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Listening is a forgotten skill. We tend to listen without realising that the  process we undertake  is a skill of its own. For example, we listen to announcements aired on television or radio.

Listening is more than merely hearing words.It is an active process by which we receive, construct meaning from and respond to spoken and/or non-verbal message.                           (Emmert: 1994

We listen to all kinds of information. In it, there are mixtures of main ideas and supporting details. There are also information that are not clearly stated and differently arranged which need you to predict, infer, anticipate and arrange  in the order of  time. Some listening materials need us to compare and contrast the information as well as to look for  causes and effects. 


By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  1. identify main ideas and supporting details
  2. identify sequence of events
  3. compare and constrast
  4. describe cause and effect
  5. infer information

Topic Overview (Mind Map)

This topic covers various skills of listening relevant to school students in learning English as second language. Ample exercises are provided  for you to practise those skills

  •  listen to compare and contrast
  • listen to infer
  • listen to determine cause and effect
  • listen for main ideas and supporting details
  • listen to sequence the main points

Listen for Main Ideas and Supporting Details

The skill of listening for main ideas and supporting details remains the most important skill for anyone trying to comprehend a listening discourse. The main ideas are the messages that a text wants you to remember the most. On the other hand the supporting details render their help or back-up for listeners to understand the text better and faster. The details may come in the form of facts and illustrations and their position in the text may come before or after the main ideas they relate to.

Activity 1

Listen to the radio news on tapescript 1 and try to bring out the main ideas and their supporting details from  it.<

Main ideas are:


Supporting details are :

  • .............................................................................................


  • ...............................................................................................
  • ..............................................................................................


  • ..............................................................................................

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We hear news on radio every one or two hours everyday and are on air for just five to thirty minutes. Why do you think the radio news broadcast is brief ?




Activity 2

Now listen to the tapescript 2 and try to jot down the main idea and supporting details from it. We should  not regard supporting details in written and oral text as unimportant facts. By right, these details help to ease and speed up understanding.
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Activity 3

Let’s us listen to this tapescript  3 and again pick up the main idea and its supporting details. As you listen, make mote of the most important point and try to separate it out from the details. In presenting ideas and information, speakers may apply deductive or inductive method. The former starts with a main idea, followed by several supporting details. The latter starts with the details and builds up to the main idea.



The main idea is ________________________________________________________


The supporting ideas are _________________________________________________



Listen and Summarise

Another type of listening which is no less important is to listen and summarise what we have just listened. This is very common with students listening to classroom teachings or lectures. From this skill of listening then comes another skill known as note-taking.

When we are involved in listening activity, we tend to listen to everything that we are able to listen to. This involves unimportant information that are only an attachment to the main points. Thus, we decide  to include those information under one particular idea. This is known as summarising.

Summary can come in the form of a single sentence or phrase which sums up a passage. It can also come in the form of a paragraph representing the whole text. 

Activity 1.2.1

Listen to tapescript  4 and try to summarise the 2 passages in a sentence each. You are encouraged to use your own words based on your understanding. Please write your summary in the box provided below.






Summary 1

Summary 2







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What do you think will happen to students in school if they don’t have the skill of summarising during  lessons ?





Now, try listen to this longer passage in tapescript 5 and summarise it according to its paragraphs. You may write in more that a sentence for each paragraph.

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3








Have you ever experience a situation whereby you have already known                                     
what the speaker is about to utter ? What is this skill popularly known as ?            






It is a natural phenomenon of life that we can never be certain of what is going to happen after now. Though it is nice and fun to have surprises in everyday life, but if they occur too many a times in our listening communication, the information we get may seem difficult to understand. To avoid this to happen too often, it is useful to stay one step ahead of the speaker and anticipate what he / she will say next.



  • Think about what you already know about what you are going to listen to.
  • Relate what you already know to what you are listening at that moment.


Now let’s practise this skill. We may never know when and where will it be useful to us in our daily situations.


Listen to tapescript 6 and predict the meanings of the words mentioned in the sentences. You can use the contextual clues found in the paragraphs.


The word -  impudent

Meaning - _______________________________________________________________

Clue(s) - ________________________________________________________________





The word - proliferation

Meaning - _______________________________________________________________

Clue(s) - ________________________________________________________________






The word - immerse

Meaning - _______________________________________________________________

Clue(s) - ________________________________________________________________

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The word - simultaneously

Meaning - _______________________________________________________________

Clue(s) - ________________________________________________________________




Sometimes, predictions are made easy and sometimes not. When we hear the first part of an utterance, we may be able to guess the meaning, if not the exact words, of its continuation.There are times when predictions are difficult to make because we don’t know the context of the communication.

Predictions made by listeners are based on three basis :

  • widely used idioms, proverbs, quotations and cliches – having heard of the first part, most of us can easily predict the second


  • stress on a particular word in the first part of an utterance often signals the type of the second part
  • the logical relationship between the first part of an utterance and the second is often signalled by a conjunction e.g’. ‘because’, ‘in order to’, ‘but’, ‘however’ etc.



Now try the following exercise to practise your ability to listen and predict. Listen to tapescript 7 and fill in the second part of the sentence.







When doing listening activities in class, we can also ask students to guess what they are going to hear next ; this will help them develop listening skills, and is a lso a good way to keep the class actively involved in listening. This technique is especially useful for telling stories to the class ; a natural part of listening to an interesting story is to wonder what will happen next.

  • Asking questions keeps the class involved, and is also a way of checking that the students are following the story.
  • It is a technique used by story-tellers everywhere.
  • The same technique can be used with any kind of story – a story about yourself, a historical story, a folk tale, or a fable.



Listen to tapescript 8 and fill in the grids. Decide at which points you could stop and ask students to make predictions. Identify the questions that you could ask. The first stop has been done for you.








Second sentenceafter      ...’ ill’

Who was the man ?
Why was he there ?


















We cannot develop speaking skills unless we develop listening skills. To have a successful communication, students must understand what is said to them. Discuss.


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When we listen, we always try to understand bit by bit. Speakers have the tendency to arrange his facts or ideas in such a way that they in sequence, based on time, steps or measures.

Chronological order is a method of organisation based on time. Simple chronological order takes a  listener from point in the past to the point in the present while sequential order needs a listener to listen from a point to another in sequences of priorities or steps or doing something.

The following are expressions that indicate time or sequence. They will  help you follow the speaker’s train of thought.


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Listen to the following passage. Identify the stages in pineapple canning in the passage. Then you write the stages in the spaces provided below. The first one has been done for you.

Step 1    planting                Step 2 __________________ Step 3 ________________

                                    Step  4_________________  Step 5 ______________

Step 6 _________________ Step 7 ___________________ Step 8 __________________

                        Step 9 ________________________ Step 10 ________________




When you want to inform someone of something, you must tell him in sequence. This is to ensure that he will understand the information. To do this, you must use sentence connectors in your information. They are words that signal the coming of information in sequence. Examples are given in the box above.

Now, listen to tips on how to write an essay. Add in necessary verbs in front of the steps on how to write a composition. After that, try to insert  the relevant sentence connectors so that the sentences show the sequence.






  1. ______________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________
  6. ______________________________________________









In this chapter you have learnt the various listening skills that is crucial in our everyday life, what more for our English Language learners in schools. Listening is not to be takeb for granted. Before we could start communicating, we have to listen first. And listening is a skill needs to be be learnt.


1.     Why do you think that people have different purpose of listening ?

2.     Why people sometimes  stop midway when listening to news on radio ?

3.     How can the skills of anticipating, predicting and inferring help you in understanding oral text ?

4.     Predicting  is a skill. How can you teach your students the skill ?

5.     Sometimes people don’t arrange their speech in sequential order. As listeners, how are  
we going to tackle this situation ?



1.     How are sometimes predictions are made easy ? Identify three ways and give an
example to each.

2.     What are the skills needed to make a good summary  ? List three and give examples.

3.     Why are students having difficulties in listening comprehension ? Discuss two ways to 
overcome this.




  1. Ferrer-Hanreddy, J and Whalley, E.(1985)Mosaic One - A Listening and Speaking Skills Book. McGraw-Hill International Edition. Singapore.

2.   Ur, P. (1984) Teaching Listening Comprehension. Cambridge University                                                                                                    
Press. Cambridge.

  1. Language Centre, UITM. (2001) Mainstream English I and II. Pearson Education     


4. Doff, Adrian.(1993) Teach English – A Training Course for Teachers.British            
Council / Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.














Although cigarette sales in the US have dropped, US tobacco companies continue to do well. Figures show a steady decline in domestic consumption over the last decade. This is because a lot more Americans are becoming aware of the dangers to health caused by smoking. However, cigarette companies have ways of coping with the problem. They are expanding markets in third world countries and in former communist countries. For example, RJR has made an entry into the vast Chinese market by tying up with a local partner to market its products here.



           The Interact Club wanted to raise money to help the poor students. They decide to wash the teachers’ cars. Many teachers allowed the students to wash their cars. They charged the teachers RM 5 for each car they washed. The Interact members also decide to sell things to raise funds. They made bookmarks and memo pads. They sold them to students and teachers. They also had video shows to raise funds. They screened film every afternoon. They charged each student RM 1 for watching each film.   


TAPESRIPT 3 (uitm 2)

           Preparing for an examination is an inevitable part of every student’s life. Nevertheless, the preparation is an anxiety-laden affair. The situation becomes more intimidating when a stduent does not prepare himself well for this crucial part of his academic life. Besides problems faced in preparation for the examination, students also encounter difficulties during the examination itself.

          One of the most serious is a panic attack. A panic attack produces the same symptons in any situation. Normally, when a person experiences the attack, his heartbeat accelerates and his braething rate increases. In addition, he may also perspire and display slight trembling of the limbs.


TAPESCRIPT 4 (jc lim)

Summary 1
A long time ago, when money was not used, people had many ways of buying and selling their goods. Often animals were used to exchange for goods. Animals such as cows, sheep, horses and pigs were looked upon as valuable. Sometimes, people exchange their different goods with one another. This is known as barter trade. At this stage, people began to place value on materials and objects that were not common, like shells, beads andf the teeth of certain fish. Coins ere first used by the Greeks. It was very popular among the common people. The coins were made of silver. The Romans also use silver and gold coins.

Summary 2
The carabao or water buffalo is probably the most important animal to the farmers. They depend on it for ploughing the field. Farmers and playful childrenride the carbao instead of horses, and there are even carbao races. Female buffaloes are milked and the old ones are butchered for meat. Their hide is used as leather for making straps and chair-seats. Their long horns are used for hanging hats and even clothes. Carved from the horns are beautiful ornaments. Carabao mature enriches the soil. When mixed with clay, it makes hard, level floors for threshing and cleaning rice.


Tapescript 5 ( uitm)

Paragraph 1

The life stories of people who have become great because of the great work that vthey have done for humanity are known as biographies. They are indeed a source of knowledge abd inspiration to us.

Paragraph 2

Biographies are interesting to read because they reveal the strength, will-power and determination that men exercise to achieve their goals and ambitions for good or evil. If we read the biography of Abraham Lincoln, for example, we can learn how a poor and uneducated person could some day occupy the highest position in his country.


Paragraph 3  (milon nandy)

Similarly, by reading the biographies of other men, we gain insight into human nature. The biography of Hitler, for example, reveals how a person can be driven to the verge of insanity by his personal ambitions. His efforts to glorify himself, like the great French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, finally led him to his own destruction, he weakened  it and thus fell a victim to his own greed and ambition.


Tapescript 6 (uitm)

  • Her impudent behaviour towards her sister made me want to teach her some manners.


  • The proliferation of computers is due to the fact that they are so cheap these daysthat everybody is buying them
  • You cannot breathe if you completely immerse your head in water.


  • Both students answered simultaneously during the quiz competition. At first, the lecturer could not decide how to award marks. Since they spoke at the same time and their answers were both correct, they were awarded one mark each.


Tapescript 7 and probable answers. The upper case words are stressed. Penny Ur

  • I won’t be here on WEDNESDAY ................. (but anyway, I’ll see you on Saturday, okay ?)


  • I think that the National Service Training Programme is a wonderful idea except that ....................................... (they have problems with the absentees)
  • One moment you’ll be sitting quietly watching television ................(and the next ...................)


  • I’m not sure about that yet ....................(but I’ll fnd out for you)
  • I USED to go into town every day ....................(but now I don’t)


  • My MOTHER’S family is from the north ...............(and my father’s is from........)
  • You don’t have to worry ...................( I’ll see to it myself)



Tapescript 8 (Adrian Duff page 206)

Once there was a boy called Ali, a poor fisherman’s son. As he was going home one evening, he saw an old man lying by the side of the road, seriously ill. The boy was very kind, and he helped the old man to the nearest hospital.The old man thanked the boy and asked for his name and address. The boy was ashamed to admit that his father was a poor fisherman, so he said, ‘My name is Azman and my father is a teacher’. A few days later, the old man died in the hospital, and left all his money to ‘Azman, a local teacher’s son who helped me in my hour of need’.Of course, because Ali had lied, he did not receive any of the old man’s money.


Tapescript 9  (ppk pg 16)

When I first started canning pineapples, everything was done by hands. I employed workers to do everything. Planting was done by hand. Weeding was done by pulling out each weed. The pineapples were harvested by the workers too. They had to cut off each pineapple and put it in a basket. Then the workers loaded the pineapples onto the lorry.

At the factory, most of the work were done by hand, too. The workers skinned the pineapples themselves. In my factory, we canned pineapple cubes as well as slices. The workers sliced the pineapples by hand. Then, they chopped some of the slices into cubes. Next, they put the slices and cubes into cans. Sealing the cans was also done by hand. Finally,  labels were stuck onto each tin by the workers. 


Tapescript 10 (PMR TOPICAL)

  • _____________ about the subject. (First, think)
  • _____________ down some ideas. (Then, write)
  • _____________ the ideas in order. (Next, put)
  • _____________ the composition. (Then, write)
  • _____________ it to check for mistakes. (Later, read)
  • _____________ the mistakes. (Finally, correct)




Exercises taken and adapted from :


  1. Ferrer-Hanreddy, J and Whalley, E.(1985)Mosaic One - A Listening and Speaking Skills Book. McGraw-Hill International Edition. Singapore.


2.   Ur, P. (1984) Teaching Listening Comprehension. Cambridge University                                                                                                     
Press. Cambridge.

3.   Language Centre, UITM. (2001) Mainstream English I and II. Pearson Education     

4.  Doff, Adrian.(1993) Teach English – A Training Course for Teachers.British            
Council / Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

  1. Shalani Lopez. ( 2004) PMR Baby Steps Topical Practice Series. English Form 3           Megasetia  Emas Sdn. Bhd. Petaling Jaya.


  1. L. Anthony and Rohini Shanta (2004) Fokus Masteri Bahasa Inggeris. Fajar Bakti. Shah Alam
  1. PPK, Kuala Lumpur Handout









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