As mentioned last week, active listening is the focus for this week’s blog post. Also, as the end of the month approaches, I want to also recognize again that March is MLEM (Middle Level Education Month). MLEM is sponsored by the Association of Middle Level Education. Shout out to all of the wonderful middle school students in the world! You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little biased. My teaching career began in middle school, so I have a special place in my heart for that grade level.
To recap from last week, active listening is a non-academic skill that all students, not just middle school students, need to sharpen. This skill will be used extensively when our students and children approach adulthood, and maybe before then. Students will need to learn how to actively listen when working with teams, speaking with executives, conferencing with parents, and the list goes on. As a result, it is important that stakeholders (teachers, parents, and the community) collaborate with our future workforce on active listening.
How Do I Get My Students to Actively Listen?
It won’t be easy, but it is possible. It will take practice and patience. Most importantly, teachers will need to model to their students on a daily basis how to actively listen. Moreover, teachers will need to explain exactly why active listening will become an important attribute in their lives. To get my fellow teachers started, I have attached an active listening infographic below created by Mindtools that can be printed, enlarged, and placed in classrooms. Here’s a tip: teachers can use the infographic to establish active listening rituals and routines at the beginning of the school year. (Remember, speaking, listening, and viewing is a Common Core standard and may be a state standard) Students can refer to the infographic throughout the school year, especially when a reminder is needed on how to actively listen when working with a partner or in groups.
Strategies for Teachers to Encourage Active Listening
- Get to know students and let them get to know you
- Talk less
- Let others do the talking
- Hold them accountable for listening
- Model good listening behavior
- Let them help each other listen
- Keep them on their toes
Source: Faculty Focus
Students will most likely listen to teachers who take the time to get to know them. Ask your students about their goals, dreams, and interests. That is when they will realize you truly care, and that is when you will get your students’ attention.
Talking less requires you to no longer be “the sage on the stage”. Remember, the more you talk, the less they will potentially learn. Make an attempt to move away from the lecture-style format and move towards pairing and group work. These instructional learning formats will promote active listening among students. While in these groups, students will learn how to tackle and handle issues and problems and learn to respect the viewpoints of others when they differ on topics.
In case students do miss something that you have shared in the classroom, allow the students to perform a “note check”. A note check promotes active listening between students. The students are given a couple of minutes to confer with neighbors and compare notes to determine if any information is missing.
Keep your students actively listening by holding them accountable. If students are aware that you may call on them at any moment, or that you may give an impromptu quiz or activity after direct instruction, your students will become and remain attentive. Why? Because you have added the element of unpredictability. They won’t have a clue on your next move.
Active Listening Strategies for Students
In addition to the tips provided by the infographic, students should also learn to do the following in reference to active listening:
- Maintain eye contact
- Ask questions
- Don’t interrupt
- Repeat back what the speaker says
- Listen for the total meaning of the message
This video provides an engaging, humorous modeling to active listening. Teachers can use this video once they complete an introduction (mini-lesson) on the non-academic skill. After showing the video, I would suggest having the students to extend what they learn from the video by allowing them to create an active listening scenario of their own. This performance-based activity will promote a rich discussion with students. Not to mention, the critical thinking students will tap into when creating the scenarios. However, it will be the laughs from the scenario presentations that will keep everyone engaged. Sounds like it will be a great day in class. Enjoy!
Project Active Listening
This has been an enjoyable topic for me. Why? Because I conducted covert experiments on my children to determine if they are active listeners. I concluded that they know how to listen actively…when they choose to. My kids listen to me and/or their father if they feel the information is important to know. They do not hesitate to let my conversations go in one ear and out of the other when they feel I’m talking just to hear my own voice. (insert eye roll) Furthermore, I hate to admit it, but I also learned that I actively listen when I choose to. However, the difference between me and my children is that I know the importance of active listening. I also know how detrimental it could be if I don’t actively listen in certain situations. So, I’ll continue to support this non-academic skill by modeling for my kids what active listening should look like. As I’ve said before, we have to get them ready for college and career.
It Takes a Village
For everyone who will be traveling during Spring Break, be safe out there. Most importantly, have a blast and enjoy the time spent with family. Lastly, make sure you SUBSCRIBE to my blog and SHARE this blog with everyone you know. Encourage all to be a part of the Effectively Yours MOVEMENT. It is a necessity to prepare our students and children for post-secondary and career opportunities. Support the movement. Thank you.