Section 2: Developing Effective Listening Strategies:

Activity 1: Predicting

Listening Strategies
Predicting using the News
  • To show how effective predicting can be in listening comprehension.
  • To encourage language learners to use prediction as an effective listening strategy
Printout of worksheet (provided below), and the Internet
30-60 minutes



Often when we hear part of a conversation or sentence, we are able to guess, or predict, what we didn't hear. This strategy, predicting, helps us to understand speech that may be too fast or unclear. Some clues we use to make our predictions come from our own knowledge about the topic, visual clues like gestures or pictures, the type of setting the language is in, and our own logic. Based on what we do hear and on all these clues we are able to make strong predictions about what we missed or what is likely to come next.

Read the following sentences. Can you predict what might naturally come next? (The words in italics are emphasized.)

Example: The party was going to be this weekend, but __________________________.

(but now it's going to be next weekend.)
(but they canceled it.)

As you can see from the example, there may not be only one answer, but you will be able to predict what might be said.

Now write your answers for the sentences below.

1. I was just sitting here quietly watching the television, when _____________.

2. I think that free health care is a good idea except that __________________.

3. Don't worry, I think _____________________________________________.

4. My mother's family is from Hawaii, but my ___________________________.

As you can see from these examples, sometimes the way something is said, the intonation of a sentence, and the word choice help us to predict what we will hear next.

Sometimes the structure of conversation is so common that missing information can be easily predicted. The context of the conversation, for example what happens before and after, can also offer clues, as in the following example of a phone conversation. Try to predict the missing parts of the phone call below:

Speaker A: Hello?
Speaker B: ______________________________________
Speaker A: She's not here right now, can I take a message?
Speaker B: ______________________________________
Speaker A: OK, I'll be sure to tell her that you will be there at 8 o'clock.
Speaker B: ______________________________________
Speaker A: You're welcome, Bye.

In a classroom, students are able to predict a lot about what they are going to hear in a lecture. For example, based on the class readings, the title of the course, the syllabus, and handouts, students can make some very strong predictions about what they are going to hear.

Now do you see how much you already predict things you don't hear. Let's practice with some real news stories.



Click here to download a "predicting" worksheet as a word processing document in rich text format, then open the file and print a copy of the worksheet.

You will need Real Player -- if you do not have RealPlayer, click here to download it.

  1. Think about how news stories are usually told. Listeners are able to gather basic information about who or what was involved, what happened, when and where it happened, and why it happened.
  2. On the internet, go to and click on one of the online networks (e.g., "CNN" or "CBS-5") to see an archive of stories.
  3. Choose any one of the categories of news stories (for example "Adventure").
  4. Click on one of the specific stories. Then click on the "STORY" option.
  5. Do not read the story. Just look at the picture and the title of the article. Think about the title and any background information you have about the topic.
  6. Based on what you already can predict about the story, fill in as much information as you can about the topic in the first column of your worksheet under "Predictions". (If you are working with another learner you can compare your predictions).
  7. On the "literacynet" website's story page, click on the speaker icon with "RA" underneath it. This will open RealPlayer and the story will automatically start playing.
  8. Listen to the story and try to fill in the second column of the worksheet (Results).
  9. Compare your predictions with what you heard. Were your predictions correct? Were you able to correctly guess what the story would be about?
  10. On the "literacynet" web site, click on the "Story" icon for your story. Read the story. Were your predictions and what you heard similar to what was written? (If you are working with a partner, compare your results together).
  11. Do this with as many news stories as you would like. Notice how your own background knowledge and expectations help your listening comprehension.



Keep track of your successes in a journal. Save your worksheets and see how much your predicting skills improve. Is your listening comprehension improving? Do you feel more comfortable listening to the news? As you become more experienced with the structure of these stories and the information you need, are your predictions becoming more and more like your final answers? When you are able to make strong predictions about what you hear, your listening comprehension improves. You know what to expect and what to listen for.



Back to "Self-Access Center" homepage