Bottom Up Listening Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Bottom-up listening relies on understanding basic individual letter sounds to piece together meaning. This lesson plan teaches students about bottom-up listening and pairs students up to practice the concept of bottom-up listening.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define bottom up listening
  • list the steps involved in bottom-up listening
  • distinguish between bottom-up listening and top down listening
  • discuss the relationship between bottom-up and top-down listening in regard to understanding


45 to 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Follow rules for collegial discussions, set specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.


Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.


Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.


Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.


Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.


Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.


  • A simple sentence
  • Basic definitions for 'listening', 'bottom-up listening' and 'top-down listening'


  • Begin by reading your simple sentence aloud to the class.
    • What is meant by what I just said?
    • How do you know that?
  • Reread the sentence in very slow motion, paying close attention to each letter and sound rather than the words.
    • How was what I just read different from the first version?
    • Did the meaning of the sentence change?
    • How do you know that?
  • Write the definitions for 'listening', 'bottom-up listening' and 'top-down listening' on the board for the class.
  • Review each definition with the class and allow students to ask any questions they may have.
  • Explain that your slow-motion sentence forced students to focus on bottom-up listening.
    • Based on the definitions provided in class, why was the slow-motion sentence dependent upon bottom-up listening?
    • Can we use just bottom-up listening to hear and understand things? Why or why not?

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