“O Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear”

Teaching Children to Listen on Purpose

Have you ever heard someone say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen more than we speak!” We know that young children need to be taught to listen and pay attention. We encourage young people to look us in the eyes. We gain group attention with young children through rhyming phrases such as, “1, 2, 3, eyes on me.” In the elementary classroom, teachers read books to the class and have students comment on the stories. Parents may ask a child to repeat what they heard or saw in a particular instance.

As children get older, these listening activities begin to fall by the wayside. Children are expected to listen to this information without direct instruction in how to process this information. Since active listening skills can increase your students overall success, finding ways to integrate these skills benefits everyone.

Here are four active listening steps than you can teach to your students, changing the language as necessary to make it more applicable for your particular age-group.

1. Make Eye Contact/Follow the Speaker
Look the speaker in the eyes. When the speaker is addressing a large group and eye contact is not possible, follow the speaker’s movements.

2. Summarize What the Speaker Is Saying
Summarize every few sentences by stating the main ideas. Take notes, if this is helpful.

3. Make Connections
Link what you are hearing to what you already know.

4. Ask and Answer Questions
Check your understanding of what is being taught by asking questions about what you are hearing. If you can answer the questions, you understand the material. If you can’t answer the questions, you need to ask the speaker for help.

Model and practice these steps as an adult. Tell children the main ideas you come up with or the connections you have made to give them examples. Check their comprehension. Perhaps drawing pictures or adding motions would help students to listen better (not to be confused with doodling!).

Imagine when you won’t have to repeat your directions over and over again. Imagine what you could do with all that extra time!

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”—James 1:19

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