In this Education Tips report, we explore ways to use the VOA Learning English website for listening activities to help students learning American English.
While these activities require an Internet connection in the planning stage, most do not require you to use the internet in the classroom.
For example, the text from our written series can be printed and read aloud to students. You can read more about materials needed for each activity by downloading the printable guide.
Now, let’s start with two activities for beginning English learners.
Activities for Beginners
For the first activity, you can use audio from our popular culture program, What’s Trending Today, or the news-related stories from As It Is. Or try using a video from News Words, a series about terms in the news.
Before the activity, choose your audio or video. Also, develop three to four questions to test listener understanding.
To begin the activity, divide students into groups of three or four. Hand out the questions for the story or write them on a board or shared screen. Ask the students to read the questions before listening to the audio or watching the video. Then, play the video or recording.
Have each group work together on the answer to one question. They should write complete sentence answers. Set a limit of no more than three sentences per question. Then, have each group share their answers to the questions with the class.
Another group listening activity for beginning English learners uses the video series Let’s Learn English.
For this activity, teachers will need response paddles (image below). These interactive paddles were developed by Bill Pellowe and Paul Shimizu, two professors based in Japan. You can click on the image of the paddles for a downloadable version that you can print, copy, and give to students. For more details, download the printable guide.
Before the activity, choose the Let’s Learn English episode you plan to show. To begin, divide students into pairs -- groups of two. Play the main video at the top of the page. After playing the video, show the online quiz on the shared screen. For each question, play the video and then let students discuss their answers. Then, ask them to raise their response paddles to show which answers they chose.
For more on this activity, download the printable guide.
Now, let’s explore activities for intermediate level English learners.
Activities for Intermediate Learners
For this activity, you can choose from a wide variety of English learning series, such as English in a Minute, English at the Movies, Words and Their Stories and Personal Technology. In addition, many of the As It Is stories are perfect for intermediate learners.
Before the activity, choose the video or audio you’d like to use and prepare five questions about the material.
To begin, divide students into five groups. Pairs will work well if the class has 10 students or less. Hand out copies of the questions or write them on the board or shared screen. Ask each group to be responsible for answering one question. If the class is large, two groups can answer one question and compare their answers.
For another activity, intermediate level learners can turn to our Health & Lifestyle and Science in the News series.
Before the activity, choose the story you would like to use. You may notice that some health and science reports seem more complex than others; some may be better for intermediate activities, while others are better for advanced activities.
To begin the activity, organize students into small groups. Play the audio or have one or two students take turns reading parts of the story text aloud. Afterward, show the online quiz on the shared screen.
Ask students to raise their their response paddles to show which options they chose.
Now, let’s look at two activities for advanced learners.
Activities for Advanced Learners
The VOA Learning English programs People in America and American Stories also come with online quizzes. (In addition, American Stories also comes with a detailed, downloadable lesson plan each week.)
For the first activity, organize students into pairs or small groups. Play the video or audio for the program you have chosen. Then, show the online quiz on a shared screen. For each question, have students raise their response paddles to show the answers they chose.
For details on additional listening activities for the two series, download the printable guide.
Our series Health & Lifestyle and Science in the News can also be useful as group listening activities for advanced-level English learners. Remember that some of these stories work well for advanced learners, while others are better for intermediate learners.
Before the activity, choose the story you’d like to use. To begin the activity, organize students into pairs or small groups. Play the audio or ask one or two volunteers to read the story aloud. Then, display the quiz on a shared screen. Ask student to raise their response paddles to show which answers they chose.
After the quiz, there are additional learner-centered activities you can do. For example, you can:
Have students pretend to question a scientist or health expert about the subject of the story.
Write a letter or 'call' the main scientist named in the report. Ask a question or give advice related to the subject of the story. Create a word web of the main terms you need to know to understand the story.
Take the story a few years into the future. How will this affect the average person? What developments do you predict will take place as a result of this scientific research or breakthrough in health understanding? Tell a story or write a 'news' story on the same issue as it would be treated 10 years in the future.
In coming weeks, we will look at more on creative ways to use our website for classroom or group practice activities. You can find those reports and others on www.voanews.cn.
And, don’t forget to download the printable, extended guide of activities and directions by clicking on the document below or to the right of the page.
I’m Jill Robbins.
And I'm Alice Bryant.
Words in This Story
text - n. the original words of a piece of writing or a speech
print - v. to cause words, images, etc.) to appear on paper or cloth by using a machine (called a printer)
board - n. a flat piece of material (such as wood or cardboard) that is used for a special purpose
screen - n. the usually flat part of a television or computer monitor that shows the images or text
interactive - adj. designed to respond to the actions, commands, etc., of a user
paddle - n. any one of various tools or devices that are wide, flat and thin
intermediate - adj. relating to or having the knowledge or skill of someone who is more advanced than a beginner but not yet an expert
variety - n. a number or collection of different things or people
pretend - v. to act as if something is true when it is not true