The importance of active listening and how to do this in an EFL classroom – #ELTchat Summary

A PLN for ELT Professionals

The importance of active listening and how to do this in an EFL classroom – #ELTchat Summary

This is the summary of the #ELTchat on August 10, 2011 21:00 P.M. British Summertime and it was kindly contributed by Elizabeth Anne –@eannegrenoble on Twitter. 

Thank you very much, ELizabeth for this great summary! 


The importance of active listening and how to do this in an EFL classroom


Summary of #ELTchat 

by Elizabeth Anne


The numbers of ideas thrown in during today’s chat were so numerous and varied that it’s somewhat difficult to know where to start…. So why not at the end just in case this enigmatic tweet from Brendano went unnoticed:



This leads to a video competition site where I discovered that LOTE stands for Language Other Than English and the video produced by students in that category has to be submitted with English sub-titlesJ (Note for people interested: deadline for entering  the competition – 16th Sept, although you have until 28 October 2011 to upload the video).


Early birds


Not only did the interest overflow at the end, but early birds were offered a starter with a 7 minute TED talk by Julien Treasure “5 ways to listen better” in which we learnt that we exercise filters when listening.  According to Julien Treasure, we “filter out ” the less important to reach what we really pay attention to,  in the following order:


Culture  – language  –  values  – beliefs  – attitudes  – expectations  –  intentions

Five Ways to Listen Better


In this schema, language is at the “all sound” end of the spectrum. Clearly he is not in an EFL situation 😉  and even states with total conviction “Conscious listening always creates understanding”….if only !   This TED talk has actually given rise to a discussion on the TED page itself about teaching conscious listening in school.


Julien Treasure’s key to conscious listening,  RASA: Receive Appreciate Summarise Ask   is, as sueleather pointed out, “ a useful technique to play with ….and particularly useful for teacher training (but) ..  Treasure is talking about empathetic listening in counselling sense, not about lang learning”
Basically this TED talk really underlines the added difficulties our students have deal with when listening!


According to  @Raquel_EFL, “Research has shown that we take in 7% by words, 38% by tone of voice and 55% from body language”… interesting, though  I guess that’s in L1 again.


Also before the session started, @cybraryman, gave us a link to what looks like a very comprehensive page of links to  EFL listening sites  Definitely  not to be missed.




Wikipedia provided a definition of active listening

“Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what (s)he hears”


And resisting the temptation to go off along a different track pointed out by Carolcgoodey  Are we talking about active listening for teachers or learners?” in spite of an interesting looking link from  Barrytomalin: “The Art Of Listening And Leadership, we focused on “how to do this in an EFL classroom” since as vickyloras summed it up: “You can take a listening task and weave it into a hundred others – that´s what I´d call active listening” … And involve the “communication” element in those tasks to make it meaningful” …” but with listening as the starting and focal point”  keeping in mind of course that  “Active listening can be helped by activating prior knowledge, previewing, scaffolding, etc.” (ghewgley Gary Hewgley)


Here is a selection of some of the comments:


Now I’m afraid there’s an important element of this ELTChat missing – who said what – because I prepared it off-line in a silent place with no internet connection! Sorry folks. However, I have group the tweets into:  Activities, Taking notes, Listen and draw, Dictagloss, Debates and role play, Backchannels.


Some Activities


-A great activity which few do is getting students to repeat last words hear at first they can repeat only a very few

-Another oldie but goodie: Use pause button and get Ss to predict – who is going to talk, what they’re going to say etc

-Active listening is a two way process. I like to use think pair share to encourage active –

– using ‘think aloud’ techniques? Nice

-a task is done in pairs have the other st present to class what the other st said … Shifting stress exercises. Sts have a diff role each & 1 pretends mishearing & other other has to repeat till they achieve comminucation

– if we dont actually ‘hear ‘ we use repair techniques – also imp for sts … when they do it it makes the whole processes more real and worthwhile for sts

– Encourage sts to actively listen to peer responses and presentations, not just Ttalk. Ask them to paraphrase. …teach expressions like: “If I understood correctly, he means…”

-We can ask them to repeat back to speaker ‘so what you’re saying is…’ ‘do you mean…’ so they show understanding Paraphrasing can be an effective way to make sure students understand what was said.

– Modeling is so important. We often assume students know/understand how to do something

-I did a lot of work in my on specific questions for clarification e.g. you went where? you did what? it was really useful


For games, Hot Seat is fun. Person in the chair has to listen and filter noise from other team.

taking notes or put-your-pen-down?

DNA=DoNotAssume your students have notetaking skills

-we don’t do that much listening in life with p&p in hand 🙂 but on the phone yes !

-But pen and paper in hand not only way of listening actively – smtms good to use physical tasks esp for younger learners

-Activity increases brain productivity.

– standing up reminds me of Ken Wilson’s workshop

– i like the idea of physical tasks. clapping, standing up, raising hands… is this the adult equivalent of this making polite noises?


Listen and draw


– Some people more inclined to draw than note take. Challenge them 2make infographics

grammar dictation
Dictogloss – Grammar Dictation

Dictogloss is a good training of ears and short term memory

-here’s a version of Rincolucri/Morgan’s unicorn dictation tht I did with a celta course (techologically)

-‘Grammar Dictation’ -discuss topic,read out short passage,sts take notes then reconstruct in groups

-a great book w/ passages for diff levels   … here it is by wajnryb a book on dictogloss a
Debates and role play:

-Debates are great way to get students to actively listen – the ‘ceremony’ dictates the need


Here’s the format I use for Lincoln-Douglas debates

If you’re looking for debate materials, ESL-Library has a section:

-Other great active listening tasks can include mock trials, mock UN, informal debates.

– mock trial is when 1 student put on trial w/ lawyers, notetaker, etc., rest of class the jury, reporters! All have a role

– You can use a fairytale or story in your mock trial:. 3 pigs vs Wolf. Jack and the Beanstalk (Jack for murder),

– I love stories too like the Once Upon a Time activities (Rinvolucri)

-plays & classics can be given a modern twist, as well. Debate Romeo & Juliet in the style of Jerry Springer 🙂

-A mock United Nations is basically a group of students from each institute representing a diff country for policy agreemt

-Listening/participating as part of a group and then going to another group to share what you learned
-VERY complicated researched roles … you can find simulations like these in all fields – e.g. business management training




-Has anyone played with using a backchannel to promote active listening in class? I know it helps me to tweet, etc at conferences

-with freshmen & grad students. Works great to have twitter feed scrolling on the screen.

The essential tool for backchanneling in class
And finally a discussion about active backchannelling i.e. encouragning the students to speak to each other while listening apart from the thought:
-Have you tried it? > Not intentionally, but those teens do it anyway, maybe shouldn’t shush them
-I think maybe small doses of listening mixed with chatting then listening then chatting

-Depends who says what to who about what I guess..difficult to check while listening (or ever?)

@mcneilmahon speaking during a listening? revolutionary! gonna try it tomorrow 🙂
But then, as several people said during the discussion “there’s a lot of blog posts waiting to be written here” !

I look forward to reading you 🙂


About our Guest Author

My name is Elizabeth Anne ( eannegrenoble ) and I am clinging on to my status of digital visitor rather than resident (have you seen the video?), although I have been webmaster of our departmental web site for quite a while.



New to ELTchat?
If you have never participated in an #ELTchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Wednesday on Twitter at 12pm GMT and 9pm GMT.  Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out this video, Using Tweetdeck for Hashtag Discussions!

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  1. […] The importance of active listening and how to do this in an EFL classroom is a useful #ELT Chat summary from Twitter. […]

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