Lesson on academic listening skills – preparing for English-medium courses

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students

  • have a good grasp of vocabulary needed to describe study events and activities
  • have developed their awareness of effective note-taking strategies
  • can recognise and make use of cues given by the speaker to aid understanding.

Ways of working and activities

This lesson can be completed independently online or adapted for a blended learning approach. It is a preliminary module in preparation for further academic listening activities which require cooperation with an assigned partner, followed by reflection in an online discussion.


Activity 1: Vocabulary – study activities and events 1:  interactive cloze test based on vocabulary related to study concepts, events and activities, created with, for example, developer tools in Word (See: How to Create a Cloze Procedure Exercise in Word https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2i5PVQlCrY).


Activity 2: Vocabulary – study activities and events 2:  flashcards and drag-and-drop exercise based on vocabulary related to study concepts, events and activities, created with, for example, Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/)


Activity 3: Listening to lectures – some tips: short video produced by teacher, covering topics such as

  • why you should take notes
  • how to avoid distractions
  • helpful ways of taking notes (mindmapping, Cornell technique)


The video could be produced using, for example, Screencast-o-matic (https://screencast-o-matic.com/) or VideoScribe (http://sho.co/app/videoscribe)


Activity 4: Abbreviations and shortcuts in note-taking: flashcard exercise based on abbreviations, symbols and shortcuts used when taking notes. The teacher can create a basic set with, for example, Quizlet https://quizlet.com/,  and then students can add the teacher’s version to “My Study Sets” and extend the exercise with their own favourites or idiosyncratic shortcuts.


Activity 5: Digital handout explaining how to listen for cues to help understanding: The handout explains and exemplifies common signals (metatext) used by teachers to help students understand their lectures, covering areas such as

  • Explaining the structure of the lecture
  • Explaining what you should know by the end of the lecture
  • Changing topics
  • Emphasising what’s important
  • Repeating the main points
  • Explaining your homework or follow-up activities


Activity 6: Pre-listening activity. Students are informed that they will hear an excerpt from a lecture introducing a course. Students

  • predict what the lecture will cover
  • write down three questions to which they hope to get answers
  • check, for example, at https://mot.kielikone.fi/mot/valter/netmot.exe?UI=fiva2, to ensure they understand the meanings of certain key terms that occur in the lecture. The selected key terms are listed in advance by the teacher.


Activity 6: Listening activity. Students listen to an excerpt from a lecture introducing a course. The transcript is provided, with strategic gaps to be filled in by students. The text in the gaps comprises examples of the metatext used by teachers to help students understand their lectures. Lecture could be authentic material digitalised, for example, in mp4 format, recorded in cooperation with substance teachers from students’ field.

How are students supported?

  • Step-by-step instructions are provided online.
  • Explanations provided by teacher in online documents.
  • Some digital tools (Quizlet) provide automatic feedback.

What kind of feedback do students get as their work progresses on their own skills and the development of their skills?

  • automatic feedback from some digital tools
  • clues provided for cloze test in Word
  • full transcript of lecture provided for independent checking.

How does it end? What happens next? How is the learning process and experience discussed and reflected upon?

This lesson is intended to precede some further lessons in lecture listening. The lessons that follow would contain such activities as

  • pre-listening prediction activities as independent collaborative work using, e.g. Padlet (https://padlet.com/dashboard) or Flinga (https://flinga.fi/)
  • vocabulary activities
  • online listening to recordings of lectures accompanied by
    • note-taking practice with online discussion about success of note-taking techniques and comparison of note content and
    • comprehension questions (could be partly multiple choice from pull-down menu).