Active listening is a non-academic skill that students tend to struggle with. Yes, they can HEAR you, but are they LISTENING? My middle school students did not listen very well…at all. I remember constantly repeating myself over and over again. I also remember giving directions and having them repeat those directions back to me. Only for them to do the complete opposite of what I gave instructions for them to do. When it comes to students, children, and active listening, the struggle is real for teachers and parents.
According to the Association for Middle Level Education, March is Middle Level Education Month! In honor of MLEM, today’s blog post will focus on middle school students. Why? AMLE believes that the education students experience in the mid grades will, in large measure, determine the future for all citizens. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of middle school students, as I am a former middle school teacher. Additionally, my advocacy for non-academic skills compels me to vocalize the importance of these skills for middle school students, our future. Although the information is tailored to middle school students, just remember anything and everything I share can be used for all ages.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is giving the speaker one’s full attention and understanding the message that is being presented. When a student is actively listening, he/she is displaying verbal and non-verbal cues. Verbal cues may include: questioning, providing positive reinforcement, and remembering. Non-verbal cues may include: head nods, smiling, displaying good posture, and avoidance of distractions and disruptions (Oxford Learning). Students who also know how to actively listen will participate in positive conversations. Meaning, they will be able to acknowledge another’s point of view and repeat what was said in their own words. Active listening is an art. It’s an action people use daily and a skill that will prepare students for life during adulthood.
Is Active Listening Really Important?
Why, yes it is. Perfecting active listening skills can be beneficial. According to Oxford Learning, students will be able to demonstrate finer comprehension skills. They will also become better problem solvers and communicators. Active listeners have the potential to be great leaders with evolved attributes in character and commitment. Lastly, active listeners will most likely have fewer misunderstandings, increased productivity, and become more self-reliant, which can be quite a confidence booster for middle school students!
Take a minute and conduct an honest, formative assessment of your students and/or children. Do you see any of these attributes in your students? What about in your own children? If you are a teacher, especially a middle school teacher, you may be able to identify at least five students in each class that are true active listeners, or they are heading in that direction. When I taught middle school, I usually had one child in each class that was a natural, strong active listener. The others needed work, but I don’t recall actively listening being a focal part of my state standards, so I didn’t spend much time cultivating this skill. Allow me to clarify, there was and still remains Speaking, Listening, and Viewing instructional state standards. However, I never taught a lesson exclusively on active listening. I incorporated active listening in other lessons. In hindsight, I wish I was given the green light to spend more time on that non-academic skill.
How to Become an Active Listener
Educator Martha Caldwell, has shared 7 principles that mold and shape students and children into active listeners:
- Be present
- Listening without interrupting
- Respond with acceptance
- Conflict is a part of learning
- Ask good questions
- Be gentle
- Embrace candidness
Stay Tuned! More to Come!
Next week, I will share active listening strategies and activities that can be used in the classroom and at home. Although the suggestions will cater to middle school students, don’t worry! All of my terrific tidbits can be scaffolded and modified for any age. Once again, Happy Middle Level Education Month! #MLEM19