ELT Songs
Shape Shape Shape Shape

Highly Effective ESL Listening Exercises for Kids

ESL listening exercises that are actually fun and motivating for young students can be few and far between. Not only this, but many educators and parents still believe that incredibly passive activities, like watching the TV in English, will have a significant impact on their child’s English.

But here’s the thing…

The good old adage of “watch the TV in English” is far too passive to actually make a meaningful contribution to any child’s language development.

Effective learning of another language is not a process of osmosis: it requires active learning – something they don’t get from simply watching TV.

In this article we’ll be giving you some great ideas on how to make your ESL listening activities less passive and more engaging for your students so they feel more confident understanding spoken English.

ESL Listening Exercise #1: Lyrics Swap

It’s probably no surprise that here at ELT Songs we love using songs to help kids understand English. This first activity is a song lyrics activity that kids really enjoy.

What you’ll need to play

  • A music resource especially designed for kids learning English (we’ve included one of our videos to save you time and effort looking for one).
  • A Marker and whiteboard


  • Listen to one of the ELT Songs with the class to get the gist of the song.
  • Use the associated flashcards to help teach any vocabulary.
  • Write the lyrics on the whiteboard (but change some of the words without telling the students you’re doing it).
  • Tell the students that you’re not sure if you’ve remembered all the lyrics correctly – you’re going to play the song again to check.
  • Sing the song together and let your students correct what you’ve written on the board so the lyrics match the song.

ESL Listening Exercise #2: Interactive Storytelling

This is a great one to use around holiday time!

The idea is that you tell a story that repeats certain vocabulary. For example, for Halloween the vocabulary in the story will repeat “pumpkin”, “vampire” or “witch” etc.

This will require that you write a short story before the class but you’ll only need about a page or so and it shouldn’t take up too much of your time.


  • Teach the desired vocabulary first with some flashcards (check out our article on Creating great ESL Lesson Plans for some ideas on flashcard games).
  • Once you’ve taught them the vocabulary that’ll appear in the story it’s time to add noises or actions for them.
  • For example: if it’s a Halloween story, one of the vocabulary items can be a witch. Tell your students to cackle like a witch when you say the word.

  • Now say that you’re going to read a story and every time they hear a vocabulary item they have to do the action/make the noise.
  • Read the story and get the kids to do the actions/noises while you read.

Here’s an example extract:
One day there were two children who were looking for mushrooms in the forest. They saw an old house in the distance – but what they didn’t know was that a witch [cackle] lived there…

This works incredibly well with younger students and makes them listen much more attentively to a story.

ESL Listening Exercise #3: Describe and Colour/Draw

Are your students preparing for a Cambridge English exam? This exercise is perfect for training them up for the listening test and it also helps make listening practice more fun and creative.

What you’ll need to play

  • A picture for colouring in and drawing.

TIP: You can create an ELT Songs account and get free colouring pages that go with our music video resources!


  • Make sure all the kids have colouring pencils.
  • Teach any relevant vocabulary beforehand with the help of flashcards.
  • Tell them to colour certain things in the picture (for example, “Colour the donut pink and brown.”)
  • Also tell them to draw things on the picture – this is great for helping them practice prepositions. For example, “draw an apple on the horse’s back.”

It’s simple but effective.

ESL Listening Activity #4: “Hmm, I don’t think so!”

This activity helps your students be more discerning when they’re actively listening and it also helps them practice speaking at the same time.
What you’ll need

  • An image that the whole class can see (either printed or on an interactive whiteboard).


  • Describe a couple of things on your image and ask the students if they agree with you.
  • Now describe something incorrectly.
  • Get your students to correct you by describing the image, for example, “No he doesn’t have a blue book, he has a red book”.
  • This is great for helping them practice negatives & conjugations.

ESL Listening Exercise #5: Flashcards in the Air

Want a quick and easy listening exercise that uses song to motivate and engage your students? Then this one will be perfect for you.

What you need to play

  • Some flashcards for each student (1-3 per student).
  • An ESL music resource that uses the same vocabulary (we’ve included one of ours below).


  • Sign-up for an ELT Songs account.
  • Download the resources that come with the video below.
  • Print out the paper flashcards and hand them out to the students (give each student 1-3).
  • Play the video below.
  • When the student hears the vocabulary item that they have in their flashcard deck, they have to lift the correct flashcard in the air.

TIP: We are developing flashcards and associated lesson plans to come with all our videos so you can choose one that matches your classroom needs. .

Much more effective than watching the TV in English, right?

We hope you’ll enjoy using these ESL listening exercises with your class. They key is to make the listening activity much more active for it to have an impact on your students’ learning.

If you’d like to learn more about the innovative ELT Songs method you can sign-up for a free account to access 3 full units of video music resources, lesson plans, printable worksheets, pronunciation activities and more!



To make this site work properly, we sometimes place small data files called cookies on your device. Find out more