • Make your material visually stimulating. ...
  • Encourage questions and discussion. ...
  • Be flexible.
9 Nov 2022

How do you engage mature students? ›

Engaging with mature students through social media
  1. Use inclusive imagery.
  2. Hold mature students events.
  3. Build online communities.
  4. Share testimonials.
12 Apr 2021

What are the modern techniques you will apply in teaching adults? ›

What are types of Modern Teaching Method? Collaborative Learning, Spaced Learning, Flipped Classroom, Self Learning, Gamification, VAK teaching, and Crossover Learning are various types of Modern Teaching Method.

How can I teach English effectively to adults? ›

6 tips to get you through
  1. Keep it simple, stupid. This is the one of the most important steps to teach English to beginners. ...
  2. Always check for understanding. ...
  3. Give them lots of time to practice. ...
  4. Show, don't tell. ...
  5. Always use positive reinforcement. ...
  6. Don't be boring.
3 Mar 2021

What do I need to teach adults ESL? ›

Teaching ESL full-time or part-time: Instructor positions require a Master's in TESL, English, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics or a Master's degree in a closely related field with a TESL certificate.

How can a teacher make lessons for adults more interesting? ›

How to Have More Fun Teaching
  • Discover new things together. ...
  • Incorporate mystery into your lessons. ...
  • Be goofy; show you care. ...
  • Participate in projects. ...
  • Avoid “going through the motions.” ...
  • Flip your lessons. ...
  • Review–but don't repeat–material. ...
  • Share your passions.
10 Oct 2015

What are the 7 stages of listening? ›

Seven Stages of Listening
  • Ignoring completely.
  • Pretending to listen.
  • Listening selectively.
  • Listening to respond.
  • Listening to understand.
  • Listening to learn.
  • Listening for the intersection where someone else's experience meets our experience on which we can build trust.
9 Apr 2010

What are the 7 steps of the listening process? ›

Here are seven steps to effective listening:
  • Look the Speaker in the Eyes. ...
  • Avoid Interrupting and Wait to Interject at the Right Time. ...
  • Be Prepared to Listen. ...
  • Learn to Keep Your Mind from Wandering. ...
  • Be Open-Minded. ...
  • Practice the Art of Mirroring. ...
  • Give Positive Non-Verbal Feedback.

What is the order of listening activities? ›

The three stages are the pre-listening stage, the while-listening stage, and the post-listening stage. If you are teaching with a coursebook that contains listening activities, you should probably be able to identify these stages in your book.

What are the 9 types of listening? ›

  • Comprehensive listening. Comprehensive listening is when you make judgments based on what the other person says and determine the truthfulness of the statements you hear. ...
  • Discriminative listening. ...
  • Critical listening. ...
  • Therapeutic listening. ...
  • Full listening. ...
  • Deep listening. ...
  • Selective listening. ...
  • Partial listening.

What are 3 examples of activities for auditory learners? ›

Students can enhance auditory learning through activities that involve spoken word, music, or sound effects, such as:
  • Lecturing aloud while studying;
  • Reading aloud while studying;
  • Discussing with others;
  • Dictating notes into a tape recorder;
  • Speaking and writing in complete sentences when possible;
17 Nov 2022

What are the 12 techniques of effective listening? ›

12 Quick Tips for becoming a Good Listener
  • Position yourself mentally: ADVERTISEMENTS: ...
  • Make the speaker comfortable: ...
  • Tune in to the spoken message: ...
  • Be patient: ...
  • Do not interrupt: ...
  • Concentrate with effort: ...
  • Check your temper: ...
  • Be soft in expressing criticism:

What are the 4 aspects of effective listening? ›

The listening process involves four stages: receiving, understanding, evaluating, and responding.

How do I make ESL lessons more fun? ›

To recap, here's how you can make learning English enjoyable for your learners:
  1. Get to know your student. ...
  2. Make the lesson interactive by using props and telling stories.
  3. Be mindful of body language and play with the tone of your voice.
  4. Reward the student and play games.
  5. Don't take it so seriously.
3 Jun 2020

What are some fun ways to teach ESL? ›

Increase student engagement and satisfaction through these 10 ESL games and activities.
  1. Board Race.
  2. Call My Bluff / Two Truths and A Lie.
  3. Simon Says.
  4. Word Jumble Race.
  5. Hangman.
  6. Pictionary.
  7. The Mime.
  8. Hot Seat.

What makes a good ESL teacher for adults? ›

Effective ESL teachers have a sound basis in ESL teaching methodology. Such teachers understand that language learning occurs when students are engaged in relevant experiential activities, using cooperative learning strategies more often than worksheets.

What is the most effective ESL teaching methods? ›

Communicative language teaching is perhaps the most popular approach among the methods of teaching ESL today. CLT emphasizes the students' ability to communicate in real-life contexts, and students learn to make requests, accept offers, explain things, and express their feelings and preferences.

How do you make lessons interesting and unique? ›

Incorporate mystery into your lessons – Learning is the most fun when it's surprising. Don't just tell them information; cloak it in to mystery. Be crazy, but show you care – Let loose; laugh; make fun of yourself. Don't worry about sacrificing your authority.

What to teach adults in English? ›

How to Teach Practical ESL Lessons to Adults with Real-world English Needs
  • Bingo.
  • The Art of Listening. Speaking Activities.
  • Bingo Talks.
  • Directed Drawing.
  • Take a Survey. Reading Activities.
  • Reading Aloud.
  • Scavenger Hunt Reading.
  • Dictionary Scramble.
6 Jul 2022

How do you teach a language creatively? ›

  1. Speaking exercises. This is a fun language exercise for when your students have to practice their speaking. ...
  2. Language Games. This language exercise is more for elementary students, but can also be for high school students. ...
  3. Prepositions. ...
  4. Tenses. ...
  5. Listening exercises. ...
  6. Test & review. ...
  7. Interactive language books.
28 Oct 2016

How can we make teaching fun and interactive? ›

Create a more engaging virtual classroom
  1. Present your best (online) self.
  2. Use technology to your advantage.
  3. Find what inspires your students.
  4. Set goals and help students stick to them.
  5. Keep it interactive.
  6. Break down the lessons and make it digestible.
  7. Make your students feel valued.
  8. Be patient with your students.

What is the best approach to teach English for adults? ›

Communicative language teaching (CLT)

This approach is probably now the most popular teaching model for English language teaching globally. In part because it aims to put students in a variety of real-life situations, so that they can learn how to use their language skills to communicate in the real world.

What should I teach advanced ESL adults? ›

7 advanced ESL lesson plans that are ready-to-go
  • Tell us about your dream vacation. Skill focus: Speaking. ...
  • Get published in magazine. Skill focus: Writing. ...
  • Plan a holiday. Skill focus: Listening. ...
  • Read a travel guide. Skill focus: Reading. ...
  • Guess the word. Skill focus: Vocab. ...
  • Ask for advice. Skill focus: Functional language.
3 Mar 2021

What are the 10 methods of teaching adults? ›

Adults prefer a personalized learning environment with focused effort on concept application where they can solve problems and take personal responsibility.
  • Use Self-Directed Learning. ...
  • Set Expectations Upfront. ...
  • Use Life Experiences. ...
  • Create a Comfortable Environment. ...
  • Feedback and Practice. ...
  • Balance Time and Discussion.

What are engaging activities? ›

Here are 14 creative ways to engage students in discussions, problem-solving, critical thinking, and more:
  • Assumption Busting. ...
  • Brain-sketching. ...
  • Brainstorming. ...
  • Concept Mapping. ...
  • Exaggeration. ...
  • Fishbone. ...
  • Laddering. ...
  • Negative (or Reverse) Brainstorming.

How do I make my lessons more creative? ›

These tips offer up some fun and interesting ways to explore lessons creatively in the classroom.
  1. BRAINSTORM. ...
  6. USE MIND-MAPS. ...
  7. ROLE PLAY. ...


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