Probably the single most important action you can plan as a teacher of listening is the intervention points (aka “mediational strategies”) in your teaching.

Task Types

everyday meanings:

A difficult or tedious undertaking.

Finding qualified people to fill these specialized roles was a real task.




A piece of work assigned or done as part of one’s duties.




A function to be performed; an objective.

It is our task to renew consumer confidence.




To assign a task to; require or demand a piece of work of.




To assign a task to or impose a task on.

The agency was tasked with creating an advertising campaign.


educational meaning:

A task is (1) a classroom activity or exercise that has (a) an objective attainable only by the interaction among participants, (b) a mechanism for structuring and sequencing interaction, and (c) a focus on meaning exchange; (2) a language learning endeavor that requires learners to comprehend, manipulate, and/or produce the target language as they perform some set of workplans. (Lee 2000:32)

Real-time tasks: 

grids and charts (partial, full)



picture discrimination


Practice tasks: 

dictations  (partial, full)




word spotting (pre-emptive targets)

pair discrimination

Reconstructive tasks:  

repetition (EI, shadowing, partial, full)

note-taking  (open, guided)

summarizing (open, guided)

question response


Testing tasks:






follow the leader



wheel of fortune

Extended tasks:




A prototypical lesson can be based on stages of listening: pre-listening, while-listening, immediate post-listening, follow up post-listening. At each stage, we’re trying to increase the degree of meaning for the listener.

  • Pre-listening stage

Before listening to an extract, usually a video or audio clip, provide some type of short pre-listening activity to pique interest and activate expectations. The goal of pre-listening is to build curiosity and a desire to participate, it is not top assess accuracy or depth of knowledge.

Examples include: Opinion/Experience questions, answering pre-listening/viewing opinion questions  ; Prediction guesses, predicting content based on a list of statements in the upcoming text; Vocabulary activation, identifying familiar vs. unfamiliar vocabulary expressions from the upcoming text.

  • First listening stage

In an experiential listening approach, it is important to delay comprehension checking in order to build up subjective listening skills. After the first listening to an extract, which can be paused periodically, ask pre-comprehension questions about students’ impressions and interestsWhat is interesting to you? What is new to you? What is unclear to you? If the students are simultaneously reading the extract, the instructor can have them indicate (underline or star) which parts were of most interest, and then share their ideas with a classmate.

The evaluation here is not about what the students have understood, but rather about what they find of interest or relevance to them, even if they do not fully understand the content. Instructors should aim to assess the quality of response: clarity, thoughtfulness, consistency. Any response that shows an increase in personal engagement should be encouraged. Students can take notes during this first pass listening, but they are only for their own reference, not for evaluation. Instructors should aim to build a collaborative discussion, acknowledging each person’s contribution as valuable.

  • Second listening stage

In this experiential listening approach, it is useful to help learners slow down the listening process so that they have an opportunity to consider the ideas they are listening to, not merely trying to catch up with the language flow. Slowing down the process entails providing some type of scaffolding task: a graph or chart to be filled in, an outline or partial set of notes to be completed, an illustration to be labelled.

The evaluation for this stage is to detect active participation in the comprehension process, not to test complete comprehension. After students have attempted the task individually, they can compare their task completion with a classmate and discuss the differences.

  •  Immediate post-listening stage

After the second listening to an extract, a more formal comprehension check can be given. A global comprehension check will include these types of questions: What was the main idea? What is (Speaker A)’s reasoning? Why does (Speaker A) believe (that)? What is your opinion of what (Speaker A) said? Why do you think so?

A more detailed comprehension check can include a set of multiple choice or True-False questions that exhaustively cover the entire extract. Students can compare answers before checking as a whole class, as this type of peer exchange tends to build relationship and establish a collaborative classroom culture.

The evaluation here can go beyond checking the accuracy of answers. Instructors can also assess students willingness to communicate with each other, support for each other, use active listening strategies (give full attention to partner, paraphrase partners’ meaning) have positive regard for each other (show patience and appreciation), show increased openness to new ideas, ask probing questions, refer back to the input text for support.

  •  Follow up post-listening stage

In the following class meeting, or in a journal response, the instructor provides an opportunity for students to reconstruct the previous text and recall the previous group discussion. Reflective questions can be posed to facilitate this review: What were the main points of (the text)? What were the main ideas in your discussion?

The evaluation here is how well students begin adopting the principles of interactive listening. Assess students’ ability to increase their openness, their tolerance for diverse ideas, and their willingness to change their viewpointsbased on new evidence or considerations offered by others.

  • Appropriation stage

In a following class meeting, or in a video or audio posting to the group, the instructor asks the students to present some personal experience or some research finding based on the conflictive text that has been presented. For example, if this input text from the class involved a cultural conflict (such as, a person was asked to change their hair style in the workplace, even though the hair style is traditional to them), a student may present some background to the story, based on researching news items. Students are also asked to field questions and in turn to pose discussion questions to their classmates.

About The Author

,  Intervention Points and Task Types, 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.