“There’s no learning when nobody’s listening”
Nadine Dolby’s 2012 article discusses the lost art of listening in a digital age and the impact on student learning. We often take it for granted that our students know how to listen, but as her exercise with undergraduate student teachers demonstrated, this is not necessarily the case.
Teachers know how important listening is at school, both in learning and as a vital social tool, but apart from the work done in early primary years, very little is done in schools to teach this skill.
Here are 7 Teaching Strategies to Increase Your Student’s Listening Skills (and, consequently, their learning)
1. Focus On Teaching The Skill Of Listening (yes those A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S do help).
Break the skill into identifiable components for students and then practise, role play, make posters and dramatise scenarios.
2. Model Good Listening For Your Students.
So often we are thinking about our response to a student rather than really listening to them.
Use the ‘counselling’ skill of rephrasing or restating what students say to enhance your own listening.
Ask students to restate yours or others points of view.
Insist on one person speaking at a time either in whole class discussions, paired or group work.
Demonstrate the skill to the class by drawing their attention to your listening with younger grades, having older grades deconstruct what effective listening looks like, sounds like, feels like.
3. Get To Know Your Students.
Find out about their interests, hobbies, music and sport, families etc. Kids will listen more to teachers they feel are interested in them and know them.
In high school, where you may teach up to 150 students use memory tricks, refer to school photos or take notes so you can use the knowledge in your conversations with students.
See some of our articles on how to build relationships with students.
4. Use Reflective Listening…
to defuse tricky situations.
Saying ‘Joey I can see you are upset (disappointed, frustrated, sad) validates a student’s feelings, provides the language to describe the feelings and can help to reduce the intensity of the feelings allowing the student to move forward.
Listening to students can give you insight into their state of mind.
5. Give Students A Voice…
…about the issues that impact them, i.e. their learning, their assessment, their classroom, their school values students need to feel heard and understood.
They will more readily accept the status quo if they feel they have been heard. What About Student Voice?
6. Get Everyone’s ‘Voice In The Room’.
Give students an opportunity to speak at the beginning of class by having a “check in”.
You could use this as an orientation to the lesson e.g in Maths, everyone thinks of the highest number they have seen today or as an emotional check in e.g.use a colour to describe how you are feeling.
7. Talk Less.
As a general rule, kids can effectively listen for about half their age in minutes, so for a child of 10 that’s about 5 minutes, for a 15 yr old, that’s about 7.5 minutes!
Mix up the activities in the classroom so that they are talking, writing, moving and listening in a variety of ways.
Here are more ideas on how to use variety in the classroom.
8. Use ‘Cold Calling’.
Have you noticed that it is usually the same 4 or 5 students who answer questions?
Introduce cold calling (no hands up), where any student may be expected to answer a question or explain a concept to the class.
Dylan William has a simple strategy of writing students’ names on paddle pop sticks and then randomly drawing out the name of the lucky person who gets to answer.
If you would prefer a more high tech system, find a list of randomiser apps here.
To ensure students feel safe to ‘have a go’, develop a culture of risk-taking in your class by encouraging thinking rather than expecting the ‘correct’ answer.
Not sure about how to develop a positive class culture? See 6 Ways to build a positive classroom culture.
9. Listen And Learn From Students About Their Behaviour.
What is their behaviour trying to communicate?
Listening to what students think and feel about the tasks they are asked to complete and the way they are being taught can give you clues as to your effectiveness as a teacher and how you could change things to more effectively support student learning.
10. Listen To Parents.
Parents are the child’s first teachers and you can glean valuable knowledge from them.
Use parent teacher interviews as fact finding missions and be prepared with questions as well as comments.
One of the biggest challenges we face as teachers can be listening to parents with whom we don’t see eye to eye.
And finally to end off I have put together some great links:
- To read about how to train the brain to listen from Donna Wilson follow this link here.
- For more information on the SLANT strategy here
- More on improving listening skills for older students here