The Four Domains of Language:  Listening

Listening is an vital language skill to help students develop.  It's one of the four skills that seem the hardest to develop, yet it's also one of the most crucial.

On this page, John Kongsvik reviews what listening is, what it involves, and how to develop it in the classroom.

Teachers engaged in activity in classroom

What are the four domains of language? ‚Äč

The four domains of language (or the four skills) are the four ways that we interact with language.  We speak and listen; we read, and we write. Of these skills, two of the skills, speaking and writing, are considered productive skills since we create language with each of these. On the other hand, listening and reading are described as receptive skills because we are receiving the from an outside source.  This is important to know because the type of skill (or language domain) it is determines how to support its development.

‚ÄčListening: ¬†A Receptive Language Skill

Definition:  Listening is actively making meaning from verbal input.

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What Listening Involves

Teacher sharing a story in classroom
  • Getting clues from environment: facial expressions, gestures, background noise, setting, the people.
  • Using knowledge about the setting, topic and language to make inferences & predictions.
  • Distinguishing which words and groups of words are important and carry the meaning.
  • Understanding & interpreting the meaning of key words and groups of words. Including - pronunciation, colloquial vocabulary, ungrammatical utterances, and redundancy.
  • ¬†Usually, some kind of response.

What Qualities does an Effective Listening Lesson Have?

TESOL Trainers Four Domains of Language - Listening
  1. Has pre-listening activities that prepare students for listening.
  2. Informs the students of the purpose/reason for listening.
  3. Gives students tasks active listening tasks to develop their listening skills.
  4. Encourages students to share their understanding, learning, etc. after listening.
  5. Uses material that is appropriate to the students, school, and Community.
  6. Gives students multiple opportunities to listen to the same material.

Typical Listening Activities

Teacher in classroom with students
  • Non-verbal recognition: Students hold up hands, cards, etc upon hearing something.
  • Sequencing items: Students listen and order specific things in the order they hear them.
  • Answer questions: Students listen & answer T/F, multiple choice, or short answer Qs.
  • Complete the cloze:¬†Students listen and fill in the blanks or note-taking shell.

The Four Domains of Language

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