Does anyone hear me? Am I speaking English? Why aren’t my students listening to me?
Do these questions run through your mind frequently? I found I was repeating myself over and over like a broken record and ready to bang my head against the wall. I finally realized that I was making a costly oversight that was hindering academic achievement and testing my sanity.
Listening is such a critical skill, yet I never took the time to truly teach it. I expected that my students would walk into my classroom with the understanding and ability required for active listening. When they didn’t listen, I would punish them for something that hasn’t been taught.
Listening, like any other concept or skill, must be explained, modeled, practiced and reinforced, especially the first few weeks of school. Students must know what listening looks like, sounds like and feels like.
Now I introduce active listening on the first day of school in 3 easy steps:
1. Create a common definition: I give each student 3 colored Post-Its. On the first Post-It, I ask them to write down what active listening looks like. I call students up to the board and each student shares while I sort and label students’ responses. After all have shared, we come up with a consensus and repeat the process for the sounds like and feels like indicators. I record these on my Good Listening Poster.
2. Practice active listening indicators: Next I share my Alert Listening Position (ALP) poem that teaches specific active listening behaviors and we practice these behaviors several times. Students are actively engaged in learning as they chant the second line of each stanza and model the listening behaviors with their bodies. We also practice non-ALP behaviors such as slumping in seat, head on desk, no eye contact so students can understand non-examples. While we are practicing, I rove the room and take pictures of excellent ALP examples and post to my ALP poem to use as visual reminders of expected behaviors. Students also get a copy of the ALP poem and add visual cues to help them remember active listening expectations.
3. Reinforce and provide regular feedback: During the first few weeks of school, we say the poem together before each lesson to ensure that all students are active listeners. As students become proficient, we recite poem in the morning only and I will give active listening reminders before each lesson by saying, “Let’s do an ALP check,” and provide feedback as necessary. I also share this with specials’ teachers as well as cafeteria aides so that students understand that I expect active listening throughout campus, not just in my classroom.
Need suggestions for teaching other routines, procedures and transitions? Download our Back to School Teacher Toolbox: Routines, Procedures and Transitions that has engaging activities and lessons to teach 10 critical classroom routines.
Happy New Year!