Teaching Strategy

Critical Listening Guide

Community Inquiry
Grade Level


A guide to help students interpret, analyze and evaluate information encountered in a variety of media formats. Use this guide with the spoken and performed texts included in the Perspectives anthology.


During and after reading, listening or viewing


All texts are a dialogue between the creator and the consumer. Often this dialogue takes place between writers and readers. With spoken texts the dialogue is between the speaker and listener. To gather meaning from audio text, students need to analyze both content and presentation. Their analysis must take into account how the context, audience, purpose and style of an audio text impact the meaning.


The student text library includes many audio texts such as podcasts, interviews and songs. The Story Corps series is particularly well suited for use with this Critical Listening Guide.
  1. Select an audio central text. Tell students they will conduct three rounds of listening.
  2. Create a Critical Listening Guide using at least two relevant questions from each category—context, audience, purpose, values and style—related to the selected text.
  3. Round 1 (first listen): Have students listen to the text all the way through without the transcript and without stopping. Allow students to briefly discuss their initial reactions to the text with a partner.
  4. Pass out the transcript (included with each audio text) and Critical Listening Guide. Go over each question. A mini-lesson may be necessary to define context, audience, purpose and style.
  5. Round 2 (close listen): Have students listen to the text with the transcript and guide in hand. Pause the audio to discuss key features of the text, using the Critical Listening Guide to structure the discussion. Students should annotate their transcripts using thinking notes to describe context, audience, purpose, values and style. Pause the audio to point out key features of the text, and provide wait time for students to write their responses to questions on the Critical Listening Guide.
  6. Round 3 (reflective listen): Have students listen to the text all the way through without stopping. Allow time for students to complete their Critical Listening Guide responses.
  7. Ask students to share how their interpretations of the text may have changed or deepened since the first listen.

English language learner

The Critical Listening Guide is appropriate for intermediate English language learners (level three or above). Depending on the student’s language proficiency, consider having the student read the written transcript before listening to the audio texts. This will assist in listening comprehension, lower the stress level of the student and build confidence. Provide English language learners opportunities to listen to the audio texts repeatedly.

Connection to anti-bias education

The audio texts included in Perspectives are generally first-person accounts of the lived experiences of everyday people. By engaging with these texts, students gain meaning from those diverse experiences while developing their speaking and listening skills. Effective communication is essential to the goals of anti-bias education. The Critical Listening Guide teaches students to question the factors that influence communication. These questions illustrate how dynamics of identity, culture, power and systems translate into our daily lives.
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