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It doesn’t take long in a classroom to realize that not all students learn in the same manner. Some pupils need to hear things repeated, some need to see things written out, and others need to use their bodies, movement, or simply learn best by doing things. Back in the 1970s, Walter Burke Barbe and his coworkers identified three learning methods, which today are commonly known by the acronym VAK (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic).¹ This article, which is the first part of a series, focuses on ESL teaching strategies for auditory learners, especially in our online ESL classrooms.

First of all, it is essential to understand what learning looks like, or better said, sounds like, for an auditory learner. These students prefer listening to a lesson, a lecture, a podcast, or any kind of audio in order to grasp a new concept. They have much better recall of something they have heard rather than seen. Our online ESL curriculums that include music, pronunciation, reading aloud and conversation will be much more effective than a curriculum that is only reading and then taking quizzes.

Many times as teachers, we tend to educate according to our own personal learning style. As we focus on each of the learning styles in this and future blog posts, I would ask that you determine your own type of learning style so that you can recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and plan your lessons according to the needs of your students. This may entail getting out of your own teaching comfort zone, but it will bring better results for your various students. Here are some ideas and ESL teaching strategies for auditory learners that will help them improve their retention and experience success.

ESL Teaching Strategies for Auditory Learners

Strategy #1: Engage your pupils in conversation about the subject matter. If they are learning about the weather, ask them about the current situation where they live. Give them opportunities to not only hear the new vocabulary spoken but also used in context. The students will retain the words better if they hear them used many times and have the chance to speak them aloud as well.

Strategy #2: Ask your students to prepare oral presentations about the subject matter. This ESL teaching strategy for auditory learners is especially effective! It can be something as simple as telling you about their favorite toy for the younger students, using adjectives in the lesson. For older more advanced learners, you can even work through the question words about a subject matter and have the students orally present it at the end of the lesson. One example of this would be “The Best Birthday Party.” Go through the questions of Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why? with them, even typing their answers on the screen as they answer. Then have each student read aloud their paragraph so they can speak and hear the words and remember them easily.

ESL Teaching Strategies for Auditory Learners picStrategy #3: Read aloud. Many of our ESL programs have story time or read aloud passages. This is sometimes used by a tutor or teacher to check reading comprehension or the student’s pronunciation. Keep in mind that this is an important time for an auditory learner to speak and listen to the current vocabulary content. Make sure to give those specific learners a chance to read out loud.

Strategy #4: Songs and chants. I think this is probably one of the most fun ESL teaching strategies for auditory learners. These students tend to remember all the lyrics to songs, so it is extremely beneficial to include nursery rhymes or create songs with the lesson’s vocabulary. ALO7 has some great songs about Days of the Week, Numbers, Family and Weather. I use them often in my classes and see that the auditory learners thrive with these songs. They will even recall a song when I ask them a question like, “What day is tomorrow?” They will hum the days of the week song to themselves to remember the sequence of the days in the week.

Strategy #5: Make sure the classroom environment is quiet. It is very easy for an auditory learner to be distracted by background noises. I myself am mostly an auditory learner and was recently distracted by fireworks booming outside of one of my student’s homes during class one day. My students didn’t even skip a beat as we continued on with the lesson, but it was challenging for me to focus. If you have students in your classroom with a lot of background noise, televisions, music, etc., make sure to quiet these things for the benefit of your auditory students. Another important thing for an online auditory learner would be to make sure those specific students have good headphones. You can even suggest some noise canceling headphones to help them focus on their listening.

As you prepare your future lessons, make sure that you include some of these ESL teaching strategies for auditory learners to best engage your students who learn best with this particular learning style. Check that you are incorporating repetition, reading aloud, and as much speaking and listening as possible.

Subsequent posts will address the other learning styles so that you are equipped with ESL teaching strategies for auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners by the end of the series. Implementing activities and games for all three learning styles will make your online ESL classroom sessions a success for all students.

What ESL teaching strategies for auditory learners do you use in your online classroom?



Citations for ESL Teaching Strategies For Auditory Learners:
1 Harrington-Atkinson, Tracy. “Barbe’s VAK Learning Style.” Paving the Way. April 25, 2018. Accessed March 12, 2019.

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