Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Working on Listening Skills

Children with listening comprehension difficulties face serious learning challenges and are much more likely to fall behind their peers as they progress through school 
(Field, 2001; Mendelsohn & Rubin, 1995; Schwarts, 1998).
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In all classrooms, time needs to be allocated to developing listening skills - particularly in the infant classroom. It's a key competence of communication and a key mode of learning yet, it can be overlooked by many as the 'concrete' results aren't always visible.

I think it is important consider the complexity of listening. It's not just a matter of who can sit and maintain attention. Good behaviour shouldn't distract from the necessity of practicing listening skills. In fact, listening comprehension is much more than simply hearing what is being said. 
The ability to detect sounds is hearing but the ability to attach meaning to them is listening. Listening is the ability to:
  • take in information
  • respond to instructions
  • share ideas, thoughts and opinions

As requested, below, I have listed a few useful strategies which I know work, for developing listening strategies in the classroom.

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1. Whole Body Listening
It's important to reinforce the idea in the children that they use their whole body to listen. Embed this into the routine before any important listening is required of the children.

2. Pair Share Review
Sometimes the children can be good at listening to you the teacher, but not so much to their peers. Pair, share, review is a lovely activity for any class group. Put the children in pairs and have them discuss a topic of your choice. The aim is that they listen carefully to their partner so they can report back to the group what they partner had to say. I used this a lot after Play Based Learning. It's nice to set a timer and set them off with a time for each to talk, to listen and then return to share with the group. 

3. Spot the Change
I always liked to use this to see who was listening. It also worked really well for comprehension, especially in a class with a lot of EAL learners. The children never thought I was testing them, they just saw it as teacher being silly or forgetful. After you have asked the children to do something: "Ok boys & girls, we are going to line up now." Say it again but change a word. "Ok boys and giraffes, we are going to line up now!"

4. Listening Buddies
You might have seen this on my Instagram feed recently. A listening buddy is like a class mascot who keeps an eye out for good listeners. The listening buddy goes to sit beside people who are doing really good listening during the school day. A great incentive for the younger classes!

5. Be a good listener too
In a busy room, we can all be guilty of finishing sentences for children or prompting them or even hurrying them along. When possible, do try to avoid interrupting children when they are talking. Model good listening skills by using positive indicators like nodding, smiling and using supportive words. Ask questions or elaborate on what they have shared to show interest.

6. Spot the Listener
Rather than calling out those who aren't listening. Commend those who are! Praise, praise, praise.
'Peter, I love how your eyes are on me, that shows me that you are ready to listen!'
'Mary is listening really well, her hands and feet are really still and her lips are zipped.'
'I love how Shaun is being a really good friend and listening to his friends telling their news.'

7. Listening Time
Making children aware of listening time is important. As always, jingles and rhymes are extremely effective for the younger children and helps instil routine.

8. Mime
Sometimes it's good to cut the sound altogether. Begin giving your instructions through mime until the children realise you need their attention. Gradually increase it to a whisper if need be. Watch the noise level diminish and you'll soon have everyone ready and looking.

9. Games

  • Play listening games like 'Simon Says' & 'Follow the Leader'.
  • Chinese Whispers
  • Musical Statues / Musical Bottoms
  • End of the Word, Begin the Next - Players say random words *but* the next word must begin with the last letter of the previous word, for example: Egg, Grape, Ear, Rod, Dragon, Nest....and so on!
  • Red Light, Green Light - A nice movement game incorporating a lot of listening! Red Light means Stop and Green Light means go. There are many ways to tweak this game to change it up. Why not use different colours for different types of movement, like yellow light for hopping, purple light for crawling or blue light for jumping. Pretend to be a different animal for different colour. Whatever way you play it, ensure you incorporate some words that rhyme with red or green to see if they catch the difference e.g. "Dead Light! Mean Light!"

10. Lights Out Listening
It's always good to work on listening without any visual distractions. Lots of listening activities where the children cover their eyes is important as it creates a heightened sense of aural awareness. Playing animal sounds, sounds of vehicles, sounds from the environment which the children must identify is really beneficial. Telling a story like that is always nice too, not only for listening & comprehension but for imagination too!

Lots to get you started!

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