#119 Multi-Listening Tasks

Published on August 10, 2007

=> Multi-Listening Tasks
=> Welcome to Subscribers from CATEC and Tajikistan
=> In the Next Issue

Multi-Listening Tasks

What’s a multi-listening task? I’m not sure–I just made up the name. But recently I worked in Tajikistan, by invitation of of the US Embassy there in Dushanbe.

I tried a couple new listening activities. They take very little preparation, and they add a listening dimension that is worth practicing: comprehension through noise.

1. Multi-dictation.
Write three lists of ten words. They can have a theme, whatever theme you happen to be studying at the moment: household items, languages, food, underwater archaeology. Let’s try food. Here’s one sample list:

1. pizza
2. apples
3. sugar
4. watermelon
5. hot dogs
6. candy
7. sandwiches
8. soup
9. eggplant

You want 3 lists like that. They should be different (though some items can repeat).

Next, get three students to come up to the front of the room. Each student will have a DIFFERENT LIST.

Each then reads her list. She will read items 1-10, allowing a second or two in between each item, and when she reaches the end, she will start again from the top.

Each reader will do this simultaneously. At the same time. All three readers will continue for two minutes or more.

It’s extremely important for the teacher to monitor the readers, so that they do not go too fast, and so they begin again when they reach the bottom of the list. It is also wise for the teacher to check the list beforehand to make sure students know what they are reading and how to pronounce it.

The task of the rest of the class is to write down the contents of all three lists.

Why do this?

(a) Well, in real life situations we often have to dig out language from outside noise. It is VERY common that we tune in one person while others are talking. (Think of the simultaneous conversations at a large dinner). This is great practice, and you will gain respect for your ears: how they can zero in on a particular person’s words.

(b) A new listening task! Variety is good.

(c) This is an easy way to review or introduce new vocabulary.

(d) we can do the activity with no preparation and no materials (other than scraps of paper).

(e) Who’s doing all the work? Students. That’s good. The teacher’s only task is to direct the activity.


1. The number of items on the list can vary: fewer for lower level learners.
2. The number of readers can vary, from 1-4.
3. Students can write their own lists based on the topic.
4. The vocab items can be phrases or sentences.

Here’s a kind of competitive version of the activity:

Follow the instructions above, except that each list will have three items in common.

Put the listeners in pairs. They will listen reading of the lists for two minutes. At the end of this time, each pair will state what the 3 common words were.

You can make the activity trickier by having a few words that are on 2 lists, but not all three.

Welcome to Subscribers from Tajikistan and CATEC

Dear folks from Central Asia. I have added you to this e-textbook, “English Teachers in Russia & Elsewhere.” You will receive it in your e-mailbox once a month–sometimes more often. It provides ideas for activities (like the above) and tells you what’s new English Teachers Everywhere–the web site with tons of free audio.

If you don’t want to be on my mailing list, just click on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this page and I won’t bother you anymore.

CATEC people, If you’d like to see some photos, a short video, and more go to English Teachers Everywhere and click on CATEC Kyrgyzstan. Don’t forget to check out the photo Gallery.

Teachers from Tajikistan. Hi, you’ll find lots of new Tajikistan-related stuff at www.etseverywhere.com (click on Tajikistan) including…

— a photo gallery
— 2 songs composed, performed, and recorded during a single lesson by Access students in Dushanbe
— slower versions of some audios (the counting song, the animal song)
— “Buzaki Jingalapo” song, words written by students at School 19, Dushanbe
— PDF copies of Kevin’s handouts (you open them with Adobe reader)
— an interview and audio activity with teacher Venera from Dushanbe

If it’s not there now, it will be coming soon…

In the Next Issue

Crossfire Dictations: easy to do dictation activity involving chaos.

Announcements of new material at English Teachers Everywhere.

© 2007 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty

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