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by Erica Fischer on Dec 7, 2015

Listen up! #Langchat sings out sources and strategies for improving listening skills

Did you sing along to #langchat last week? Participants shared their thoughts on listening resources in the classroom. They discussed qualities to look for when selecting resources to build interpretive skills and talked about ways to differentiate tasks for students at different proficiency levels. Langchatters also mentioned sources that work best for their students, offered strategies to make authentic resources more comprehensible for learners, and briefly commented on how to assess interpretive listening tasks. By the end of the hour, it was raining resources, and participants added a few more of their favorites in a final #resource rain!

Thank you to everyone who tuned in last week! We would also like to thank Thursday’s moderators: Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), John (@CadenaSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and the leaders of the Saturday encore.

Question 1: What QUALITIES do you look for in listening resources to build interpretive skills?

Langchatters recognized that listening exercises can be intimidating, especially for novices. For this reason, they encouraged taking several video qualities into account when selecting resources. @MlleSulewski wrote, “For novices especially, speed/accent/clarity is so important to help [students] feel like they can do it. Listening is hard!” @SoyBolingual replied, “I second this! Half the battle is convincing [students] not to panic and shut down.” In terms of qualities, participants mentioned the potential for resource manipulation, familiarity of vocabulary, accents, and visual supports.

  • Resource Manipulation: Participants noted the ability to slow down or modify resources to facilitate comprehension as particularly important to consider. @SraDentlinger said, “Quality for me is also in the medium. [For example, can the resource] be slowed down for novices?” @SraSpanglish responded in strong agreement: “Oh HECK yeah! My new best friends are YouTube speed changer and @EDPuzzle audio comments!” @IndwellingLang explained that in the “[desktop] version of YouTube, [you can] click [on the] gear icon at bottom right of video, click ‘Speed,’ and adjust!”
  • Familiarity of Vocabulary: @MlleSulewski cited “familiarity of vocabulary” and @SraSpanglish similarly mentioned “high frequency familiar vocabulary” as important features of audio resources. While familiarity is certainly key, @MmeFarab pointed out that a dose of the unfamiliar promotes growth: “A healthy amount of both necessary vocabulary and unknown words [is good] for interpretation purposes.”
  • Exposure to Different Accents: Some participants expressed interest in exposing their students to a range of accents early on. When possible, @Maestra_C selects videos that feature different accents, writing, “[Students] need to hear all types of accents.” @SraDentlinger echoed this point: “[Accent] is one quality I need to focus in on [with] my [students. For example,] Argentina [versus] Spain [versus] Mexico…”
  • Visual Supports: @LisaShepard2 encouraged “[lots] of visual support for the novices!” and @natadel76 wrote in agreement: “I prefer videos that visually support the audio message; it really helps [novices].” @CadenaSensei similarly expressed his preference for video over audio resources, commenting, “Video is much preferred to pure audio; [we] usually don’t listen to voices [without] bodies!” @LisaShepard2 added, “I use only video for novices–lots of cartoons. I think the video provides context for the listening.”

Question 2: How do you DIFFERENTIATE listening tasks for students across proficiency levels?

Langchatters recognized that a great resource can go a long way. @SraWienhold wrote, “As [department of one,] I love a great video that can have varied tasks for all levels.” @CecileLaine further elaborated on this comment: “You can differentiate tasks but not [the] resource, [for example, by] using Google forms to create two assignments on same video.” @bjillmoore explained that instructors can use the “same listening [resource] but [ask students] different questions, [focusing on] words, ideas, [the] main theme, [and having students] listen several times to build meaning—[as] often as necessary.” @MlleSulewski wrote, “I’m partial to @alenord’s listening in layers, myself :).” @lovemysummer also encouraged letting novices replay audio: “For novices, let them listen as many times as needed to show [their] best performance. Put them in [control] of listening, allow [them to] pause [and] rewind.” @CadenaSensei added that the number of repetitions will vary by student: “Even in Level 1, [different students] need [a different number] of [repetitions] — I like letting [individual students] choose [the number] of [repetitions], rather than me controlling audio.”

Question 3: What types of listening SOURCES work best for your students, and where do you find them?

If you’re in need of sources, Langchatters have got you covered! We have organized many of their suggestions by language below:

Resources for Multiple Languages:

  • Audio-Lingua: mp3 recordings by native speakers (@alenord)
  • YouTube: “[This] is a treasure chest of authentic listening resources for all levels. Songs [and] narrated stories work best with #earlylang” (@MaCristinaRV).
  • iTunes Store: @CadenaSensei wrote, “[For] most current music, I change [the] iTunes Store country at bottom right corner to [the] TL [culture’s] and play clips from [the] Top Ten Songs.”
  • Spotify: @MCoachSalato said, “[I went] to a great session on @spotify at #ACTFL15 by @SenorG. Every [world language] teacher needs a Spotify account to discover music.”

Resources for Spanish:

  • “Authentic Spanish Resources”: @alenord shared her Pinterest page featuring her collection of audio resources for Spanish.
  • Zambombazo: @SraTvasquez described this site as “a TREASURE TROVE for [Spanish].”
  • @VeinteMundos: @SraDentlinger wrote, “@VeinteMundos has cultural articles with audio recorded by natives. It’s fun, but truth be told I haven’t used it in class.”
  • “Spanish Phone Conversations” (@alenord)
  • YouTube vloggers: @SoyBolingual said, “I found tons of [YouTube] vloggers [who] did ‘Que llevo en mi mochila.’ [This is great] for showing [different] accents!” She shared an example: @MbiraAbby provided another vlog example: “Peruvian teens share their opinions here”

Resources for French:

  • Collection of French Songs: @KrisClimer shared a resource with French songs organized by singer and title, as well as grammar.
  • @MlleSulewski had lots of suggestions to offer: “EasyFrench, cartoons, BFM, RFI, podcast [français] facile, YouTubers like Cyprien and Norman, [Têtes à] Claques.” She also mentioned videos from “Français interactif (LAITS)” and TV5Monde.
  • @CatherineKU72 added to this list: “Petits Citoyens, 1jour1actu, RFI français facile…”

Resources for Latin:

  • Nuntii Latini: @magisterb480 wrote, “I’ve used the Nuntii Latini podcasts before [with level 3 and 4 students and] that has worked to a degree, especially when I [projected] the text with it.”
  • Christmas Hymns: @magisterb480 added, “Being in a Catholic school, I can use Latin Christmas hymns this time of year which I’m definitely going to take advantage of!”

The Greatest Resource of All!
@KrisClimer asked fellow Langchatters not to forget perhaps the most valuable resource of all: “Let’s take a moment to say ‘US’? We are the ultimate, interactive, slow it down, speed it up, repeat it, act it out SOURCE.”

Question 4: What STRATEGIES do you employ to make authentic listening resources more comprehensible for students?

In order to facilitate comprehension, Langhatters make changes to both the resource and the task:

  • Resource Modifications: Some participants manipulate resources to better serve students’ needs. For example, @CadenaSensei uses @EDpuzzle right now “[because] it lets individual [students] control [the] pace, and [instructors] can annotate unfamiliar parts with audio or notes.” @Maestra_C mentioned another important tool: “the speed changer on YouTube!” Other participants suggested introducing headsets for listening activities. @nathanlutz wrote, “[It] may sound simple, but [I] saw improvement when I shifted from playing [a] CD to [the] full room to having [students] use headphones for self-pace.” @SraSpanglish agreed: “Seriously. A class set of headphones and/or earbuds on ye olde school supply list? #21stcenturymusts.”
  • Task Modifications: Others mentioned ways to modify tasks to support comprehension. @alenord suggested pre-listening for audio activities. She explained, “[This is much] the same as any pre-reading strategies, [involving anticipation], connecting to prior learning, personalizing content.” In her class, @CecileLaine likes to “front load key structures with storytelling,” adding that her students “have [her voice] (a voice they are used to) share first about [the] topic [and] teach strategies.” Participants again stressed the importance of task modification. @MCoachSalato wrote, “Modify the task, not the ‘text.’ I play some tricky songs, but I ask my 8th graders to write the words they hear [or] understand.” Similarly, @MlleSulewski said, “I guess for novices it’s as simple as word recognition.” As a way to increase comprehension over time, @IndwellingLang suggested “‘Narrow Listening’ –listening to lots of [different] content from [different] sources on SAME TOPIC so [that the] same words [or] phrases come up repeatedly.”

Question 5: What FACTORS do you consider when deciding how to assess interpretive listening tasks?

Some were a bit hesitant to grade interpretive listening tasks. For example, @CadenaSensei wrote, “Confession: I rarely take grades on [interpretive listening] tasks ([It’s] hard for absent [students] to make [them] up, [and] often happens early in [the] input process).” If you do grade such exercises, @natadel76 pointed out that “[a] familiar context [and familiar] vocab is a MUST.” @KrisClimer emphasized the value of a growth mindset in evaluating performance on such tasks: “There’s where the proficiency level matters most to me. Are [students] at or above where they were?” Similarly, @MmeFarab does not look for perfection but growth: “I use [an interpretive task] template, ask [students] to recognize key words [or do comprehension] checks, but remember: they don’t have to ‘get’ them all.” @LisaShepard2 replied, “[In my honest opinion,] this is key. Ask lots of questions to challenge all [students], but don’t grade out of 100%.” @natadel76 considers proficiency as cases where students “identified most of what [she] expected.”

Resource Rain!
Still haven’t had enough? In the last few minutes, #langchat was a flurry of activity as participants shared some final favorites:

  • Videos on FluentU (@nathanlutz)
  • “7 billion others” videos on global topics with subtitles (@natadel76)
  • @Musicuentos: @CadenaSensei said, “New resources [are] also being uploaded all the time to @Musicuentos, [an] #authres activity bank [for] multiple [languages]!”
  • Duolingo: @AHSblaz said, “[Don’t] forget that Duolingo requires listening [and] speaking skills too; my [students] love it.” @magisterb480 added, “I have my French 1 class play Duolingo as a last few minutes of class activity sometimes. They like it too!”
  • News in Slow French (@nathanlutz)
  • “C’est quoi?” videos from 1jour1actu (@CecileLaine wrote that these videos provide “wonderful visual support.”)
  • Peruvian radio stations (@MbiraAbby)
  • @SraWienhold’s 100 favorite resources (many listening)


Last week, participants discussed use of listening resources in the classroom. They noted qualities to consider when selecting resources and talked how to differentiate tasks for students at different proficiency levels. Langchatters also mentioned sources, offered strategies to make authentic resources more comprehensible for learners, and commented on ways to assess interpretive listening tasks.

In case you STILL want to read more, check out these previous summaries, shared by @SECottrell:
-March ’11: improving student comprehension of native speakers
-May ’12: preparing students for authentic listening and reading materials
-Oct ’13: best ways to improve students’ interpretive listening skills

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who tuned in or sang along to #langchat! All of your voices contribute to a dynamic, positive, and inspiring professional learning network. Don’t forget that you can get your #langchat fill twice a week– both Thursday at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Got a question you’re eager to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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