How I use the BBC News Headlines to enhance listening

This is something that I’ve been doing for a while and I find that instead of ‘testing’ my students’ listening ability, which most listening exercises you find in course books seem to do, this truly provides listening practice by sensitising the learners’ ears to how English sentences are said. I have had learners, who previously found listening to English TV programmes intimidating, not only display a marked improvement in their listening ability after only carrying out this procedure once every day for a week, but also enjoyed a remarkable boost to their self-confidence.

I’ve done this successfully with learners of a Low-intermediate but I would recommend that learners be at least a good Mid-Intermediate Level for the BBC News Headlines to be satisfactorily exploited.

That said, this procedure could be applied to other kinds of authentic listening texts as well, and does not have to be restricted to the BBC News.

A) Prediction task

Ask leaners to predict what they think the news headlines might contain. Write the predictions on the board.

B) Google ‘BBC News Headlines’ and click the first link listed

C) Listening for content

  1. Teacher tells learners to listen to the news headlines and check predictions, and also count the number of news stories there are.
  2. Pair check and feedback
  3. Listen again and state what country/company/topic the headlines are about.
  4. Pair check and feedback
  5. Listen again and take notes in order to summarise the story for your partner.
  6. Pair check and feedback

These three listening tasks provide the learners with opportunities to process the content from top down, practising extensive subskills gradually combined with listening for detailed understanding.

D) Intensive Listening

  1. Teacher plays the news headlines sentence by sentence and get the students to identity each word which is then transcribed onto the board. Repeat each sentence as many times as necessary.

E) Noticing chunks

  1. Teacher gets students, in pairs, to find collocations, fixed/semi-fixed expressions and grammatical collocations from the transcribed text.
  2. Feedback


F) Progressive Deletion

  1. Story by story, headline by headline, the teacher rubs off parts of collocations and fixed expressions from the board and students fill in the gaps verbally in pairs.
  2. Quick feedback – teacher nominates a student to read out the news headline with the gaps filled.
  3. Teacher rubs off more words from the board and students fill in the gaps.

Author: Chia Suan Chong

I am a writer, communication skills trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. I have been English Teaching Professional's resident blogger since 2012 and have a regular feature in their bimonthly magazine. My book Successful International Communication was published in Dec 2018.

10 thoughts on “How I use the BBC News Headlines to enhance listening”

  1. Dear Chiasuanchon – I really like your article. I have tried some of the ideas already but there are plenty of new ones for me to try too! In my opinion, the Dogme approach combined with well-chosen listenings or texts is really all a teacher needs, except of course a syllabus or courseplan, to keep things on track. My blog Listen Now! has authentic listenings but with more conventional comprehension exercises etc (useful I hope for less experienced teachers), but the listenings alone could possibly be used for your ideas.
    Best regards
    Gary Jones

  2. Hi Chia, thank you very much for all your useful tips. Since the Celta course I’ve been experimenting some new ideas in my classes and they’ve been working really well! The Dogme approach seems the way to go! I look forward to using this BBC headlines listening tasks with some students. However, I haven’t been able to find a link to use only the headlines. Could you please post a link? Ive been doing something similar with some podcasts. Again, thanks for your tips and your blog! I miss your CELTA sessions!

  3. I also use BBC News Headlines (wasn’t it formerly called BBC 1-min news?). The only thing I do differently or rather in addition is first watch it with the Sound Off and ask students how many stories there are, what they already know about them etc. – I think it provides additional scaffolding by activating their background knowledge, especially for lower levels. But as you said, there is probably no point in going below the Int. level for these clips to be fully exploited.
    I love your board work with all the collocations and chunks you’ve collected and expanded on. Call yourself a Dogmetician but this is a perfect example of what a Lexical approach teacher’s board should look like!

  4. Hi Chia,
    Thanks very much for this lesson. My students were really engaged with it, especially the part where we transcribed the information on the board. We didn’t have time to do a lot with the language except for look at a couple of dependent prepositions, but most of the students took photos of the board so that they could look at it again at home.
    Thanks again!

    1. Really glad it worked for you Sandy! And thanks for letting me know how it went for you! Getting students to notice the chunks and then doing the progressive deletion is almost two whole other language aims in themselves.
      My classes are 3 hours long and even with all that time, I sometimes struggle to get to proper progressive deletion, especially when the news headlines provoke discussions that lead to some interesting lexis (and Dogme moments)…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: