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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Developing Listening Skills

Even though we are busy, busy, busy teaching the curriculum, it is very important to help the children develop listening skills.  Being a good listener is a life skill. 

Many children these days have difficulty focusing and attending.  Everyday I do many short activities to augment these skills.  Being able to focus is an essential attribute of a good listener.

My theory is that if children can focus intensely on technology (e.g computer game, X-Box, etc.),  they have the capacity to focus on other things (e.g. people).

With that said, this is what I do...

I never assume a child knows HOW to listen.  During circle time, I explicitly go over what a good listener looks like what a good listener does.  We role play and practice at the beginning of the year.

I read Listen Buddy by Helen Lester.  This book really helps in explaining WHY it is important to listen.  We make a chart listing other reasons why it is important to listen.  This is an anchor chart that we refer back to as needed

I bought a poster entitled 5 Star Listener.  It is a lot like Give Me Five.  Check out the links because they are both great at teaching listening.  This year I am using the 5 Star Listener chart because I can say things like "I see three star listeners but I need five star listeners.  I like how you have your eyes on the speaker, lips closed and ears listening, but I need quiet hands and feet."  It also goes along with my behavior management plan.

Throughout the day the children have many, many, MANY opportunities to practice their listening skills.  When we start a new activity, we sing a song "Write your number, name, and date, your number, name and date.  Isn't it great to write your number, name, and date."  After that I give a direction for them to show me they are ready to move on.  For example:  "When you finish writing your number, name, and date hold up your green crayon."  If I ask them to rip out a work book page, I ask them to put their pencil under their name tag.

I often come up with a silly set of directions.  It keeps things interesting and lightens the mood.  It also shows me who listened.  "When you finish questions 1-5, grab both of your ears."  "When you finish cutting out all the pieces, point your pencil at the ceiling."   I like to do this because the kids find it fun and attend to the directions.  Also, it gives me a visual of who is working and who needs more time.

We do a listen and draw sometimes..  Everyone has a blank piece of paper (you can use scrap paper or the back of a sheet).  We all have our dividers up so no one can see our paper.  It's an independent activity.  In preparation I ask the children to get out three different color crayons (e.g. green, brown, red).  I then give oral directions on what to draw.  Before we begin I tell them that I will say each direction ONLY ONCE.  (This is a fun activity and I never give a grade.)

Here is an example:

Pick up your green crayon. (pause)
Write your name in the middle of the paper. (pause)
Pick up your red crayon. (pause)
Draw a circle around your name. (pause).
With your red crayon, draw a small circle at the bottom of your paper (pause)
Color the small circle green. (pause)
Draw a brown triangle next to the circle with your name. (pause)

After that I have the children put their crayons away and share their drawings with the people who sit near them.  I walk around and pass out a sticker or say great job to the super star listeners.

There are many other ways to develop listening skills but these are my favorites.  Please share what works for you. 

Oh! I just had a NEW idea!  I could give each child a "Who's a Good Listener" printout (with the owls-see below).  Every time they are caught being a good listener I could stamp another owl on their paper OR I could stamp a star to make it look like night time.  Hmm...the possibilities...

Colorful Owls in Pretty Tree



  1. Love your comments on teaching listening. This year almost all of the students had NO self-regulation skills whatsoever; my most challenging class in 20 years. It's taken 5 months to do what I normally do in the first month! But we are getting there and I've learned so much as a teacher.

    Susanna Westby
    Clip Art & Printables

    1. Thank you. I felt that way last year. :) I don't know if it is my imagination but it seems like the children have a harder time with this skill each year. Sometimes I wonder if it is a consequence of the information age. Everything seems so much more intense and shorter in duration with the new technology. Kids don't sit down and draw or play quietly like they used to. I love all the technology but there needs to be balance.