Before you play this game, you’ll have to help your students understand what minimal pairs are. Explain to them that minimal pairs are words that differ in just one sound (regardless of spelling) such as tap/tat, bee/see, and big/beg. Minimal pairs are particularly useful for listening activities when you target sounds that students struggle to distinguish (lice/rice, sin/seen, bad/dad, etc.). Before you play this game, decide on at least fifty minimal pairs you want to use for the activity. (You can find a useful list of minimal pairs in English here.) Give your students a blank bingo board, and have them fill in each space with one of the words on the left of each pair. Then play Bingo, but instead of calling numbers call words from the right side of each pair. Students must listen carefully to determine if they have written on their bingo card the minimal pair to the word you called. When someone thinks they have bingo, have them read the words they marked to see if they heard your calls correctly.
Back on Track
Some people are surprised to hear how much of what we communicate comes through nonverbal means. We all know that some people talk with their hands, but that isn’t the only way information comes across via the body. Facial expressions, mouth movements, and body language all contribute to a listener’s ability to understand what they are hearing. Take those cues away and listening becomes a much greater challenge. (If your students have ever expressed how difficult it is to understand someone over the phone, the lack of these cues is probably the reason for their difficulty.) There are several ways to take away visual clues in listening exercises, but perhaps the easiest is to have students sit back to back and talk to each other. For this exercise, give students a list of ten interview questions or have them come up with their own. Arrange students back to back with their partner, and then give one person in each pair the name of a famous person to role play during the interview. Then have the other student ask his or her interview questions. Once students have finished their interviews, have them switch roles and give the interviewee another identity to assume during the interview. This isn’t the only back to back listening challenge you can do. Just about any conversation or discussion could be done back to back and thus challenge your students’ listening skills.
Try These 8 Activities to Improve Listening Skills
Using a free website (such as Voice Thread) have students record voice journals about their week. Encourage students with semi-personal topics or hypothetical questions (e.g. What would you do if you had one million dollars? Describe your best vacation. etc..) to prompt speaking. This works just like a blog but with student voices rather than writing. Even if your school doesn’t have computers with microphones or recording capabilities, with VoiceThread students can use any phone to record their voice blog.
Students can then be assigned to listen to several of their classmates and give each other comments. By listening to each other and giving encouraging comments, you are building a positive classroom environment and cooperation within the classroom all while students build their listening skills.
Listen for the hidden phrase
An engaging whole class activity is to pair students up and give each pair a "secret" word or phrase. For easier dialogues, give a simple phrase such as “I love soccer,” or “My father works a lot;” etc… To challenge students, give a slightly more obscure phrase, such as “John does yoga every Saturday,” or “I saw a UFO in my yard last night.”
Students are then tasked with developing a dialogue with their partner that somehow uses this phrase. Students may script the dialogue if they wish, but only give them limited planning time (5-10 minutes). After they have prepared their dialogue, students perform the dialogue in front of the class, and the other students listen carefully to hear which words or phrases seem extra carefully planned to find the secret phase. If you have individual white boards, have the students write down the phrase as they hear it and then show their board after the pair has finished the dialogue. If they found the correct secret phrase, they get a point. If no one finds the pair’s secret phrase, the pair that developed the dialogue gets a point.