8 Essential listening exercises for ESL classes

Good engaging listening exercises are essential for good English listening/speaking lessons and classes. Listening exercises can be created in variety of formats and for a variety of purposes. With new technologies it’s possible to create listening exercises for almost every kind of teaching activity. I try to add listenings to everything.

Below are some of the different kinds of listening techniques I’ve been developing over the last year. Some of these exercises are just teaching techniques I used in the classroom and discovered that they were easily adapted to online learning. Not only that, I realized I could edit and improve them if I converted them into audio files. If you want to download the files, you have to play them through completely one time.

1 Dictation (past tense vocabulary)


This is a dictation listening exercise to introduce students to  vocabulary. Students match  vocabulary and phrases to  pictures as the teacher dictates past tense phrases using sentences to give context. This exercise is a great icebreaker and introduction to any set of vocabulary.  It works brilliantly in the classroom. It  also works really well as an online listening assignment.


Past tense dictation


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2 Match the vocabulary to the pictures ( adjectives for describing people)


The students have two tasks for this exercise. First they match the items to the pictures. Then they match the vocabulary to the pictures.


Adjectives for describing people

3 Elementary listening and note taking

This is an elementary listening and note taking exercise for lower level students. Students can complete the note taking template after listening to the audio files.

Elementary listening/speaking and note/taking 

How to be happy and optimistic
How to have a better memory

4 Note taking (advanced: controversial topics)


  This is a listening and note taking exercise for controversial topics. It’s done in the a discussion format with the teacher asking students for their opinions Students listen to the audio and take notes on the worksheets.


Controversial topics


Other listening exercises

Eslflow’s listening exercises for ESL

5 Complete the conversations (introductions)


This listening exercise is a gap fill dialogue for greetings and introductions. Students listen and complete the conversation with the vocabulary in the box.




6 Listening for grammar (gerunds/infinitives)


This is a listening activity focusing on gerunds and infinitives focusing on the uses of devices and gadgets.

(Gerunds/infinitives for devices (PDF)

Gerunds/infinitives for devices


7 Short dialogues (asking for information-travel gap fill)


This is an English listening/speaking activity. Students listen and try to complete the short dialogues using the speech bubbles.

Asking for information (PDF)

Asking for information


8 Listening for vocabulary and common expressions (business English)


This is an  ESL listening/speaking exercise  for practicing  common business English expressions by matching expressions and phrases to pictures and writing  sentences. First, the students match the expressions to the pictures.

Common business English phrases/expressions (PDF)

Common business phrases/expressions


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