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Listening Comprehension Strategies


This activity guides students to practice a familiar set of comprehension strategies to a novel modality: listening instead of reading.  Instead of reading and annotating a written text, students listen to an audio version of a text and record their ideas in notes.  This activity develops a deeper appreciation of comprehension strategies and their applications, and it enhances students’ listening comprehension

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Metacognition


  • Identify the audio text that you want students to listen to.  You may want to choose an excerpt or chapter from a book students are already reading, or you can choose a separate text.  The audio text should be fairly short so that students can process it effectively. 
  • Identify 2-4 comprehension strategies that you want students to practice through this activity.  You should pick strategies that students have already learned.  Good choices might include summarization, making connections, predicting, clarifying, and questioning.
  • Determine how students will listen to the audio text, and make sure that you have the necessary technology available.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher briefly reviews the target comprehension strategies, and models their use on a short and familiar text. Teacher models recording strategy use in 3-column notes (page/line number, it says, I say). Teacher writes the relevant word(s) from the text

    As you model, think aloud about the word(s) or line(s) in the text that you are referring to, and explicitly describe the link between the words in the text and your thought. 

  2. Teacher introduces the activity, and the audio text. Students set up notepaper as 3- column notes, labeling each column “time,” “it says,” “I say.”

    Alternatively, you could use a software program that allows students to tag and annotate an audio file. 

  3. Alone or in groups, students listen to audio text. As they listen, they stop the recording to apply strategies. They record their thoughts in their notes, citing the time in the recording, the word(s) that sparked the thought, and their own thought.
    Circulate as students are working and help them to clarify their thinking and notice interesting elements in the text.
    You may want to require that students use each of the target strategies a certain number of times.
  4. Students get into small groups, and re-listen to the recording as a group. They stop every 30 seconds or so, and each student shares his/her thoughts on that portion of the text.

    Circulate as students are working, asking them about their thinking and helping to clarify any confusion.

  5. Teacher leads a whole-class discussion about this activity, and what it teaches students about the comprehension strategies and about listening vs. reading comprehension.

    Discuss with students how listening felt different from reading.  What was easier?  What was harder?  What are potential benefits/drawbacks from each?  What did they learn about the strategies from this activity?

  6. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • How is listening to a text different from reading a text?  Which would be better for you in which context(s)?
    • What strategies might help you to listen more effectively?
    • Are your comprehension strategies equally suited to listening and reading?  Which are most suited to which modality, and why?
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