newcomer english learnersListenwise recently hosted a webinar with California teacher and newcomer advocate Efraín M. Tovar on the subject of using our platform with newcomer English learners.  The conversation covered various topics such as the benefits of using Listenwise for newcomers, how to select and customize lessons, and how to provide adequate support for newcomer student learning while maintaining academic rigor.


We are excited to share four steps for using Listenwise’s ELD podcast and video lessons with newcomers using strategies discussed during the webinar “Boosting Achievement with Newcomers Using Listenwise.”


Find the Right Story

newcomer english learners


One of the primary benefits of using Listenwise with newcomer English learners is that it provides students with an opportunity to learn language and content together. Our platform has a vast library of podcast and video lessons on a wide variety of subjects that are suitable for use with students at different stages of English language acquisition.

Efraín recommends providing opportunities for students to choose which podcast topics they’d like to listen to whenever possible. He appreciates that these podcasts offer students the experience of listening to authentic language in context, rather than robotic, automated text-to-speech audio.

For this webinar, Efraín chose a podcast about Jane Goodall to work on with his students because he felt it was relevant and important. It is one of our longer podcast lessons, and as such it is important to set realistic expectations for how long it may take students to complete.


“We know that language acquisition is going to take time, but I would prefer to go a foot deep into learning than just an inch deep. It’s going to take more time to go through a [longer] story. Instead of taking five minutes and just listening to the story like you would with a regular English-speaking student it might take [newcomers] a week to understand.”

If you think your students could benefit from listening to shorter podcasts, you’re in luck! Most of our podcast and video lessons are less than 3 minutes long. Our 30-second Weird News stories are some of our shortest lessons, and teach language through engaging, funny and surprising content.

Preview Vocabulary & Build Background With Imagery

When working through a Listenwise ELD podcast and video lesson with newcomer English learners, the first step is to build background knowledge by previewing vocabulary. Efraín recommends using the images provided by Listenwise in the assignment as a way of introducing those key vocabulary words students will need to know in order to understand the lesson.

“I love the fact that Listenwise provides at least three images with each lesson so that you can use them [to build background knowledge].”

newcomer English learners

When using images to build background knowledge, Efraín recommends beginning with just an image and then guiding students through a discussion around what they see. Start by asking students open-ended questions about what they see, what they notice, and what they wonder. Students can and should be encouraged to write this in their native language, or to partner with a language broker who can assist them in getting their thoughts down on paper.

newcomer english learners

Next, provide students with an image that includes the specific vocabulary that you want them to learn. Example questions: what do you see, explain the image to your partner using a sentence stem “I believe that the image shows…”, write an analysis of the image using at least one word from the word bank (hair, eyes, feet, nails, ears, nose, fingers, branches). 

newcomer english learners

Finally, teachers can then move on to working through the lesson once students have become familiar with the key vocabulary words they will need to access the content.

Diagram Paragraphs

Podcast transcripts are a valuable tool for teachers of newcomers looking for ways to support their students’ listening comprehension skills. Prior to even listening to the podcast, Efraín recommends that teachers lead students through the podcast transcript paragraph by paragraph. 

Depending on the length of the podcast, this may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to work through the transcript, and that’s okay! Approaching this important pre-listening step with intentionality allows sufficient time for vocabulary development prior to introducing the audio.

Each Listenwise ELD podcast and video lesson includes a podcast transcript in both English and Spanish. Teachers can easily take the transcript and break it down into manageable chunks to scaffold comprehension.

Newcomer English Learners


Diagramming each paragraph of the podcast transcript allows newcomer English learners time to focus on individual new vocabulary words and see how they contribute to the overall meaning of the paragraph. 

Take a look at this example of a presentation slide Efraín Tovar uses to help introduce his newcomer students to key vocabulary terms found in the podcast transcript. The green boxes indicate areas he completes with his students. 


Listenwise provides lists of key vocabulary words and Spanish-language cognates for each ELD lesson. Our interactive vocabulary flashcards allow students to review vocabulary independently prior to listening to the podcast.

Newcomer English learners

Another tip for introducing vocabulary words to newcomer English learners is to app smash Listenwise with a word cloud generator like WordClouds. Above is an example created by Efraín that connects commonly used vocabulary words from the transcript to a visual representation of a key subject of the lesson: chimps.

Additionally, Listenwise provides visual supports for English learners while they read along with our transcripts using our picture dictionary. Students can click on an unfamiliar word within the podcast transcript and select the picture dictionary icon from our Texthelp toolbar. A simple illustration of the word’s definition will then pop up to provide additional context for students as they listen and read along.

Don’t forget that Listenwise has printable listening organizers that you can access under the assignment resources tab in your teacher’s guide. Providing students with a vocabulary list organizer can help students keep track of the new words they learn and their definitions.

Our vocabulary list organizers allow students to note key vocabulary words and their meanings using English definitions, pictures, native language translations, and/or examples.

Check for Understanding With Comprehension and Discussion Questions

After you’ve worked through the paragraphs with your students, provide multiple listening opportunities with our embedded three close listens functionality. Keep in mind that students also have the ability to play the audio at a slower speed. 

Once students have had time to listen to the content as many times as needed, it’s time to check for understanding using multiple strategies that assess all four language domains. 

Listenwise provides pre-made listening organizers that teachers can use as assessment tools to support and measure student comprehension during and after the lesson. Our lessons also include customizable comprehension questions that can help teachers identify which specific sections of the audio story might be challenging for students.

Additionally, the platform provides students with an opportunity to practice their speaking and writing skills by responding to prompts and questions related to the audio content. Efraín mentions in this webinar that a recent statistic shared at the 2023 California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) conference states that English learners spend just 12% of their day speaking their target language. 

“It’s really important that we get our newcomers to speak — that we get them to use language. How do we learn language? We need opportunities to use it in the classroom, and we have to have opportunities to speak in the classroom.”

Our blog post on building speaking and listening skills for English learners offers additional ideas.

Watch this brief clip from a webinar featuring educator and multilingual thought-leader Valentina Gonzalez to see her model how she would go about encouraging classroom discussion using a Listenwise Weird News podcast lesson, “The Ketchup Thief.” Using the appropriate scaffolds and supports, this exercise can be adapted for use with newcomer students. 

We hope that this blog post has given you some practical tips for how to adapt Listenwise content for use with newcomer English learners. As we continue to grow and expand our platform, it is our hope that we can deliver even more curriculum-aligned, meaningful content to support English learners at every stage of language acquisition.

Learn more about how Listenwise can help your English learners meet listening and speaking standards and support the development of writing skills.