Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


21 Listening Comprehension Activities for the Elementary Foreign Language Classroom

WE KNOW THAT LISTENING COMPREHENSION is extremely important in the foreign language classroom, yet we (or at least, I) struggle to resist the temptation to get kiddos speaking as quickly as possible. Speaking activities are easier to measure, parents routinely ask 'Well, what can my kid SAY?', and kids themselves rarely understand how vital this skill is and how much they need to 'PRACTICE THEIR LISTENING EARS' as I call it in my classroom. Though by NO means exhaustive, I've tried to compile a list of listening comprehension activities that are just right for little learners, and require little to no speaking on their part. I've done this intentionally- Stephen Krashen strongly recommends a period of listening only, and though we can't always adhere to that, I've attempted a list of activities which require little speaking vocabulary on my students' part, but give lots of listening practice!  Here goes:

1- BINGO: We all know, and we all love it. Can't go wrong with with Bingo!
2- ACT IT OUT: TPR has limitless possibilities (more of these to come)- whether students act out an animal, action, object or what have you, it's a simple task to name something and have them bring out their inner actor!
3- DRAW A ___: For your little artists, this is a fun and easy activity- give them paper or white boards, name an object/item and have them draw it. Beware- little little learners have limited drawing capabilities- you make think a frog is easy to draw, but no way! Be sure your list matches the abilities of your students to (vaguely) represent the vocabulary. EXTEND THIS ACTIVITY by saying phrases, word chunks and/or sentences instead of single words.
4- FREEZE DANCE: Got a few minutes at the end of class? Pump up the tunes and play Freeze Dance! I use two commands only- ¡Alto! and ¡Baila!- keeping it real simple! This is also a great way to sneak in some culture with authentic music.
5- COLOR BY NUMBER: Are your kiddos practicing colors vocabulary? Take the answer key off any color by number activity page and tell them the instructions orally, one color at a time.
6- MATAMOSCAS- Another popular game we are very familiar with! Separate the class into two teams, put two pictures on the board (this works best with a smart board so you can project the pictures, but if you don't have one, put the pictures up a little higher and put 2 x's where they will swat), call up two kids, say the vocab word- first to swat the picture is the winner of that round.
7- MAKE A CRAFT: Choose a simple craft kiddos can do and give them the instructions verbally, step by step. I do each step one at a time and wait for all kiddos to finish before going on to the next step- many kiddos find following multi step instructions challenging even in their native language. See my instructions on how to make tissue paper flowers here!
8- POINT TO THE ____: Make up a picture page with the vocabulary you are practicing (so, a page with pictures of different fruit on it), then say a word, and have kiddos point to the word. Or, give them a small manipulative (or dare I say, a skittle or starburst- talk about motivation!) to move about the page. If you want to throw some speaking in on their part, after you have covered the vocab several times, call on students and have them say a word- they like to see me playing along, too!
9- 4 CORNERS: A great activity to get kids moving! Put pictures of vocabulary in 4 corners of the room, say a word and have kids move to the corner housing the representative picture. See my post here for more detailed information.
10- FRÍO O CALIENTE: A favorite from our childhood, kids will immediately recognize how to play. Decide on a vocabulary word from your classroom, or set up a series of objects/pictures that kids can move towards and ultimately choose. Do this whole group or smaller groups depending on class management and size of space.
11- ¿SÍ O NO?: A seriously easy activity to do to check for understanding of vocabulary. Hold up an object or picture and ask 'Is it a ____, yes or no?' Kids can do a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate their answer.
12- SIGUE LA SECUENCIA: This requires class sets of objects or pictures, so does require some prep on your part. I find it easiest with colors because you can cut up construction paper into squares or strips or use unifix cubes or legos for the activity. Everyone gets a class set of multiples of the vocab (so, with colors- 4-5 squares of each color)- name a pattern (red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, orange) and have the students arrange the colors in that order in front of them. Need help with patterns?- remember math class: ABABAB, ABCABC, AABBAABB, ABBAABBA and so on.
13- TWO OF A KIND: I have no idea if there is a name out there for this game, so gave it this one! I use it a lot as a greeting game at the beginning of class. Choose a group of vocabulary items and make a double set so the items can be paired up. So, if you have 18 kids in your class, you need 9 items, two of each item. Separate the class into two equal groups (if you have an odd #, you join one group) and give each kid one picture/item/object and instruct them to keep it secret. Now, call out a vocabulary word- the two kids who have the item come to the center and greet one another. Continue until all matches have been made. Pom poms to reinforce colors or magnetic numbers are great for this or you can check out our free Hearts Matching Game in our shop!
14- GUESS WHO I AM!: Nothing like a bit of mystery to get kids interested! Choose a set of vocabulary that your kids are familiar with and make a picture sheet with the vocab which you can hand out. Review the vocabulary- then, describe one of the words/verbs using simple descriptions your students can understand. Kids listen and point to the vocabulary picture on their sheet. For example- Es enorme. Es gris. Trompetea. (un elefante)
15- TPR COMMANDS ACTIVITIES: I alluded to these earlier- the possibilities are practically endless with activities in which you instruct kiddos to do SOMETHING- put the hat on the bear, grab the apple, touch your nose, put the cat in the living room, put the cat behind/in front of the sofa, hold up the picture of a key, color the chair orange, put the ears on Mr. Potato Head, and so on. With early elementary, choosing actions which multiple kiddos can do at once helps with classroom behavior; they have very little patience for waiting more than a minute or so to have a turn- being 18th to get a turn is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole- it's just plain frustrating lol
16- LISTEN FOR IT!: Choose a song which has a repetitive word(s) in it that kiddos can listen for- instruct them to raise their hand anytime they hear the key word(s). Several traditional villancicos are great for this (Campana sobre campana, Navidad, Los peces en el río, etc).
17- LISTEN FOR IT! PART 2: Choose a video with key vocab in it that you are practicing and create a picture sheet with those words represented. While kiddos are watching the video (I suggest a short one for the littles), have them circle or x the words they hear. TIP: Pause the video after a word is said so kids have the time to look on their paper and mark it. If the action keeps going, they will either get stressed out or forget to mark their paper because they are engaged in watching.
18- CROSS THE LINE IF: This is a popular movement activity, great for all levels. Have all kiddos stand on one side of the room, put down a piece of tape, long rope, string or ribbon and instruct them to cross the line if: if they like grapes, if they have a sister, if their cat is black, if they like to skateboard, if they had pizza for dinner last many possibilities! TIP: Little kiddos need a bit of support to figure out they go back and forth across the line, dependent on the prompt, especially if some of their classmates aren't crossing. Be sure to demonstrate and model!
19- DOT TO DOT: Take this traditional counting activity and give it a twist! Erase all the numbers on the original and rewrite them, out of order, next to the dots. Be sure you make note of the order they need to be connected in. Hand out a page to each student and call out each successive number that needs to be connected. Since if they connect the dots in numerical order, the picture will not come out, they need to listen carefully to know what comes next!
20- SHOW ME _____ TIGERS!: Well, it could be anything, but I have a set of small zoo animal counters that are perfect for this activity! Use what ever you have as a counter- buttons, shells, bingo chips, dried beans, pom poms- the item doesn't matter; it is a vehicle towards counting practice. Call out a number and have students place that many of the item in front of them- easy as that!
21- POM POM COLOR ACTIVITY: A few weeks ago I posted a fun pom pom color activity that is fast paced and involves multiple kiddos at a time- here's the link!

Many of these are old favorites, I am sure, but I hope you have found some new or refreshed ideas! Have some great listening fun!