There are several active listening strategies that we can teach to our students.

I’ve grouped them into 8 categories:  


Focusing attention







All are important! 

Consider concrete ways to teach, discuss, practice, and review these strategies! 

Group 2:  Focusing attention

Focusing attention means concentrating on the input and task at

hand. Attention is the doorway to understanding, so it’s very important to work with “attention focusing”, particularly if learners feel overwhelmed or discouraged when they listen to English.

How to do this?

Of course!  Easy to say “Pay Attention!”, but not always easy to carry out.  

How to avoid distractions?  How to prevent disruptive

thoughts?  How to keep going back to remind yourself of why you are listening? In a sense, how to “slow down” the listening process and “remain calm.”

Well…just keeping these questions in mind is a great start! 

Here are some tips: 

Directed attention: 

This means: make a conscious attempt to focus on the listening task.  

> Tell the students to try to:  ignore distractions and negative thoughts like “Oh, it’s too difficult.  I give up!”

 It’s a kind of  coaching strategy before you begin. 

Selective attention:

This means:  attend only to specific aspects of the listening input, such as key

words or ideas that you are anticipating.  In other words, ignore the stuff you don’t need. 

> Teaching can help here by presenting “advance organizers” – outlines or graphs or charts or visuals that guide the listener. 

Persistent attention: 

This is related to directed attention and selective attention.  It means:  Attending to broad

meaning, keeping flow of attention even if you are distracted by unknown language. 

It’s a kind of coaching strategy while you are listening.

Noticing attention: 

This is a kind of “counter” to the other tips.  It means: when you come across something

unknown or difficult, try to make a mental note:

What was new? New words?  New grammar patterns or gambits?  What didn’t I understand?

Don’t stop listening, but do make a note of something you may want to go back to and “relisten”

or “clarify.  

About The Author

, Listening Strategies: #2 Focusing attention, Lateral Communications
Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.