The Use of Authentic Listening Material in Developing Student´s Listening Skills

The Teacher blog

Upper Intermediate Level

As a non native speaker of English, I can easily recall the daunting path that led me to become a competent L2 listener over the years. Being exposed mainly to recorded and graded listening texts at the secondary school I was not prepared for the real life challenges of a listening comprehension. Many of my students, when asked about the importance of listening in their learning, agreed that they did not feel ready to deal with the variety of accents, speed or vocabulary they are exposed to every day through English-speaking TV channels or songs and how useful it would be to focus on developing listening strategies more often in our lessons. I have designed this lesson to enable the students with some more practise of their authentic listening strategies. Let´s look at some theory behind it first.

According to Hedge, an important objective of pre-listening phase (which I believe to be crucial in listening activity) is to contextualize the text (2000:249) which is particularly important with authentic recordings (especially spontaneous speech) because of numerous repetitions, rephrasings, reformulations, hesitations, natural rhythm, contracted forms, incomplete sentences, fast pace, variety of accent or colloquialisms that students of any level often struggle with. One of the reasons for students´ struggle with authentic listening tasks is the lack of exposure to everyday language spoken naturally. However, as Anderson and Lynch argue, simply providing exposure to spoken language texts and testing learners´ comprehension, as many listening courses do, is less effective than adopting a teaching approach (1988:68). I have, therefore, decided to expose the students to authentic listening task (an unscripted interview) and also provide them with several exercises where they can develop their own listening strategy by applying what they already know in order to predict what they are going to hear.

Lesson based on a video interview of an Englishman in Portugal

Level: (B2) Upper-Intermediate
Aimed at: Teenagers/young adults/adults

Aims: to practise top-down and bottom-up listening strategies (predicting, comparing, listening for gist, specific information and detail) when listening to an interview about cultural differences between Portugal and England.

Time: +/- 1h 20 minutes

Materials: Video/the interview

Handout 1

Handout 2

The picture of an Englishman:

The Images of lexical items (doggy bag, cut in line, walk barefoot):

  1. Show the picture of an Englishman to the students and ask who do they think it represents? Elicit An Englishman. Have the students discuss stereotypical characteristics of an Englishman in pairs. +/- 5 minutes

  2. Have the students finish the following 5 sentences as you read them:

A typical Englishman lives in a/an _______ .

A typical Englishman likes _______ .

A typical Englishman carries a/an ________ .

A typical Englishman wears a/an ________ .

A typical Englishman travels to ________ .

Have the students work in pairs and finish the same sentences using their own nationalities. Have a brief open class feedback with answers from one or two pairs.

+/- 10 minutes

  1. Put the following words on the board:

Doggy bag/cut in line/walk barefoot

Tell the students that you are going to tell them about some cultural differences you experienced in Portugal and these will be some of the expressions you will use (make your own stories up!) I told the students about my first teaching experience in Portugal when I arrived 15 minutes before the lesson and students did not show up until 15 minutes after the lesson had started. Ask the students why do they think it happened? Elicit: Cultural differences

Ask the students which nationality is famous for its punctuality? Elicit: The British

I also described my first experience with asking for a doggy bag in a restaurant when my Portuguese friends were very surprised and probably little embarrassed when I did that. (Concept check doggy bag: Is it food that we take home to give to our dogs?)

Ask the students whether this would be acceptable in their countries. Follow up with open class feedback.

+/- 15 minutes

  1. Tell the students that they are going to listen to an Englishman talking about some differences between English and Portuguese culture and give out handout 1 for each student. Have them work in pairs and predict what the Englishman will mention as the biggest difference he has noticed( (using the suggestions listed on top of the handout 1) +/- 10 minutes

  2. Ask the students to make suggestions under the headings: In England/In Portugal

Ask the students whether they know as a fact what the man is going to say? No. Elicit different language for giving opinions students can use in order to complete the task:

I think in Portugal…/

In my opinion the English…/ etc. +/- 5 minutes

  1. Have students watch and listen to the interview and circle cultural differences they have predicted. Have students discuss their predictions in pairs followed up with a brief open class feedback to discuss whether the students found the Englishman´s answers surprising. Have they predicted them all? +/- 5 minutes

  2. Have students listen to the interview again and complete the chart according to indications on handout 1. Have pair feedback before the open class one. +/- 5 minutes

  3. Show the students handout 2 and explain that Luke is using several different expressions for giving opinions. Ask: Do you remember any? Have the students listen again and fill in the gaps. Have students compare their answers in pairs before open class feedback: Elicit from the students and board the language for giving opinions. +/- 5 minutes

  4. Tell the students that you will place a card with a country on their back so they don’t know what their country is (use post-it). They have to mingle with the whole class and give opinions about each other´s countries (concerning social behavior, food, weather, national stereotypes) in order for each student to guess what his/her country is.

Students get opinions from everyone in the class before they try to guess their countries.

Concept check the word mingle:

Can we mingle alone? No

Where do we usually mingle? At the party

If you mingle do you stay in one place? No, you move around.

Teacher monitors and collects information for the feedback stage. +/- 10 minutes

  1. After students have talked to everyone in the class have them work in pairs and tell their partner what their country is and what their opinion about it is.

Open class feedback: ask a few students to share their opinions about different countries and elicit correction of any language if necessary. +/- 5 minutes


Anderson & Lynch, A. T. (1988).Listening: Oxford University Press.

Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom: Oxford University Press.

Handout 1

  1. Before you listen to the interview:

Can you predict any cultural differences between Portugal and England? Think about social behavior (greetings, eating, addressing people, visiting friends etc.)

Type of social behaviour

How is it done in Portugal?

How is it done in England?

2. Listen again and complete the chart with details about different social behaviuor Luke mentions.

Handout 2
Giving opinions
Luke is using several different expressions for giving opinions. Listen again and fill in the blanks with expressions he uses:

  1. Well, ___   _________ the biggest difference was initially kissing.
  2. ___   _________ the second biggest difference was eating.
  3. ___   ________ that another difference or another big difference is names.
  4. ___   __________ third problem I´ve had is arriving on time.
  5. ___   ___ ___ ___ those are the main differences.

Katarzyna Piotrowska/Christina Collier

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