Podcasts for English Learners: An Introduction and Lesson Plan

By Ashley Lipps

In my experience, listening is the skill that language teachers tend to most often ignore, and perhaps as a result, the skill that learners find the most difficult once they’re using English in “the real world.” For a long time, there were few resources to practice listening in the classroom. Learners had each other, their teacher, and the CDs and tapes that came with their textbooks. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case now that we have internet access in our classroom thanks to Language ETC’s collection of iPads.

My current favorite way to practice listening is the podcasts found on this website: www.elllo.org I use it often because it has material that avoids two of the biggest problems teachers run into when selecting listening passages for the classroom. Real life, authentic listening material is often too difficult and too long to be effective in all but the Advanced English classroom. However, listening passages that are created specifically for English learners often seem artificial and scripted.

photo 4

Students and teachers interact in Language ETC’s language lab.

I like elllo.org because the listening podcasts are short and assigned difficulty levels, but they actually sound like two real people talking. Most of the podcasts are intermediate difficulty, but check out the following list for high beginner podcasts: http://www.elllo.org/english/level-3-beginner-high.htm I recently used “The Wedding- Her Story” with level 1B. They’d recently studied simple past verbs, and this podcast has a number of examples of the simple past tense. Although the students thought that the woman spoke quickly, it’s pretty short and among the whole class, they actually understood quite a bit without the transcript. http://www.elllo.org/english/0201/205-Anna-Wedding.htm

Not only is this website great for to practice listening, it’s also a great way to incorporate grammar. I use the search bar on the top right corner of the site to search for words and phrases associated with the grammar point the class needs to review. I also would recommend it as a warm up to introducing new grammar. Listen to the podcast for content first, and then draw students’ attention to the grammar point before working through the textbook exercises and getting down into the weeds of how to form the grammar point. I believe it can increase student motivation and understanding to be exposed to a real world example of usage before an introduction and structured practice of a new grammar point.

As we near the end of the term, elllo.org has great resources to give students both grammar review and listening practice. The following plan is for level 3A, but it can be used as a guide for any level and podcast. It reviews the present perfect, and also has a couple examples of “used to” and use of “must” as in “You must have learned a lot.”


The evening 3A class working hard!

Lesson Plan: New Outlook Podcast

Time: 35-45 minutes


  • To practice listening for overall meaning
  • To expose students to examples of the present perfect in context

Materials: iPad or computer, board, copies of the transcript, a projector


To adapt this lesson if you don’t have a projector, print out copies of the comprehension quiz and vocabulary.

Before class

Test out the audio first. On a computer with flash player, a play button will pop up below the big picture. You won’t see this on an iPad. Look under the smaller pictures of the two speakers and you’ll see “Audio File.” Click “MP3 Link” to download the file and play it on an iPad or even your smart phone.


  • Write on the board “Listening: New Outlook.” If you write the date and your class plan in the corner of the board, have it written there. Tell students you’re going to listen to a conversation. What does “outlook” mean?
  • If no one knows the word, explain to students that your “outlook” is how you see the world, your attitude. If you have a lot of Spanish speakers, use the synonym “perspective.” It’s a cognate in English and Spanish.
  • Tell students that your experience can change your outlook. What does “experience” mean? Students might know this word from the context of jobs. “How much experience do you have?” “I have two years of experience working in a restaurant.” So use that to help them explain the term.
  • Ask students, what can change your outlook? Give an example. For example, you might say “I hate learning English!” but if you have a great teacher, you might say “Now I love learning English! English is fun!” Start a list on the board by writing “teacher.”
  • Have students think of other examples of experiences or things that can change a person’s outlook. Do this in small groups if you have more than 7 or 8 students, if you have 6 or fewer, you can brainstorm as a class.
  • If you put students into small groups, have each group offer a couple of ideas to the whole group. Write these on the board.
photo 1

Students get creative about people and experiences that can change your outlook.


  • Tell students you’re now going to listen to a woman whose outlook has changed. It’s okay if they don’t understand everything the first time they listen.
  • Listen to the podcast once. Ask students, how much did you understand? 100%? 50% 25%?
  • To check comprehension, go through the four questions on the comprehension quiz. Click on “comprehension quiz” on the right middle side of the page. Read out loud the questions one by one. Put in the answers that students volunteer, and then hit “check answers.” Go over any questions that the class got wrong.
  • Under the picture, there are two tabs “Transcript” and “Vocabulary.” Click on vocabulary. Go through the vocabulary words and ask volunteers to define them for you. You can also do this before or while going through the comprehension questions.


  • Tell students that you will listen again. This time hand out the transcript.
  • As they listen, students should underline examples of the present perfect OR give students copies of the transcript with blank spaces where the examples of the past participle verb belong, and have students listen for these words and fill them in.
  • Go through the transcript and ask students what examples they underlined OR what words they filled in.
  • Also point out the examples of “must” and “used to” to draw students’ attention to usage of these grammar points.

If you have additional time…

…and want to practice writing, ask students to write a paragraph about an experience that has changed their outlook.

…and want to practice speaking, ask students in small groups to tell each other about an experience that has changed their outlook. Then have one or two volunteers tell the whole class about their experience.


About ashleyletc

Volunteer at Washington English Center
Image | This entry was posted in Teaching Tips & Resources, Using Supplemental Materials, Washington English Center. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Podcasts for English Learners: An Introduction and Lesson Plan

  1. Aalam says:

    Dear Sir/Madam

    I really appreciate your attempt and hard working . I was there for a short time , the classes, teachers, methods and administration staffs were very good…
    I really miss my teachers and classmets ….. Due to a problem I was not able to continue my lessons there …. I have plan , I want to come there and say thank you everyone , who helped me ….

    I hope one day , I will be able to restart my lessons there again ,

    All the best

  2. Claire Kevill says:

    Excellent article and so very helpful, Ashley! Thank you so much.

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