Active listening – fully concentrating on what is being said as opposed to passively ‘hearing’ what the speaker is saying.

Reading with great interest Developing Listening Skills in School (page 8) really got me thinking about the topic and how important good listening skills are, and how easy it is to take them for granted.

It’s not always easy to do. Take the conference I attended last month. I wanted to be there and had particularly chosen the session as I was very keen to hear the speaker. The lights went down, the PowerPoint began, and I began to listen and take notes.

After a while I began to fidget, the chair was really uncomfortable, my neighbour’s chewing had developed from a vaguely irritating chomp to a lip-smacking open-mouthed mastication! I was thirsty, hungry and far too warm. I had lost my place in the handouts and, wait for it… yes, I needed the loo! As the audience burst out laughing at something the speaker had said, I realised that I had missed a large chunk of the session – I hadn’t bee actively listening.

Now I think, it can be safely said that I had gone off task. The advantage for me was that I recognised this, and, even though the distractions remained, I was able to block most of them out and refocus on what was being said.

When we think about a school environment, is it any wonder that children often struggle to listen? Children who have SLCN are already at a disadvantage when it comes to following what goes on in class and may find actively listening a real challenge. Active listening is not just about sitting still and behaving well. How often do we say, ‘Well done – good listening!’ How do we know the children are listening? Are we just praising good sitting?

The positives of active listening are numerous; you are far more likely to make and keep friends if you listen to what others are saying and can respond appropriately. It’s a vital life skill and needs to be explicitly taught as Jacqui Woodcock and Liz Spooner highlight in their article.

I found these well-known activities helped to settled and focus the children, enabling you to check who is actively listening:

  • Simon Says
  • Chinese Whispers
  • Drawing something following your instructions
  • Describing an object and see if the child can guess what it is?
  • Guess Who?
  • Listening to an audio book in class in short chunks
  • While reading stories to your children ask what they think will happen next
  • Send the child on a very simple errand (go to the office and ask for 20 pencils)

Please let me know of any activities that you use in your schools to help promote good listening and we will share them online.

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