By Aoife McLoughlin

21 June 2016 - 06:25

'Podcasts are a great way for students to improve their listening on the go'.
'Podcasts are a great way for students to improve their listening on the go'. Photo ©

Mat Wright

Do your students want more listening practice? Aoife McLoughlin, blogger with and latest winner of the British Council's Teaching English blog award, recommends five podcasts to get them started.

Do you spend enough time working on listening skills with your students? Is there ever enough time? In my experience, I would say no.

Often, when we ask students what part of their English they most want to improve, they will say listening and speaking. The latter skill can seem easier to help with – we can give students lots of interesting pair work and group discussion activities.

But we often give less attention to the receptive skill of listening, perhaps in the belief that 'if you can do it alone, you can do it at home'. To an extent this is true; although teachers should always make time for listening activities in their lessons, with the vast amount of resources available online, students can do more to develop these skills in their own time than ever before.

Podcasts are a great way for students to improve their listening on the go. If you haven't used them before, they are audio files you can stream or download from the internet to your smart phone or computer, and usually come as part of a series. You can also receive new instalments (or 'shows') automatically by subscribing to a podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud, among others.

With such a huge selection available, students are bound to find a podcast they are interested in that suits their needs. Most podcasts are free and students can listen to each one again and again to their heart's content.

Here are my top five podcasts for learners of English:

This is much more than a podcast. It offers students fun, absorbing and topical audio and video lessons on a range of subject areas. There are three levels of membership, and I would recommend signing up for premium. You will get a feel for the quality of the site using the free membership and can then make a decision. This is certainly one of the most effective tools for developing your listening skills that I've come across.

TED audio podcasts

Most of us have watched a TED talk at some point and many of us have used these videos in our classrooms on topics ranging from body language to being better at work. But have you made your students aware of TED audio podcasts? They're great for listening to on the go and students have access to a wide range of fascinating content. Why not set a particular talk (or part of a talk) for homework and use it as springboards for debates and discussions in class the next day?

This website has a range of podcasts at all levels covering interesting and real-life topics. Podcasts are free and you also have the option to sign up and pay for teachers' resources and worksheets to accompany each one. Some of the audio files also have video support.

A must if preparing for the IELTS exam, this podcast offers tips and strategies, helping students develop their techniques in all areas of the exam.

This offers students a way to learn English on the go while covering real-life current events. Each podcast deals with recent international news headlines, with presenters discussing and debating the issues, and introducing vocabulary and phrases related to the topic throughout. This is a great podcast for learners at higher levels to improve their listening skills while keeping abreast of business trends and international industry.

Students, try out the British Council's podcasts for elementary learners and professional podcasts for the workplace.

Teachers, visit our TeachingEnglish website for more lesson plans and activities, and find out how you can become a TeachingEnglish blogger.

Read Aoife McLoughlin's winning blog post: Self-Study Tips for Students!

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