Why some students find listening difficult
1. They are trying to understand every word
Despite the fact that we can cope with missing whole chunks of speech having a conversation on a noisy street in our own language, many people don't seem to be able to transfer that skill easily to a second language. One method of tackling this is to show them how to identify the important words that they need to listen out for. In English this is shown in an easy-to-spot way by which words in the sentence are stressed (spoken louder and longer). Another is to give them one very easy task that you know they can do even if they don't get 90% of what is being said to build up their confidence, such as identifying the name of a famous person or spotting something that is mentioned many times.
2. They get left behind trying to work out what a previous word meant
This is one aspect of the problem above that all people speaking a foreign language have experienced at one time or another. This often happens when you hear a word you half remember and find you have completely lost the thread of what was being said by the time you remember what it means, but can also happen with words you are trying to work out that sound similar to something in your language, words you are trying to work out from the context or words you have heard many times before and are trying to guess the meaning of once and for all. In individual listenings you can cut down on this problem with vocab pre-teach and by getting students to talk about the same topic first to bring the relevant vocabulary for that topic area nearer the front of their brain. You could also use a listening that is in shorter segments or use the pause button to give their brains a chance to catch up, but teaching them the skill of coping with the multiple demands of listening and working out what words mean is not so easy. One training method is to use a listening or two to...