Many language teachers in Japan complain that they are employed as over-qualified CD players. Especially in junior high schools, JTEs often ask ALTs to read this for the students. This gets old and you may even start to wonder why you're doing it when there's a CD player right there? Well, here's something you can do to impress your colleague, focus students attention and get them actually listening to what you're saying, and most importantly, differentiate yourself from a recording.

Some ESL/EFL Terms

Listening isn't listening if students are simply learning how to sound out the text in front of them. I can read pages and pages of hiragana but that doesn't mean I understand what I'm reading. If the goal is comprehension, you can help this along with some pre-listening and while-listening activities.


Pre-listening activities get students thinking about the language they are going to use and also thinking about the situations the language is used in.

While Listening

While listening, or what I've called Listening Focus Questions in the Sunshine 1 activities (also, Sunshine 2 and Sunshine 3), are activities that help guide students comprehension of the listening passage.

While listening can be written work as well, such as fill in the blank type activities, but often you don't have much time to prepare worksheets, not to mention teachers often want you to speed through things in class, so I find a quick spoken question works well. They main thing is that it focuses students on listening to what you are saying and attempting to understand the message.

Asking Questions

Ask students questions about what you are about to read. This will focus their attention and they will try to pick up the answer from the text. Don't worry if the question is a little above their level. Ask them a couple of times, try it in a couple of ways, maybe with gestures and diagrams on the blackboard, but eventually the JTE will help the students understand. Remember, you're a team.

Once the students understand the question, they'll really be listening.

Books Closed

It's important that students listen and comprehend through listening for it to be a successful listening activity. Make sure all students close their books because some answers can be found very easily by scanning text. (eg. How many bottle caps does Takeshi have?)

Try these questions out and hopefully you'll have more students listening, more respect from your colleagues, and a greater sense of purpose as a teacher (and feel less like an on command CD player).

Liked it? Please share!

Please log in or sign up to comment.
(Too many spam bots!!)