I finally decided on the following criteria for sites that would appear on this list. They would need need to:
… be free.
… be accessible to English Language Learners.
… let English Language Learners listen to pretty much anything they would either write or anything they could find on the Internet, OR
… have a wide range of listening options that would be combined with comprehension assessments.
Other links that didn’t make this list can also be found on my website under Listening.
I’m not listing these sites in order of preference, as I’ve done with a majority of my previous “The Best…” lists. Instead, I’m just dividing the list into the two categories that I’ve shared in my criteria.
Here are my choices for The Best Listening Sites For English Language Learners:
SITES THAT LET USERS LISTEN TO ANYTHING THEY WRITE OR FIND ON THE INTERNET
YAKIToME lets you copy and paste pretty much anything you want and the convert the text to speech.You can choose the type of voice (it uses ATT technology, which I’ve had a link on my website to for a longtime because it’s so good), the rate of speed (there are numerous settings), and even customize pronunciation for certain words. You choose to see the text when you’re listening to it being spoken. And you can create private groups if you want. Most importantly, it seems to work without any technical difficulties. Plus, it’s free.
Read The Words lets you convert any text – from a document, blog, or website – into audio with your choice from a variety of voices. You can then embed the voice player into your site. English Language Learners can easily copy and paste an essay they’re writing to hear if it sounds “right.” They can complete a story or essay, paste it into a Jottit page, and then embed a Read The Words audio player that will speak what they wrote. The site had some technical glitches when they first began, but it seems like those have been worked out.
The above three sites all require registration and log-in to use (though they make it easy to do so). These next few don’t allow you to save what you’ve written, or text that you copy-and-paste. And you can only use it for relatively small amounts of text. However, they don’t require any registration at all so you can use their services immediately.
SITES THAT HAVE A WIDE-RANGE OF LISTENING OPTIONS COMBINED WITH ASSESSMENTS
This section of sites itself is divided in two — first, I’ll share excellent resources that offer specific listening exercises that are then generally followed by questions to measure comprehension; then, I’ll share links to sites that provide online dictation activities.
Even though I said earlier I wasn’t going to list sites in order of preference, I have to say, as I’ve said before, that I believe Henny Jellema’s Online TPR Exercises are not only the best online listening activities. I believe they are the best online ESL/EFL activities — period. If you have not tried them out, I would strongly encourage you to do so and have your students do the same.
ELLO provides hundreds of listening activities that are well-designed and engaging. Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab does the same — it has great activities, though I just don’t think it’s as user-friendly as ELLO.
Cambridge University Press has excellent online listening activities that support its textbooks. These exercises are usually called “What Do You Hear?”. Here are links leading to them:
Now I’d like to list some excellent online dictation sites, where student listen to audio and have to type what they hear:
Listen and Write is a new web tool that I think has a lot of potential for English Language Learners. A user first chooses a text he/she wants to hear read to him/her. Many of the choices are from the Voice of America, and are both high-interest and accessible. Their levels of difficulty are also indicated. Then the story is dictated to you, and you have to type it correctly. You can choose the speed of the reading and how often it’s repeated. When you type, only the correct letters actually show-up on the screen, and you can ask for hints.
The English Club has a series of simple and effective dictation exercises. They’re well organized, simple, don’t require registration, and have ones for a variety of English levels.
Audio Puzzler is a fun and useful listening game.
English Speak has 100 listening lessons (framed as dialogues) that give you two different speeds in which to listen to them.
Many English Language Learner teachers and students are familiar with Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab. It’s provided high-quality listening exercises on the web for a longtime. It’s now gotten even better with the addition of videos. Video Snapshots for ESL/EFL Students show short video clips along with comprehension quizzes for students to take.
David Deubelbeiss has posted a very good document for ESL/EFL teachers sharing ideas for listening activities to do in the classroom. Even thought it’s for teachers, it’s so good that I’m adding it to this list.
One of my favorite links is called Phrase Builder from Oxford Press. You first pick a level, then see and listen to a phrase. Then the words are scrambled, and finally you have to place the words in the correct order as you listen to it again. Phrase Bank is similar.
Book One — Trig’s Listening Zone (Click on a Chapter, then click on “Listening Zone.”)
Book Two — Trig’s Listening Zone (Click on a Chapter, then click on “Listening Zone.”)
Book Three — Trig’s Listening Zone (Click on a Chapter, then click on “Listening Zone.”)
Quizlet is on The Best Tools To Make Online Flashcards list. They’ve just added the great ability to have users listen to a word and then have to spell it. This dictation feature is excellent for ELL’s, and EFL Classroom has created a list of links to the best Quizlet dictation activities.
Listen A Minute is another great site by Sean Banville.
Caroline Brown Listening Lessons is a quite impressive set of interactive listening exercises.
As regular readers know, ever since I discovered them, I’ve believed Henny Jellema’s online TPR Exercises to be not only the best listening exercises for English Language Learners on the Web, but the best ELL activity — period.
Well, I don’t know how I missed it before, but has a number of other similar activities that are just as good:
The importance of active listening and how to do this in an EFL classroom is a useful #ELT Chat summary from Twitter.
The British Council shares a number of good listening activities to do in class.
Nathan Hall has a great collection of ELT Listening Material.
— MarisaConstantinides (@Marisa_C) September 26, 2015
Balanced Listening Instruction is from TESOL and is one of the most useful pieces on listening for ELLs that I’ve seen.
— TeachingEnglish (@TeachingEnglish) March 2, 2016
— TeachingEnglish (@TeachingEnglish) March 1, 2016
Attentive Listening: An Overlooked Component of Academic Interaction is by Kate Kinsella.
Elementary Podcasts are from The British Council. There are tons of English-learning podcasts out there, but this one stands out because each one includes web-based interactive exercises. I’m not aware of any other one like it – am I missing them?
I’ve posted a lot about StoryCorps resources. I just now learned that, in addition to the wonderful short audio stories they provide on their site and on radio, each one now has an audio transcript that can be viewed on line or printed-out. Just click on the audio story you want and when it brings you to its own webpage, you’ll then see the option “Read The Transcript.”
25 ideas for using audio scripts in the ELT classroom is from the English Language Teaching Global Blog.
How to use the internet to improve your listening skills is from Dynamite ESL.
5 great zero preparation lesson ideas is by Steve Smith and shares good listening activities.
10 Best Free Listening Websites with Quizzes to Practise for Listening Exams is from Blog de Cristina.
Developing listening skills with storytelling is from Oxford University Press.
Listening and Speaking With Digital Assistants is from TESOL.
Feedback and other suggestions are always welcome.
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