Strategies for Improving Listening Skills in the Classroom
Children with poor listening skills are at a disadvantage in the classroom. There are a number of things that teachers can do in the classroom to create a environment that is more conducive to learning and less subject to distractions. Teaching children about the importance of listening, setting an example, and engaging children in an active way are a few of the things a teacher can do to help students improve their listening skills.
Creating a Conducive Learning Environment
Good listening skills requires active rather than passive listening. Children, as well as adults, often interact with their environment in an passive rather than active way. Educators have been concerned with the impact of modern media on children ever since the early days of television. The entertainment and media industries tend place the emphasis on a passive spectator role rather than active engagement. Active listening requires becoming involved and engaged in what is being said. Active listeners think about, reflect on and digest what they are learning.
(1) Demonstrate good listening skills in the classroom.
Talk to the students about the differences between passive and active listening and why good listening skills are important. Use your role as a teacher in the classroom to set an example for the students. Make it a habit to always make eye contact with a student when you are speaking with your students. Making an effort to engage in a dialogue with the students. Concentrate on interacting and talking to the students rather than simply talking at them. The infamous disengaged teacher scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a perfect parody of the disengaged teacher. Respond with affirmative comments that demonstrate you are listening and engaged with what the student is saying. Include specific comments in your response that demonstrate having paid close attention to what the student said.
(2) Develop listing skills through classroom activities.
Classroom activities such as games, role playing and storytelling are helpful and fun ways that encourage children to interact and pay attention to the teacher and their fellow students. Consequently, students improve their listening skills in the process. Games for younger children, such as "Simon Says" or "Green Light/Red Light", are fun activities for children that encourage them to listen closely and carefully. Reading stories to the class and engaging the students in a question and answer period about the stories promotes active listening as well. Involving the students in a conversation about the story encourages them to listen to the specific details of the story. A helpful activity for younger children is to read several versions of the same story. Change a few basic details in each version of the story. For example, substitute a blue hat for a red hat, a puppy for a kitten and so forth. Ask the children to identify the differences.
(3) Remove distractions from the classroom and give the students periodic breaks and downtime.
A typical classroom is full of potential distractions that easily interfere with a conducive learning environment. The potential for distractions may vary from day to day. Stay on top of the situation and be attentive to potential problems. Separate children who are constantly talking to one another, close the windows and doors if outside noises are interfering with the class, and try to make the classroom environment warm and comfortable. An unattractive and sterile environment is not conducive to learning. Periodic breaks and downtime also play an important role. In addition to the scheduled recess period, allowing students a few minutes to relax, stretch and unwind during the course of the school day will help foster better concentration and focus throughout the rest of the day.