1. Audiobooks App (iOS, by Cross Forward Consulting) – I found this audiobooks app by mistake when I was browsing in iTunes, but I’m glad I stumbled on it! It probably has thousands of free books to listen to. As far as I can tell, they are read by volunteers, but there are books you can pay for that are done in studio by professionals. However, the “volunteer” samples are great. Browse for books by author, narrator, title, genre, duration, languages, etc. Stream or download content.
- Teaching idea: This would be great for extensive listening, or if there is a book you want to introduce, just play a portion in class and ask prediction questions about the story.
2. Audible App (iOS)– This is another great audio book app, easier and more attractive to navigate than Audiobooks. It is a good program for organizing your audio bookshelf and links with your Amazon account for easy purchases. I have not found as much free content on this one, other than free excerpts to entice you to buy the book. I like that you can adjust the narration speed, which is a great feature for ELLs. It is a good option for browsing reading options.
- Teaching idea: Since there are excerpts on a variety of new books, have students listen to one or two (even in class with headphones) and write/discuss with a partner what they think the book is about based on the excerpt. Does it interest them? Would they read it? Why or why not?
3. Ello– This is another “learn English for free” sites, but what I love about this one is the emphasis on short listening lessons (about 5 minutes) with authentic English, including a variety of accents. Transcripts of the downloadable audio tracks are helpful to understanding the text with accents. There are a lot of applications for this for the classroom and self-study (and there is a link for teachers with all those suggestions). It is appropriate for several levels and has different topics that will appeal to most people. Quizzes and vocabulary activities are available with each audio track.
- Teaching idea: As mentioned on the teacher page, I would use this in several ways: give the link to students to practice more on their own, use audio tracks in class for listening lesson activities, or assign specific tasks as homework. One homework suggestion is to have students listen to 3 videos, write the question discussed in the video, then write a summary. Report back to classmates the next day.
4. StoryCorps - These short podcasts (1-3 minutes) contain special interest interviews, brilliantly edited on a wide variety of interesting themes and topics. They are authentic and brief, allowing students to listen repeatedly as needed to get both the gist and details. No transcript available.
- Teaching idea: Assign students the homework task of listening to one or more of these each week and have them write a follow-up summary in a listening journal.
5. VOA Special English - Though others have raved about VOA, I really have not explored this site much before now. Verdict? Yes, I think it is all they make it to be. I like the video and audio variety, newsy and special interest topics, and additional resources (e.g., a great PDF word book for vocab study!). I did not find much for out-of-box lesson plans, but there is great foundational material to work with and transcripts/subtitles available. Also, the language is not very authentic (it is scripted news), but it is geared for learners who want to take it slow.
- Teaching idea: Use a video to pique interest to a topic, or use one of the articles as the foundation for a listening lesson, intermixing grammar, vocab and other skills.
6. Vocaroo - This awesome internet-based program allows you to make easy audio recordings without downloading any software. I love the straight-forward, no-nonsense approach of Vocaroo. Record, save/try again and send. It even provides the embed code, so you can post it on your blog or class website. The only bummer is that I can only listen to recordings on my iPhone. iPhones do not support in-browser microphone access, so you cannot record on your iPhone or iPad.
- Teaching idea: Record messages for your students to practice their listening, or have students record themselves in a journal response to any language activity (e.g., native speaker interviews, listening or reading report, etc.).