ACTIVE LISTENING – how can we teach children to become better listeners?
What is an active listener?
An active listener is someone who gives their full attention to the speaker and completely engages in what they are being told.
They listen with their whole body, using their eyes, mouth, posture and hands. Engagement is key! Active listeners focus their attention on the message and review the important information.
Just because I am sitting quietly does not mean I am listening properly. A passive listener will often forget information or never hear it in the first place. An active listener thinks about what they are hearing and makes it their business to understand.
Why is active listening important?
Good communication depends on the ability to listen as much as to talk. Communication is fundamental to children’s development; children need to be able to understand and be understood. Communication is not just the foundation of relationships and social interaction, but it is essential for learning.
At Hastings, we have identified 8 learner habits which we want to help children develop. Being an active listener is intrinsically linked with the habits of Responsibility, Curiosity, Empathy, Thinking and Reflection.
How can we help children become better listeners?
TEN STEPS TO ACTIVE LISTENING
ACTIVE LISTENING ACTIVITIES
- Read stories to your child. Reading provides many opportunities for active listening. Asking questions about the story will help your child focus and listen better.
What do you think will happen next?
What can you tell me about the story so far?
Can you predict how the story will end?
Why do you think the character did _______?
What would you have done if you were the character?
How would you have felt if you were the character?
As I read____________, it made me picture________ in my head. What pictures do you see in your head?
As you read, what are you wondering about?
Can you put what you’ve just read in your own words?
- Make time to have proper conversations about things your child is interested in. This gives your child a chance to engage in a real conversation, practising both speaking and listening.
- Create a list of questions with your child to ask their sibling or another member of the family. After one person has answered, see how many the other can remember. Switch roles and see how well the other person does.
- Give clear instructions. When giving your child instructions or explaining something to them, ask them to repeat them back to you.
MODEL ACTIVE LISTENING
If we want children to be better listeners, we need to make sure we are modelling GOOD LISTENING in our interactions with them.
- give your full attention to your child
- make eye contact
- get down on your child’s level
- stop multi-tasking – put your phone away and really listen!
- reflect on and repeat back what they say, to make sure you understand
- Sum up what they said
Be interested and attentive – Children can tell when we are interested and whether we are genuinely paying attention by our responses!
Listen patiently – We all think faster than we speak. With limited vocabulary and experience in talking, children often take longer than adults to find the right word. We must learn to listen as though we have plenty of time.
Hear children out – We should avoid cutting children off before they have finished speaking. It’s easy to form an opinion or reject children’s views before they finish what they have to say, but we owe them the respect to hear them out. It’s what we expect them to do with us.
Ask open questions – We should try to ask children the kinds of questions that will extend interaction; asking them to describe, explain, or share ideas will prolong the conversation.