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Help students learn to listen actively

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

The more we help students with vocabulary, grammar, written expression, and active listening skills, so they can articulate what they see and hear, then the better they will understand their world.

We often present information orally in whole-class discussions. The ability to listen actively is crucial to understanding the main points of the discussion. Increased listening skills will enhance student academic performance, they will build social skills, and help students interact with their peers in more effective ways.

The more we can help students to be able to express in words what is in the world, the more they will be able to understand it. The more they can see and hear and understand, the less likely they are to be fooling themselves about what's there.

The world is full of things that are not true. You need a way of finding out what's what.

It's not only that false facts exist in the world — though there are plenty of those — and it's not only that people lie, though they do. It's also that it's hard for some students to know which facts will turn out to be important; to know how much you should trust your own reasoning; to figure out what questions you should ask.

The way you'll get good at all this is by practicing—but some practice is better than none. And some teachers are better than others at helping students learn how to practice on the things that matter most.

Students who master the basic skills we teach them in language arts classes will read and understand much more than they could in elementary school. They'll be able to listen to people talking and follow directions, and give clear directions themselves. They'll be able to write stories and reports, and use computers well enough to do research for papers or make movies.

Students who master the basic skills we teach them in science and social studies will know more about their world than their parents do. And they'll be able to figure out what they don't know by asking questions: What causes that? What would happen if we did this instead? Why do we think that is true?

Students who master those basic skills will be better citizens because they can take part in discussions, ask relevant questions, and formulate opinions about issues. They will also understand better why people think differently from them, by virtue of being able to listen to others' point of view and say what they mean clearly themselves.

Students often do not listen actively and so, they miss important information. This is true for low and middle ability students and those who display a history of poor listening behavior.

Active Listening Strategies

The major benefits of active listening are:

  • Students are engaged and more attentive in the classroom.

  • Students retain more information.

  • Students develop better communication skills.

Students should pay attention to the major point of ideas presented in class discussions and lectures. They should also recognize that there may be different interpretations of the same information. Students should listen for the logic of arguments and recognize that different conclusions can be based on the same data.

  1. Involve the student in the discussion

  2. Place the student in a position of responsibility

  3. Establish a nonthreatening climate

  4. Give the student some freedom as to how to listen actively

  5. Provide practice opportunities

  6. Hold the student accountable for active listening skills

  7. The process of active listening is similar to problem solving. They both require a student to sequence, synthesize, and prioritize information. Active listening -- the key word is active; it demands participation and interaction.

Teachers can help students learn to listen actively

You can't really examine your world until you not only know the names of things, but you also understand the functions of those things, and can see how they all relate to each other.

By studying what we deem as arts and letters, we teach our students that more of their world can be revealed to them; that they can discover more facts about themselves.

We need to begin to sculpt our children into linguist-artists because being an artist means being a designer of culture, society, and civilization.


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