Listening Skills & the Classroom

When you think about baseline testing or beginning of the year testing, do you include listening skills? Back to school is a hectic time of the year. Adding one more thing to your to-do list may not be something you want to do. Once you see the impact listening skills have for your students' academics and behavior, you will be happy to add another thing to your to-do list.

Do you have a "Listen Lizzie" in your class?
  • Lizzie interrupts your reading group lesson to ask how to complete her center assignment.
  • Lizzie does not line up at the end of recess.
  • Transitions are difficult for Lizzie. Lizzie refuses to clean up when you ring your bell that it is time to cleanup.
  • Lizzie often needs redirected during your lessons.
Poor listening skills can sometimes be misinterpreted as willful or not making good choices.  Some students' behavior and "choices" in the classroom will improve when you add listening activities to your lessons.

It is helpful to schedule a conference at the beginning of the year when you have a  "Listen Lizzie".  Frequent ear infections during the toddler years is common with the "Listen Lizzie" student.  If you've ever had an ear infection, you know that it can affect your hearing.  An ear infection is similar to hearing with your head underwater.  You can hear noise, but not the actual words.  You may turn towards who is speaking, but not know the meaning of the words.  You may even look for gestures or other body language to help you.  --Please note, this is my personal theory and observations.

Children learn to follow multi-step directions in the toddler years. Toddlers with frequent ear infections do not develop these important skills.  A parent with more than one child may notice a difference in their child's listening skills, but not always. Parents may not realize the impact of listening skills until their child is bringing home notes and/or a teacher requests a conference.

There are activities your student's parent can do to help your "Listen Lizzie".

Parent Tips:
  • Before giving your child directions, ask him/her to look at you.
  • Say the direction(s) in short, simple sentences.
  • Tell your child to repeat the direction before he/she begins.
  • You will begin by giving one-step directions.  Example "Lizzie, bring me your take-home reader."
  • Once your child is successful following one-step directions over an extended time period, add another step.  
  • Continue adding steps when your child shows improvement.
  • Remember, this is a skill.  Like any skill, your child will need to practice.  Think of at least one tangible, measurable thing you can ask your child to do each day.  Then ask your child to do it.  Example:
Set the table
One step direction:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
Two step directions:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
  • Then put the forks on the table.
Three step directions:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
  • Then put the forks on the table.
  • Last, take the salt and pepper shakers to the table.
There are activities you can do with your class that will help your "Listen Lizzie" plus strengthen all of your students' listening skills.
Listen and Draw is a 20-30 minute whole group lesson that you can use to test and strengthen your students' listening abilities. The only supplies needed are the worksheet, a pencil, and crayons. You will read the directions telling students what to draw, one step at a time. You will read the directions 2 times before you go to the next step. Students need to listen closely to what you are saying so they will know what to draw. Students who do not listen closely will not have that part of the drawing in their picture.

After listening to your directions, your class will write a sentence(s) about the picture. This is also a good writing sample to show growth throughout the year.
  • Beginning of the Year: Give your class Listen & Draw lesson. Save this lesson for their portfolio to show parents at conference time.
  • Show Growth: At least once a month give your class a Listen & Draw lesson. Hopefully, you will see growth in their listening skills and writing skills.
  • Conferences: If listening skills are an issue, share the Listen & Draw lessons with your students' parents.
  • R.T.I.: You can also use these for R.T.I.
  • Sub Plans & Inside Recess: Use these for inside recess and your sub plans. You and your sub will appreciate how your class is quiet for this lesson.
Read stories about listening.  Ask your librarian if your school has the books below.  You will be happy to see that it is easier for your students to learn when they are good listeners!

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