Exams & Preparation

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Extensive listening activities in the EFL classroom

No matter which language, listening has been demonstrated to be a crucial component of successful human communication (Rost, 2011; Rost & Candlin, 2014; Chang, 2018), hence a skill not to be neglected in the classroom. Listening is also closely linked to a set of necessary sub-skills for learners to become effective communicators: learners not only need to hear sounds but also store and organise them into meaningful units, process them so as to extract meaning, re-code the message heard and store it, place it in a context, not to mention achieve all the above in real time.

How can we improve our EFL learners’ listening skills? The answer is simple: by providing them with more listening practice. The following lines revolve around ‘extensive listening’ in particular and the kind of practice that can be initiated by the teacher in the classroom.

Reflecting on ‘real-life’ listening tasks

Coursebook listening tasks may be varied but may not always expose learners to all characteristics of everyday language and its variations - for a pedagogically valid reason of course, i.e., so as not to discourage or confuse learners. Consequently, some features of everyday language use such as incomplete, lengthy, and ungrammatical sentences typical of spoken language, unpredictable turn-taking between speakers, use of slang or local idioms, reduced language forms etc. may not always be disclosed to our learners.

What can ‘extensive listening activities’ achieve?

Regarding second language learning in particular, extensive listening activities have substantiated that they can facilitate L2 learning (Rodgers, 2016; Buck, 2018; Chang, 2018, Ivone & Renandya, 2022). Extensive listening activities are defined astypes of listening activities that allow learners to receive a lot of comprehensible and enjoyable listening input’ (Renandya & Farrell, 2011). They are authentic language use activities that learners will be able to understand reasonably smoothly and enjoy, without any formal assessment. Although the Internet is not a pre-requisite, it is worth mentioning that there is an abundance of free audio and video materials available ‘out there’, all exposing learners to authentic input.

Any need for ‘pre-listening’ and ‘post-listening’ activities?

Extensive listening activities are meant to be pleasurable, but pre-listening and post-listening activities can be ‘gently’ incorporated so as to - in the case of pre-listening activities - reactivate the learners’ background knowledge, generate interest in a topic etc. or - in the case of post-listening activities - exploit the knowledge gained through the main listening activity or further strengthen other macro skills such as ‘speaking’.

Materials for extensive listening activities

Here are a few examples of materials easily retrievable from the Internet:


Radio shows


Magic tricks

Weather forecasts

Audiobook stories




Songs with lyrics

Quotes/proverbs & related information


voice mail

Movie trailers

Sport reports


Traffic reports







Short movies


Public announcements





Regarding the underlying aim of the activities, the teacher might decide on one or more of the following:

  • Recycling recent vocabulary
  • Providing ear-training to improve learners’ pronunciation
  • Informing learners about a recent breakthrough and discussing it
  • Identifying the aim of a video
  • Exposing learners to different varieties of English
  • Building confidence in learners
  • Strengthening associations between what learners hear and its written version
  • Exposing learners to cultural issues
  • Rewarding learners for their hard work


Following are a few examples of post-listening activities for illustrative purposes, aimed at advanced

(C1/C2) learners:



Text type

Post-listening activity

Recycling recent vocabulary

Weather forecasts’ to recycle ‘weather vocabulary’

Discuss and share your feelings:

- how ‘bad’ the weather was on the video

- whether similar weather phenomena

  have taken place in learners’ area

  (when/where exactly) and how they felt

Link: Wednesday evening forecast 28/02/18 - YouTube

Informing learners about a recent breakthrough and whole class discussion

Interview’ (with a robot)


Share with the class and whole class discussion: ask learners:

-         how they feel about this breakthrough

-         whether they would like to have such a robot as a teacher and why (whole class discussion)

Link: We Talked To Sophia — The AI Robot That Once Said It Would 'Destroy Humans' -    YouTube  (YouTube)

Practising identifying speakers’ mood/


Recorded ‘interviews’

Guessing and opinion sharing: ask learners to:

-         watch 3 (or more) short interviews about ‘how some people feel working from home’

-         then ask them to guess how each one of them seemed to be feeling and why

Link: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/27/after-coronavirus-the-office-of-the-future-is-the-office-of-the-past.html

 Extensive listening tips

Lastly, here are a few tips that should help carry out even more successful activities: 

  • Clarify the setting beforehand, i.e., place learners into a ‘real’ context (i.e., reflecting a real-life situation).
  • Allow learners to record the information sought in any way they like (e.g., on a simple piece of paper or only mentally).
  • Select everyday life issues likely to motivate learners (e.g., a recent talent show or a concert).
  • Aim at a balance of ‘reciprocal listening’ (where learners interact with you/their peers) and ‘non-reciprocal listening’ (i.e., where information goes in one direction only).
  • Select only what you want learners to listen to/watch (show only what relates to your initial aim).
  • Remind learners there is no need to fully understand what they are going to hear.
  • Do not forget that too much ‘extensive’ listening can demotivate learners.
  • Bear in mind that too much pre-teaching for what follows may undermine the development of listening skills.
  • Design activities that lead to success (they will make learners more confident and boost their self-image!).


Rounding off

The above reminded us of the pivotal role of listening in everyday life, how much it can enhance our learners’ language acquisition, and suggested that students’ listening skills can also be boosted through extensive listening activities. Extensive listening poses a few challenges but can be an invaluable and enjoyable alternative to our coursebook listening material. More importantly perhaps, extensive listening activities can help learners progressively take greater ownership of their learning, i.e., head for ‘autonomy’, which is the ultimate aim of education.