In schools we often teach kids how to speak. We break it apart into things like eye contact, volume, visual supports etc. But how often do we break apart listening skills. More importantly, active listening skills. Active listening is exactly what it implies, being active in listening. It's feeding back and paraphrasing what has been communicated. It involves restating what you have heard in your own words. It allows both parties to confirm that the message is understood. When we teach kids to listen, we need to be more explicit in scaffolding the steps. Why? Because it makes children accountable for what they have heard. They are required to engage in what they hear. This is often a counselling technique. However, elements of active listening can be applied to the classroom. So how do you teach that to kids in a meaningful and realistic way? Here are a few simple starter tips:
1. Accountable talk stems and sentence starter prompts: these are a great way to get students to finish a sentence. Things like "so I heard you say" or " I am thinking that you meant..." means that they are accountable for listening and they are accountable to provide feedback. This requires them to process what they have heard, interpret it and present it in their own way. Brainstorm an age appropriate list with your kids.
2. Allow think time before responding: so many times as teachers we feel we need to jump in after a short waiting time. Don't. Giving students a heads up that you are calling on them, it helps. Let them know so they have the time to prepare something without twenty five sets of eyes watching them and waiting for them.
3. Anchor charts: explore with the kids what active listening looks like? How does the body look? How do people feel? How can we show people that we are active in listening? Display the anchor chart in achievable and realistic steps for the age group.
4. Rehearse: provide opportunities for children to simply face each other and listen. Every so often, support them to make a comment or gesture to show that they are involved in listening. Stop and feedback. How did the person being listened to feel? How do the person doing the listening feel? What did both parties notice?
5. Explore paraphrasing and what it means: In its simplicity, paraphrasing means to reword written or spoken information. So how can kids do that without sounding like parrots? Teaching them summary skills as well as looking for the main idea strengthens the paraphrasing skill. Paraphrasing needs to be modelled and rehearsed. Accountable talk stems also prompt paraphrasing.
Active listening can begin simply from a young age and be built upon. Younger students can certainly be taught to look at the speaker and use an accountable talk stem. As students age, they can be taught to rephrase and paraphrase what they have heard as well as use non verbal cues. This is an essential life skill that is often broken down into one or two elements and then stopped. Active Listening is a skill that needs to be rehearsed, revised and added to over time. After all, it is one of the most important life skills a person can learn. #activelistening #classroom #twocreativeteachers