Review – Top Listening Resources (Beginners)

Students often hear that the best way to learn English is to listen to news shows, especially high quality radio programs like those on the BBC or NPR. These can be great, but not for beginners. Television news shows may be even more difficult because they are very fast-paced, continually switch topics, and contain many topical words that students might not be familiar with if they come from outside their own cultural environment. In short, this listening strategy doesn’t include much comprehensible input for beginners.

If you are a research scholar or are interested in producing your own materials, I strongly advise you to become familiar with the research behind teaching listening. One good source for this is Michael Rost’s Teaching and Researching: Listening (India). Rost’s new book shows how the linguistic, psycholinguistic and pragmatic processes” of “oral language use” influence listening. This source, reviewed by Sheppard in TESL-EJ is said to be

“impressive in its scope and depth.” It “explicitly discusses ideas that many books aimed exclusively at ELT treat as background assumptions. The book is often quite theoretical, but it is made accessible to a wide audience….”

Scott Thornbury, in an informal comment on an ESL blog said, “As the proud owner of Michael’s new book, I can heartily endorse it. I don’t know of a better book on listening.”

If you use Rost’s Teaching and Researching Listening (India) in your research writing, be sure to cite it. To help you out, here is the APA citation:

Rost, M. (2013). Teaching and researching: Listening (Applied Linguistics in Action). (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

If you are teaching listening, remember, above all else, beginning learners need comprehensible input. Here are a few of my favorite listening resources that I think provide good comprehensible input for the early levels of English language learning.

Listening resource

I have used CDLP online for many beginner lessons. One of my favorite stories to use is the story of Ruby, the elephant. CDLP is a great resource for teachers because it offers many different topics and most of the stories come in at least two different levels. Students can first listen to the basic one, then, once they have the idea of the story, the teacher can offer the more advanced story so they can listen for details. The text is included for the basic and full stories. Many stories also contain a news report on video that students can “work up to.”

I usually create my own activities, but the site has some that teachers can use. The drawback of CDLP for international audiences may be that some teachers will need to search through topics for culturally appropriate materials since the site is intended for learners learning English in the U.S.

Another favorite listening resources is Lit2Go. I love Lit2Go because it gives high-quality recordings of many classics, the text of the books can be read while listening, and the texts are graded so that teachers can identify more or less difficult texts. See my earlier article on grading texts to see how to best use these numbers. The site is beautiful and easy to use. My favorite recording here is the classic Peter Pan. Many students will only be aware of the Disney version, but the classic by J.M. Barrie has delightful language.

The drawback may be that Lit2Go uses public domain work, which is wonderful, especially for international teachers who focus on literature, but tends to be older material so will not contain as much modern English.

So, you can see that, for teaching listening, I prefer resources that meet a few criteria:

  • high-quality recordings,
  • lots of topics,
  • available text,
  • and graded levels.

The listening activities for my own textbook, Bridges: Activities for Thinking, Speaking, & Writing English include two more factors:

  • We recorded most of them with different voices and accents familiar to the culture where the book was produced.
  • We only recorded the first half of the story so that students could use it as a review after reading part 1, but still be curious to read part 2.

You can download the StudyDo materials free from the website.

There are many resources available: From simple strategies for the classroom to listening games for kids to beginning academic listening, you’ll find plenty that are interesting and enjoyable. Keep these criteria in mind and you’ll find ones that are effective as well.

Remember that a good VPN can give you access to content outside your home country.

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