It is important that the children develop and practise their listening skills so that they can participate in all classroom activities and discussions.
Helping the children become active and reflective listeners will enable them to achieve their fullest potential inside and outside the classroom.
The children need to understand that listening is a key skill that will support their lives now and in the future. You can provide the children with different classroom activities that will help them listen effectively in a range of situations so that they feel a valued member of the school community whose ideas and thoughts and respected and supported. Poor listening skills can only lead to confusion and disruption in the classroom as the children mishear instructions or respond inappropriately to the requests of the classmates. You should always model how to work as an efficient listener responding thoughtfully to the comments of others.
It is important that you use your voice to effectively develop the children’s listening skills. The children need to understand and respect that nobody should be speaking to the class or a group whilst others are still speaking. Train the class to always listen carefully to the teacher’s instructions or responses of other pupils before speaking themselves. If you have a noisy class who interrupt others with comments or chatter then you can adopt a classroom reward system where you drop a marble into a jar or stick a star on chart when all of the class is listening effectively to what is being discussed. The class than receive a reward when the jar or chart have been filled. This will help the children focus on times in the school day when they have been listening effectively.
You can also train the children’s listening skills by varying the tones and amplitude of the voices you use when speaking to the class. Try whispering some instructions to see if the class can listen and respond correctly. You could also demonstrate to the class how to use a louder tone when speaking to the whole class to enable listeners to understand what is being said as opposed to speaking in a quieter tone when discussing ideas with a group.
Plan some activities in the school day where the children have an opportunity to discuss important issues relating to the school community and the wider world. Select a topic at the start of the week and choose some children who will open the debate on the issue at the end of the week. The children can then use some homework time to prepare comments to share with the class to discuss the issue. During the debate, provide the children with some mini-whiteboards so that they can make notes about what has been said before sharing their responses with the whole class. This will help focus the children on listening actively so that they can participate fully in the debate by speaking in support of or against the issues raised.
Word of the Day
Help the class become active listeners by selecting a vocabulary word related to the current classroom topic or spelling pattern. Display the selected word on the board to help focus the children’s attention. Tell the children to then listen out for this use of the word during the school day. Any child who hears the word being used correctly can then win some class reward points. You can also challenge the children to practise using the word of the day within a paired or small group setting to see if they classmates can listen for the correct word being used during the discussion.
You can test and develop the children’s listening skills by providing some silly instructions for the class to follow. Try and drop in an incorrect instruction into one of your lessons to see how the class respond and effectively monitor who has been listening correctly. For example, at the end of a lesson as well as telling the children to pack up their things ready for playtime you could also drop in the suggestion that the children should put on their school sweatshirt backwards or sit with their hands over their eyes. Using fun games and activities will help the children understand the importance of listening in case they miss any special instructions or commands.
Listen, Think, Share
It is important that the children develop skills in active listening so that they can respond appropriately to instructions and discussions. Train the children to listen carefully to their partner before eliciting a response. During class discussions, build in opportunities where the children can share their ideas with a partner. Tell the children to listen actively to their partner before responding with their own comments. You can help the class become active listeners by providing time for the children to think of their own responses to the points being raised instead of thinking of their own responses when somebody is speaking. Use a sand timer or a clock on the board to provide the children with some thinking time before they can then share their own ideas in response to what has been discussed. This will help the children avoid interrupting others who might be speaking and allow them time to compose their own thoughts and responses.
You need to make sure that there are plenty of opportunities during the school week where the children are actively listening to a text being read. You can check the children’s listening skills by getting them to ask and answer questions about the read text. Get the class to take a full part in this role by allowing some children to question their classmates about what has been read using both closed and open questions to gauge understanding. Use paired reading during English lessons where the children take it in turn to read a section of a text with their partner before discussing what has been read.