Using Listening Transcripts in Class

Listen up! Transcripts can add a variety of activities to your repertoire.

Listening is one of the most challenging skills of learning a second language. No matter how well a student may understand the written word or be able to speak in another language, when he or she hears it spoken naturally (i.e., quickly), it can be daunting. You can make it easier on your students by making use of the listening transcripts (for students who are visual learners, transcripts are a godsend). Whether the listening exercise is written out within the lesson (as is the case with ESL-Library’s lessons) or at the end of the textbook in transcript form, you can now present the listening exercise in many different ways. Why not mix it up from class to class? Variety is the spice of life, after all!

Method 1: Listen only first, listen with transcript second

1. It’s a good idea to go over some vocabulary before you listen. You can pick out some tough words from the transcript to cover with your students.

2. Present the listening first (without giving students the transcripts). For longer listening tasks, you may want to allow your students to take notes. You could also play the recording a second time before handing out the transcripts (especially for low level students, or difficult, long passages).

3. Now give students the transcripts and play the recording again, letting the students listen and read at the same time. Ask students if they have any additional vocabulary questions. This is a great time to go over any slang or idioms that come up.

4. For any related comprehension questions that follow, mix it up! You can have them answer the questions after the listening-with-transcript task, or have them answer questions before you do the final listening with the transcript so that they can catch anything they might have missed. If there aren’t any comprehension questions available, ask some yourself. Students are a lot more engaged when they know they will be asked questions afterwards.

Method 2: Listen with transcript first, listen only second

1. Start with vocabulary. You can pick out some tough words to teach the students, or have students skim the transcript and ask you words they are unfamiliar with.

2. Present the first listening while they are reading the transcript. If the material isn’t too difficult, you could have them do different things while they listen and read, such as focus on intonation or pronunciation, or underline words they don’t know.

3. Have them turn over the transcripts and listen to the recording for a second time. Now that they’ve heard and read it once, it should be easier to follow this time around. This method is often less frustrating for students, but there should be occasions when you also try method #1, to challenge them. Whether or not to listen for a third time is up to you. I usually go by what the majority of the students want. It’s a fine balance between helping out the slower students and not letting the faster students get bored. You could also make the recording available after school or during lunch for any students who want to practice the listening again. This is also part of the beauty of transcripts…slower students can study the written-out recordings later at home.

4. Present the comprehension questions and go over any other difficult vocabulary.

Method 3: Fill in the blanks while listening

1. This is a fun, different way to use transcripts and vary the listening exercises you give to your students. First, make one copy of the transcript and white out a word or phrase from each speaker’s comment, or from every two sentences or so. The amount of blanks will depend on the level of your students. Just make sure not to have too many back to back, as students may get frustrated if they can’t keep up.

2. Play the recording and let students try to fill in the blanks as they listen. This method ensures engagement during the listening and really makes them aware of each word.

3. Play the recording a second time so that students can fill in any blanks they missed during the first go.

4. Check the answers together. Make sure you have them check their spelling.

5. Now that the blanks are filled in, play the recording a third time and have students concentrate on the overall meaning of the passage.

6. Do any comprehension questions and go over any difficult vocabulary.

Method 4: Cut up and put in order

1. This is another way of using transcripts creatively. There are two ways to present this method (I prefer the first way). One way is to listen to the recording first, then give the cut-up transcript pieces and have students put them in order second. The second way is to give the cut-up transcript pieces first and have students put them in order, and listen to the passage second. Try both ways for variety and see what your students respond to best.

2. To do this method, cut up the transcript into speakers’ sections (if it’s a dialogue) or paragraphs (if it’s one long passage). The idea behind presenting the transcript this way is that it forces the students to really think about the meaning of what they’re reading and hearing. You can’t put something back in order if you don’t understand it well.

If the transcripts aren’t available in the textbook, I always copy them out for students who want to study the dialogue, vocabulary, etc. later at home. In the interest of saving trees, I usually ask how many students actually want a copy, since undoubtedly some of the students will just throw them out. On average, I would say about half the class wants a copy.

If you have another way of using transcripts, I’d love to hear it! Drop me a line in the comments section below.

I hope these tips help your students become great listeners!


Coming Soon: How to Use ESL-Library’s Podcasts


Leave a Comment ↓

  1. Amanda says:

    May 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! My advanced ESL students tell me they need a lot of listening practice, but I find myself using the same types of exercises over and over. This will help me add variety to my lessons.

  2. Ahmad says:

    Jan 29, 2015 at 1:22 am

    I like this post.
    for the 3rd method, there is also another variation that might good (IMO).
    to give for each pair of students the transcript but with different blanks, so they have to communicate and check what are the words they are missing.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Feb 03, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Excellent idea, Ahmad! Pair work exercises are so much more interactive. I love this idea.

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