Too often we listen to respond instead of listening to understand. Teach your students listening skills to help them both in school and in life.

By teaching listening skills to students in the classroom, teachers can equip children with one of the most valuable, but overlooked, characteristics necessary to succeed. Here are some unexpected ways to cultivate listening skills in your students while teaching the content you’re responsible for according to your state’s standards.

Have a Movie Day

listening skillsMost students love movie days. Even teachers must admit that they were excited when they saw the television and VCR in the classroom during their own school days. Unlike most movie days, when students expect to relax and abandon work for a brief moment, assign questions for students to answer while watching the program to illustrate their listening skills. Choose educational, STEM-focused films (movies like “Hidden Figures,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13,” and “Gorillas in the Mist” could work, depending on the age of your students) to connect students with scientific concepts. By remaining alert to identify answers to questions, students will listen intently.

Assign an Interview

Assign a project during which students will interview their classmates to strengthen listening skills. This group project will divide students into pairs. Each student will write a list of questions for his or her partner. Model how to conduct interviews by engaging in a mock session with one student. Illustrate how to ask questions, of course, but also demonstrate active listening by asking follow-up questions and not interrupting. Encourage students to have polite discussions, challenge them to ask their questions, and advise them not to speak while listening to others who are responding.

Instill Three-part Communication

writing skillsThis approach will blend seamlessly into any lesson plan that is taught during the school day. When teaching, state a concept — step one — and randomly choose a student to repeat the information, which fulfills the second part of this approach. The third step is the teacher’s confirmation, once the student answers correctly. This tactic is an approach that will provide a natural response from students. Initially, children might respond with blank stares that resemble deer in headlights, but they will eventually realize the importance of listening for understanding.

Cover School Events

When the principal organizes an assembly, ask students to carry materials to take notes regarding the topics covered by speakers. Observe students during the assembly and ensure they are taking notes. Upon return to the classroom, collect notes from the students. Compare the student reporting with a master set of teacher notes (it’s only fair for every member of the class to participate) to reveal how well pupils listened and understood what the speaker was trying to share with them.

Be the Listener You Want to See

listening skillsThis point cannot be stressed enough. Students learn from teachers, therefore engaged educators who demonstrate strong listening skills will serve as role models for their students. Examine your own listening tendencies with students. Do you often interrupt, ignore, or belittle them? Or do you make them feel like their ideas and questions are valuable and worthy of your time? Teachers must remember that setting a listening example is not limited to in-class interactions with students. If a fellow teacher or administrator visits the classroom, students will be observing your interaction with other adults. Always treat others with the respect of a good listener in the presence of students — and don’t forget about using these conversation skills during parent-teacher conferences.

As oversharing on social media has produced a new standard of individuals revealing every minute detail of their lives and daily activities, they have lost the ability to listen to others. Using Greek philosopher Epictetus’ words, remind students that “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” While listening skills were once thought of as a component of healthy debate and genuine interest in discussion, they are now rare and in high demand. Cultivate strong listening skills in students and groom them to be considerate, attentive adults who are more adept at communication.

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