Learning to listen is a skill many parents try to teach their children well before primary school. However, once in elementary school, not listening becomes more than just an inconvenience or even a safety issue. To achieve success in school, children must learn to practice active listening to receive instruction, understand assignments and to interact positively with their classmates. Whether you are a parent or an educator, there are activities you can engage primary school students in to develop their listening skills.
One simple game that children from kindergarten through sixth grade can learn from is telephone. Divide students into groups of six or seven, and ask the children to raise their hands if they think they are good listeners. Select one student from each group to receive a whispered message from you. Give them instructions about how the game works and tell them to go back to their groups and relay both the game instructions and the message. Tell the groups the team who successfully repeats the message from you is the winner. Instruct leaders to whisper that same message to the person on their right, who then whispers the message to the person on his right, and so on. The person sitting to the immediate left of the leader writes the message down on a piece of paper and hands it to you. When all groups are finished, share the group answers with the class and share your original message. If a student didn't understand how to play, discuss the importance of listening and how listening was the key to winning the game.
Explain to students that you are going to practice listening as a class and then repeating what was said to see who really heard what was shared. Call a student forward to tell the class what his favourite colour is. Then, call on the next student to share both what his favourite colour is as well as the favourite colour of the person before him. Call on a third student to share her favourite colour along with the favourite colour of the second student. Continue on with this exercise until all students have shared. If someone forgets what was shared before him, gently ask the student to try again. Discuss things that prevent active listening, such as daydreaming or thinking too much about what you, the hearer, are going to say without listening to the person speaking.
Perform a role playing exercise to model active listening to the class. Select a student to share what's been happening in her life over the past week. Model active listening by looking at the student the entire time she speaks, reacting to what she shares and repeating back portions of what she shares to her. Then, ask the class what actions you took to show that you were listening. Let students role play active listening in pairs with each other, allowing two minutes for each student to talk about a topic. Encourage students not to interrupt, to focus on the speaker, to accept the person's feelings without judgment and to show by your tone of voice and friendly expression that you are interested in what the other person is saying.
Present a topic to your class such as, "Some people think kids should go to school all year with no summer off. What do you think?" and solicit discussion from the students about the topic. Call on students, one at a time, to share their opinions. After the first student shares, require all students to paraphrase what the student before them said before sharing their own opinion. Ask the first student who spoke to paraphrase what the last student shares at the end of the exercise. You can perform this exercise either as a whole class or by splitting up students into smaller groups of six to eight.
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