Finding interesting ways to develop your students listening skills can be difficult. The tasks in coursebooks are a good place to start. But if you really want to prepare learners for life outside the classroom – where language isn’t graded or presented clearly – you should consider using additional materials to help.
Integrating platforms such as YouTube into your class is one way to do this. Used appropriately it can give students exposure to authentic language from a huge variety of English speakers.
The problem is – where to start? With over 1 billion hours of videos being watched on YouTube every day, it can be hard to find the right content to suit your students’ needs.
Here are 5 YouTube channels which you can use with your students to help improve their language skills in a variety of contexts, prepare them for exams such as Pearson Test of English (PTE) General and give their confidence and motivation a boost!
The popular BBC Learning English YouTube channel has a wide range of videos, from Improve your Grammar, Vocabulary, or Pronunciation tutorials to Learn English through Drama.
Their News Review section has over 130 current affairs stories and is great for introducing your students to authentic language which often appears in news reports. It’s also useful for preparing your students for PTE General Section 2 of the written paper, where they have to transcribe a short spoken text – often a news bulletin or broadcast feature containing relatively formal language.
Once you have chosen a News Review video which you think will interest your class, such as World’s oldest message in a bottle, ask them to try and transcribe all or part of the short spoken report at the beginning as accurately as possible. After repeating this a few times, you can show them the answer and check how they did. Every News Review video contains these short reports at the beginning, so there are lots of opportunities to practice!
Students often worry about not being able to understand different English accents when they travel abroad. Stepping out of the comfort zone of their classroom and familiar teacher’s voice – can be a huge step for some learners.
Mark Wiens is a YouTuber who releases two videos a week about traveling and food – interviewing people from different parts of the world about their culture and traditional recipes. He’s from the USA, but he talks to people with British, Korean, Thai, Ethiopian, and Chinese accents, along with many more!
Many of Mark’s videos contain detailed descriptions which can help you put together some simple listening comprehension questions – something which is key for Part 1 of the listening section in PTE General.
It may take time for your students to get used to the range of accents and speed of conversations in these videos. If they struggle at first – that’s OK. Use closed captions and offer multiple choice answers for your comprehension questions.
Discussing the weather is a very British tradition – and using YouTube videos is a great way to extend students’ vocabulary in this area. Exams such as PTE General reward students for developing simple lexis and using words or phrases which are more complicated.
The Met Office YouTube channel offers short videos about the weather in the UK, and they upload several a day as their predictions change. Again, if your students find it too difficult at first – turn on the closed captions.
Part 3 of PTE General asks students to complete a gap fill while listening to a short monologue or dialogue. Try using one of these weather forecasts to create a short gap-fill exercise to see how well your students understand terms such as chilly, damp and breeze, which you can then use to discuss the differences between these forecasts and those in your own country.
Beyond helping your students improve their listening skills, YouTube can be a great source of interesting topics for discussion. Learning how to develop a conversation and express opinions in a second language can be tricky, but it is important if your students want to integrate when they’re traveling, or push for higher grades in speaking exams.
Middle Ground, by the Jubilee YouTube channel, is a fantastic playlist for adults or mature teens which contains interesting, and sometimes controversial, questions for discussion. Topics include debating whether it is better to go to college or not, or if it’s ever OK to kill an animal, and each video contains groups of young people discussing their opinions.
Ask your students to note down how people vary the ways they agree, disagree or offer opinions. Being able to use different language to do this will demonstrate they have a wide range of vocabulary at their disposal.
This last channel allows students to watch clips of their favorite TV series – such as Friends, How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory – while learning English at the same time.
Each video starts with an explanation of what students can expect to see. This will help them understand the context of what is to come. They then watch the clip of the show with subtitles to see how much they understand. This is followed by an explanation of all the interesting language which came up during the clip which you can encourage students to note down to help improve their vocabulary. It finishes by repeating the clip, but this time without subtitles, and hopefully they’ll be able to understand the majority of what happened.
These videos are great for practicing English outside of class. Let your students choose an episode to watch at home and then in the next lesson – have them summarize the clip to the rest of the class, encouraging them to use the new vocabulary they’ve learned.
Get started today
Whether you are preparing your students for a language exam such as PTE General or simply want a dynamic way to improve their listening skills – these 5 YouTube channels are a great place to start.
With a little preparation, the content here can be used to create gap-fill exercises, spark a class debate, or give your students the motivation to start watching more authentic English materials at home.
Find out more about PTE General in our post An introduction to the Pearson Test of English General.