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5 Classroom Activities to Improve Listening Skills

Janelle Cox

In today’s digital world, many teachers struggle to get their students to engage in active listening while they teach. It’s become much harder to get and keep students’ attention than it was a decade ago, mostly because students’ minds are filled with texts, emails, social media updates, or whatever is going on with their friends. If students are struggling to listen, then they can miss out on some crucial information that can help them both academically and socially. Teaching listening skills to students doesn’t have to be boring, where the students just have to sit in their seats and listen to the teacher talk. There are many classroom activities to create engaging lessons that will help students focus on their listening skills. Here are five classroom activities to try out that will help build students’ listening skills.

Classroom Activities: The Hidden Phrase

An interactive classroom activity to help improve students’ listening skills is to pair students together to listen for a hidden phrase. The way this activity works is students must work with their partner to create a dialog using a secret phrase. Once they have created a short dialog using the phrase, they must present it to their classmates to see which group can find the hidden phrase. Prepare the hidden phrase before class and make sure that you have enough for each group to have a different one. The phrase can be anything that you want from “I saw a dinosaur in my backyard” to “I like to bake cookies.” Each group’s challenge is to use the hidden phrase in their dialog, while their classmates’ goal is to listen intently to try and figure out the hidden phrase within the dialog. Each group that guesses correctly gets one point. If no one can guess the hidden phrase correctly, then the group that write the dialog gets a point.

Describe the Photo

Another fun classroom activity is to pair students together to listen to their partner describe a photograph. Have students sit back to back, and give one student a simple photograph and the other a blank piece of paper. The challenge is for the first student to describe in detail the photograph, while the second student tries to draw it on their paper. Make sure the photos you choose are simple, such as a photo of a house, cat, dog, or simple shapes. The group with the most similar drawings to their photograph wins.

Stand Up and Listen

A fun, active, whole-group activity is to play stand up and listen. For this activity, the challenge is for students to listen for a repeated sound. For example, you would say a phrase like “A saw my cat, eat a bat, then a rat, before he ran away.” As soon as students think they hear the repeated sound, they must stand up next to their seat. Once students get the hang of it, pair them up and have them create their phases. Once they’ve created their phrase each group must come up and take a turn playing stand up and listen.

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Locating the Square

This activity is similar to the describing the photo activity, but with this activity, students must listen for where to locate the square and draw the shape. Pair students together and have them sit back to back. Give one student a blank grid that looks like a Tic Tac Toe board with nine squares, and the other the same grid but with simple shapes in each of the nine squares. The challenge is for the student with the filled in grid to describe each shape and its placement to the student with the blank grid. The goal is for the student to actively listen in order to fill in their grid correctly. For example, the student may say, “The picture with the heart goes in the first top left square, and the picture of a circle goes right next to it.” The activity will force students to listen intently in order to complete the challenge.

Listening With Lyrics

Using music lyrics is a great way to keep students engaged while honing their listening skills. Have students listen to a song that they have never heard before. First, challenge them to listen for a specific word, then once they’ve mastered that, have them listen for a specific phrase. Next, play a popular song where all the students know the majority of the words and repeat the activity. Have students compare how they did on the first song to how they did on the second, popular song. This is a great activity for students to practice unfamiliar words.

It’s important for students to continually develop their listening skills. Listening is the activity of paying attention and getting meaning from something that you hear. By having students engage in a variety of classroom activities like the ones mentioned above, you will help them develop and build their skills.

Do you have any classroom activities that can help students improve their listening skills? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at

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