Comprehensible Input (Listening): Delivering Understandable Messages


Keith Toda

AWLA Conference 2017

Auburn University

Table of Contents

Classroom Activities


Page Number

Total Physical Response (TPR)


Movie Talk


Same Conversation


Read/Tell a Story Aloud


Readers Theater


Freeze Frame


Who is It? #1


Who is It? #2




Paired Activities



Paired Crossword Puzzle


Partner A Activities


Partner B Activities



TPR is essentially associating a vocabulary word with a physical action. It can be hand gestures, American Sign Language (ASL) signs or the actual physical action itself. The idea is that through enough repetitions muscle memory will aid in the acquisition process.

There are many different variations of TPR which can be used in the world language classroom, of which the most basic form is commands, where you as the teacher command a student/students to do something in the target language, and their task is simply to perform it.

A great write up about how to do a TPR lesson involving a White Elephant exchange can be found here:



1) Pick a video based on what words/structures you wish to preview/target. An excellent resource is the Movie Talk database (search by vocabulary words):

2) Write a script which narrates the movie using the target words/structures. You will pause the movie at that point so you will also need to put the times.


Suddenly a man wakes up. Why has the man woken up? Why do you (all) think that the man has woken up?


The man hears a noise. Something is making loud noises.


The man opens the door. What does the man see? What do you all think that the man sees?


1. Write the target words/structures on the board in the target meaning with the English meaning.

2. Have a student serve as the “pauser” of the video. Give student a script so that the student knows when to pause.

3 Play the video, pausing it to narrate and to ask questions in the target language. When a target word/structure is used, point to it on the board.

4. Most movie shorts have a “twist” at the end. Stop the video before the twist, and then play it all the way through without any narration for students to watch.


1. Pick two students whom you think are good actors. (or as many are needed for the dialogue). Many times I will ask the class, "Whom in this class do you think will do a good job of acting?" 

2. Project the dialogue or part of it - eight sentences is about right. 

3. Have those students come up to the front of the room and simply read it aloud without any type of emotion. You may have to translate it into English first in order to establish meaning for the class.

4. Now you as the Movie Director say in the target language, "Okay, that was good, but can you do it now loudly"? The actors read the dialogue aloud and act it out loudly.

5. Now you as the Movie Director say in the target language, "Okay, that was better, but this time do it happily?" The actors now act out the dialogue happily.

6. Ask students to volunteer different ways of saying the same conversation again.


Read or tell a short story aloud in the target language to students. Ask students comprehension questions in target language following the story.


Read a story aloud in the target language to students, and have students act out the story as you read it. This is fun to do with props!!


A good listening activity for those students who like to draw.

Teacher Planning

1) On an overhead transparency, draw a picture using known vocabulary words. The picture should have multiple things going on in it. You can also scan the picture as a computer file.

2) Write a description of the picture in the target language, using known grammatical terms


1) Have students get out paper and pencil/pen. Whiteboards and dry-erase markers also work well for this activity

2) Explain to students that you are going to read a description to them, and their task is to draw a picture of what you read to them

3) Inform students that you will read the description three times.

4) Read the description slowly. By the second reading, students will be done with their picture, but inform students that during the third reading, they should confirm that their drawing is correct.

5) After the third reading, ask students to show their picture to two other classmates.

6) Ask students to hold up their drawing for you. Walk around the class, commenting on students’ drawings

7) Using an overhead projector, project your picture for students to see. If the picture has been digitally scanned, project the picture onto a screen using a computer projector.

Post Activity

1) Ask students comprehension questions in target language about the picture. Because students have heard the description read three times and have drawn what they heard, they should have no problem answering.


A fun way to review characters in a story or celebrity descriptions.


1)  Write 3 VERY short descriptions in Target language of one character, where the 1st description is most general and the 3rd is most specific, i.e., by the third description, it should be obvious who the character is


1) Have students get out paper and pencil/pen. Whiteboards and dry-erase markers also work well for this activity

2) Have students number 1-3 on their paper or whiteboard

3) Explain to students that you are going to read a series of descriptions and after each description, they should write the name of the character whom they think it is. All three descriptions are about the same character.

4) After reading the 3rd description, ask students in the target language “who is it?” and have them respond. If they are using whiteboards, ask them to hold up their whiteboards so that you can see their series of answers.


A take-off of the board game Guess Who? A great way to review colors, parts of the face, etc.


1) Cut/paste a Guess Who? game template – many can be found online OR create your own.

2) Choose a character

3) Write a series of descriptions in target language which describe the character and distinguish it from others


  1. This person is a man
  2. This person wears glasses
  3. This person has a beard
  4. This person has blond hair

4) Make enough copies of templates for class


1) Hand out game template to students

2) Read description to students.

3) Students will cross out/make a mark on those characters who do not fit the description

4) After reading the description, ask students in the target language “who is it?”


This is a Rassias method activity, where one tells a story through the use of pictures


1) Write a short story in the target language (6-7 sentences) or a series of 6-7 sentences, using known vocabulary and grammar.

2) Illustrate each sentence either on a whiteboard OR draw a series of pictures for projecting using a computer projector

3) On another transparency, write the story or series of sentences. If you have a computer projector, write the story as a document.


1) Pick one student to sit up at the front of the class.

2) Explain to the rest of the class that you are going to tell a story and that you only want them to listen.

3) Explain the same to the student sitting up at front.

4) Read the story to the class slowly, using the pictures for each sentence.

5) After the reading, explain to the class that you are going to read the story again twice but that they are now to write it down the story in Target language as you read it.

6) Explain to the student sitting up front that he/she is to listen only.

7) Read the story twice, using the pictures for each sentence. The class will write down the story in target language, while the student continues to listen only.

8) Now repeat the story again, one sentence at a time, but ask the student, “Surely….?”. Student will respond, “yes, (repeating the sentence).”

9) Now project the story onto a screen, using the overhead projector or computer projector.

10) Explain to the student that he/she is going to read the story aloud to the class. Explain to the class that they can now correct any errors during this time.

11) Have the student read the story aloud twice.

12) Now using the original set of pictures, ask the student to tell you the story verbatim.

Post Activity

Ask the class comprehension questions in Target language about the story, or ask another student to tell you the story verbatim.


A very short dialogue activity between two students, where

  1. student A will read aloud his/her Target language sentence to Student B
  2. student B will read aloud his/her sentence in Target language which is a response to student A
  3. students A and B will determine whether the dialogue made sense. If it does, then students will say “Correct!” in the target language. If not, then students will say “Foolishness!” in the target language.
  4. Students will continue with next set of dialogues


An activity using crossword puzzles between two students, where Student A has the Target language clues for student B, and vice versa. This will require making two different crossword puzzles and cut/pasting the clues onto the other puzzle. There are many crossword puzzle makers online.

1) Student A will ask Student B for a particular clue, e.g. “5 down”

2) Student B will read the clue in Target language to Student A

3) Student A will fill in the Target language answer on his/her crossword puzzle

4) Student B will ask Student A for a particular clue. The above pattern will continue until both crossword puzzles are completed


Partner Crossword Puzzle A



3. locus in villa Romana ubi cibus paratur

5. animal quod est rex bestiarum. exempla sunt Aslan et Mufasa

6. femina quae liberos habet

7. locus in villa Romana ubi est impluvium


1. vir qui in mari navigat

2. homo immortalis qui in Monte Olympo habitat

4. vir qui Romam rexit. exempla sunt Augustus et Nero



Partner A: Marcus abest – ubi est Marcus?

Partner B: _________________________.


Partner B: _________________________.

Partner A: ut Imperatorem dicentem audiat.


Partner A: discipuli, aperite libros vestros.

Partner B: _________________________.


Partner A: omnes tabernae sunt clausae hodie.

Partner B: _________________________.


Partner B: _________________________.

Partner A: mihi nomen est Metella.


Partner B: _________________________.

Partner A: puto eum esse optimam bonam


Partner A: necesse est nobis scribere multas epistulas

Partner B: __________________________.


Partner Crossword Puzzle B



2. locus in villa Romana ubi homines cenant

5. femina quae regnum regit; uxor regis

6. locus ubi sunt multae arbores

7. vir qui versus scribit et recitat


1. vir qui servos et ancillas habet

3. femina quae dominum habet

4. aedificium in Foro Romano ubi senatores convenerunt



Partner A: ______________________.

Partner B: ego Marcum in Foro vidi.


Partner B: cur Iulius ad Curiam festinat?

Partner A: _______________________.


Partner A: _______________________.

Partner B: mea uxor semper verum dicit


Partner A: _______________________.

Partner B: est quod gladiatores in amphitheatro pugnant


Partner B: cur nautae per urbem currunt?

Partner A: _______________________.


Partner B: mihi placet legere libros Ovidii

Partner A: _________________________.


Partner A: _________________________.

Partner B: ecce! porcus est in culina!