Listening - the most challenging skill of all?

Listening - the most challenging skill of all?

Teaching tip

Listening is probably the activity most students find most challenging. One misheard word or phrase at the beginning of a text can cause panic and a subsequent inability to concentrate on the rest of the text. – Network takes care of this with extensive and effective practice …

Students can feel helpless if they are faced with a listening exercise knowing they are unable to ask for it to be repeated or stopped so they can ask for clarification. As teachers we need to give our students help and support to feel confident when listening – and Network has some useful tools for you to employ. Read more about them and the process of listening and try our extra activities below to support your learners with even more practice.

Of course every time you speak in the classroom, students are already practising listening. But that’s with more help for them than when they are listening to a CD: When you speak there is always a clear context; you might give clear visual clues using body language; students can ask you to repeat or translate what you said, ask you to speak more slowly or they can ask a neighbour for help. All these interjections from students require an active involvement in the process of listening.

When students do a listening exercise on a class CD they can’t ‘regulate’ their listening in the same way. So it’s important to make sure students know why they are listening and what they are listening for. If students are interested in what they are about to hear, this can help to dispel some of their anxiety. And it’s always good to start quite simply with one or two general questions for the students to concentrate on and give them enough time to discuss the answer(s) with a partner as this can encourage confidence. In a second step, you can go into more detail. This listening process is an active one as well as students are predicting and interpreting what they hear.

In Step 1, Unit 1, Network Now A2.1 there is the listening exercise 3c, A close family. The instruction is Listen to a couple talking about a family in the news. Students know the topic of the listening and they can predict and expect to hear two people talking. The question is: What’s unusual about this family? Students don’t need to listen for details to answer this (that comes during the second listening, when there is a series of true / false statements).

The Network system offers a lot of thoroughly prepared listening material and exercises on CD as well as online for you. So let your learners gather more listening experience and boost their confidence with:

  • listening exercises within each Step of the Units in the Network coursebooks.
  • listening exercises on the coursebooks´Selfstudy pages – the first exercise Read and listen in A2.1 - B1.1, for example, encourages students to return to the reading text on the first page of the Step, but this time with the addition of listening (and with some extra questions). If Selfstudy is completed at home, this gives students the opportunity to listen alone to the audio text as many times as they want.
  •  Listen in exercises on the Language and culture pages in Network Now A2.1 and A2.2 – giving students unscripted conversation exposure and developing their ability to listen for gist, concentrating on the main information.
  • listening exercises including texts and tasks about the linguistic and cultural aspects of life in English speaking countries on the Globetrotter pages in Network Now A2.1 and A2.2 and Listen in or Listen and write exercises on the English worldwide pages in Network Now B1.1 and B1.2.
  • Listening comprehension exercises on the Test yourself pages in the coursebooks, designed to be similar in appearance to the telc (Cambridge ESOL) exams.
  • the stories after Unit 1, 3 and 5 in Network Now B1.1 and B1.2 – the online audio files of the B1.1 stories are available here, the audio files for the B1.2 stories are available here.
    You can download these audio files and listen to them in class or encourage your students to listen at home. Listening whilst reading can help with understanding; listening alone can help students notice pronunciation and intonation.
  • additional listening texts and tasks in the Network Now Companions.
  • free audio downloads for these titles of the English Network Pocket Series: America, Traveller and Short Stories. You find them here.

On our website you find all the audio scripts for the listenings on the classroom pages and for the Listen in and Listen and write exercises. Just click here, choose the level you’re interested in and go to ‘Begleitmaterial’ / ‘Transkriptionen’. When you have finished an exercise in class, you could ask students to read the transcript online for homework. You could also photocopy the transcript and distribute it to students for reading.


Extra activities 

  • You can return to an old listening text and this time, read it out yourself and stop before particular words (at the end of a phrase or sentence) and ask students to shout out possible words that (grammatically and lexically) fill the gap.
  • Photocopy a previously heard listening transcript and cut it up so students have to reorder it as they listen.
  • You can also cut and paste the text and then remove some key words. (Or change some key words.) Make a copy for each student and in the lesson the following week ask students to listen again and complete the gap-fill activity (or identify the incorrect words).

The more listening your learners do – and they can do a whole lot with the support of Network Now – the more successful listeners they will become.

Happy listening!


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