Monthly Archives: April 2017

10 Best Free Listening Websites with Quizzes to Practise for Listening Exams

So what do you do to practise listening for exams?

Growing up, I never had the opportunity to do any extra practice to improve my listening skills. We didn’t have the Internet and the thousand possibilities it offers to learners of any language nowadays. The teachers had an old tape player that sometimes stopped and started on its own and old tapes that ended up sounding distorted and most of the times unlistenable so if you wanted to get better at listening, you just listened to the radio and struggled to understand the lyrics and sing along. Not that I ever complained. That was the perfect excuse to listen to music while claiming to be working hard. I have to say that my father never bought it!

So, exams are just around the corner and I know you’re beginning to freak out. Don’t worry! Here I am, coming to the rescue!

These are, in my opinion, the best sites with quizzes to practise listening comprehension. In no particular order.


TALK ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.talkenglish.com/listening/real.aspx
  • Levels: three main levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: no
  • What I like best: it has some other listening activities like dictations or listening based on pictures for lower levels. It also has a section dedicated to advanced students with a story and some comprehension questions. See here
  • What I don’t like: In my opinion, the “listening” categorised under “advanced level” is far too easy.

 ELLLO


  • url: http://www.elllo.org/
  • Levels: six levels (beginners-advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: grammar or vocabulary activities
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: only audio for vocabulary
  • What I like best: there are seven activity types (see them here) and a variety of accents.
  • What I don’t like: a bit disorganised.

ESL LOUNGE


  • url: http://www.esl-lounge.com/student/listening.php
  • Levels: four  (elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: it offers different kinds of comprehension exercises (multiple choice, cloze, true/false…etc)

BRITISH COUNCIL


  • url: http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice
  • Levels: five levels ( A1, A2, B1, B2, C1)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: very user-friendly for both students and teachers. PDF available for exercises, answers and transcript.
  • Extra: The British Council also runs some other sections to improve and practise your listening skills and learn about Britain, its culture, its language and its people. See here

 EDTED LESSONS WORTH SHARING


  • url: http://ed.ted.com/lessons
  • Levels: advanced
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: all the lessons have three parts : watch, think (where you can do the comprehension exercise) and discuss (post-listening questions)
  • Transcript: no, although most lessons are on youtube, and you can watch them with subtitles
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: the audio is not sorted by level and although most of videos are for advanced students, some of them are much easier than others so I would say that they are suitable for B2 students and higher. You need to register although it’s free.
  • Extra: you can also create your own lessons

ESOL COURSES


  • url: http://www.esolcourses.com/content/topicsmenu/listening.html
  • Levels: four main levels (upper elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: most of the times
  • Transcript: no
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like best: carefully designed  user-friendly lessons plans

ESL VIDEO


  • url: http://www.eslvideo.com/index.php
  • Levels: five ( from beginner to advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: not always
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: anybody can create a listening quiz so it might contain mistakes
  • Extra: You can create your own quiz

 


BREAKING NEWS ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/index.html
  • Levels: seven levels
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: you can listen to the same piece of news at different levels and the news can be read at different speeds.
  • Extra: Sean Banville’s also runs eight other sites, check them out here

 


RANDALL’S ESL CYBER LISTENING LAB


  • url : http://www.esl-lab.com/
  • Levels: three levels ( easy, medium and difficult)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: Both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: No
  • What I like best: the post-listening activities and the vocabulary section ( see here) where you can learn how to pronounce words associated to different topics.

LYRICS TRAINING


  • url: https://lyricstraining.com/
  • Levels: four ( from beginner to expert)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: any lyrics site will have the lyrics for the song
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like: it’s fun and a different way to approach listening exercises.
  • Extra: You can create your own exercises (beta).

Check also:

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Click to follow

 

Oral Exam: Monologue Based on One or More Pictures. Some Tips and Ideas to Get Started

In the intermediate and more advanced exam you will be presented with one, two or more pictures about the same topic but in clear contrast. It’s important to remember that you are not supposed to give a detailed description of everything that is happening in the picture(s). On the contrary, what is important is that you talk about the topic or idea suggested in the picture(s). If you are given  for example 3 minutes to talk, use just one minute of this time to describe in general, using appropriate language and structures; the rest of the time should be dedicated to talking about the topic and giving your opinion.

BEFORE THE EXAM

  • Make a list of the most common topics asked in the exam.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary you can use related to this topic. Mind mapping works perfect here. I use the free site Goconqr.

Mapa Mental creado con GoConqr por Cristina Cabal

  • Practise using sets of pictures in contrast. You can use my own selection here. (Scroll down)
  • If your problem is that you never know what to say, I suggest you have a look at some conversation questions you might be asked about the given topic. It will probably help you get started. Have a look at some common topics with questions here.
  • Listen to other students taking the exam (for example here) or read some examples here (fashion, global warming, jobs, new technologies and food)
  • Time yourself to control the time it takes you to develop your ideas.
  • Record yourself and then listen to the recording and see how you can improve it. You can use the app Soundcloud, which allows you to stop the recording and write comments.

(You can write a comment on a track through the text box below the waveform that says ‘Write a comment…’ and press your return or enter key to send. The comment will appear at the point on the waveform where you first started typing. Alternatively, you can click any free space in the comment section to leave a comment at that specific point)

  • The day before the exam, revise all the topics and the vocabulary you can use.
  • Half an hour before the exam, don’t speak your mother tongue. Spend the time listening, doing some silent reading or pronunciation exercises in English.

DURING THE EXAM

Before you start speaking:

  • If you are allowed 1 minute to organise your ideas, use that minute. I have often seen candidates not taking this minute and making a mess of the exam just because they didn’t take the time to organise their ideas.
  • Scan the pictures and identify the topic. Sometimes there is a title or a heading that helps you.
  • Try to come up with three ideas about the topic suggested by the pictures. Expand on these ideas.

Taking the exam:

  • Begin by giving an overall idea of what the pictures are about, using a variety of structures, modals to indicate possibility and the useful “look” or “seem”.
  • Talk about the topic. It’s easier if you relate it to yourself, but if you don’t have this experience, talk about a friend’s or just lie. This is an English exam, not a lie detector.

via GIPHY

 

  • Develop your ideas. Try to use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Don’t give too complicated explanations. I’m sorry to say, you’ll probably make mistakes.
  • Give your opinion. Say which one you prefer and why.

Some expressions you can use:

Remember it’s better if you start by giving a general idea of what the pictures are about.  Don’t start like this:

In the first picture I can see

Start like this:

  • In this worksheet there are two photos. They both show different ways of (shopping).
  • These photos are clearly both connected to the topic of (science)… but in two quite different contexts. In the first one… In contrast, the second picture shows…
  • The photo/picture shows …
  • The first thing that strikes me about this picture is…

 

Remember that you are describing a picture, so you cannot be 100% sure of what is happening. Use language that suggests this:

  •  I think…
  • Maybe / Perhaps…
  • I guess they are…
  •  Modal verbs of deduction: she must / can’t /
  • Modal verbs of possibility: could, may, might
  •  She looks/seems… (tired)/ She looks like … (a teacher). It looks/seems as if (it’s raining)

PRACTICE.

Go to http://www.cristinacabal.com/?page_id=4906  and scroll down to the section SET OF PICTURES FOR PRACTICE and just “practise”. “A  lot!” 🙂

 

Are we Killing or Promoting Creativity? A Collaborative Writing and Speaking Lesson

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

I had a full-blown, real, very much needed holiday. The last two months had been unbelievably hectic: end-of-term exams, working full-time during the week and some teacher training weekends and, to top it all, I was also writing a project to apply for a European grant, which unfortunately I won’t get.

So, there I was, fully enjoying my break , when I stumbled upon an article in El Pais about a short animated short film “Alike”, which had won a Goya award in 2016, and I was struck with how beautiful, touching and thought-provoking the video was. And I just knew I had to show it to my students, do something with it and well, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

About the lesson: In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students watch a short silent film called Alike (7 minutes) with two main aims:

  1. To give voice to the story and for this:
  • they will have to collaboratively write the story
  • they will have to collaboratively retell the story

2. To discuss some questions related to education, the promotion of creativity and         daring to be different.


Step 1. Warm-up: Copi and Paste

Tell students they are going to watch a short  video called Alike, where the main two characters are a father and a son whose names are Copi and Paste. Focus on the names, write them on the board and ask students to predict what the story could be about. Hopefully, students will come up with some of these ideas

  • (Lack of)Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Routine
  • Lack of ideas
  • Plagiarism
  • Inspiration
  • Deception

Step 2. Introducing the video and the task

Explain that the video they are about to see is an animated short film (7 minutes) called “Alike” where there is no dialogue. However, the video is so touching and thought-provoking that words are not necessary; images and especially colours play an essential role and are enough to tell this beautiful story and to give us something to think about.

Play the video once asking students to focus on how the colours (or lack of colour) help tell the story. You can also tell them that, later in the lesson, they will need to narrate the story so they need to concentrate on everything that happens.


Step 3.Working on vocabulary.


The next step will focus on teaching/revising the vocabulary they will need to know to write the story.  Below, some flipcards I have used with my students.
Flash Card Deck created by Cristina Cabal with GoConqr

 


Step 4. Collaborative Writing and Retelling

1. Form groups and assign each group a part of the story. The aim is first to write and then to tell their part of the story as it happens, but also to analyse the hidden meaning and the values it tries to highlight.

  • The day begins (0:06- 1:32)
  • At school/ at work ( 1:33-2:38)
  • Leaving the office/school (2:39-3:07)
  • The next days (3:08-3:52)
  • Copi’s surrender (3:53-5:00)
  • But one day (5:01-6:50)

Depending on the number of students, you can ask them to work in pairs or assign each group two parts.

2. Play the story once again for the students to take down notes and get stsrted with the writing task. Walk around offering help and guidance.

3.  Play the story again to help students polish their part.

4. Ask each group to name a spokesperson and ask these students to come to the front of the class and give voice to the story as you play it once again.  Be ready to pause the video as required.

(below my students performing)

via GIPHY

 


Step 4. Speaking


For this activity there should be a supportive atmosphere within the class.

Form groups to discuss the following questions. When all the questions have been discussed, the groups should report back to the whole class.

  • Have you ever done something different or behaved differently from your peers?
  • Do you remember a time when, for some reason, you stood out as different?
  • Do you remember a time when you went against the established rules?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • Do you think the way education is organized destroys children’s creativity?
  • Do you think education for children under seven is excessively focused on the curriculum?
  • Do you think that be learning to be creative is more important than knowing how to spell correctly?