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Ssh! Are you listening?

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Now that you're not teaching in FRONT of the classroom during lockdown, have you pondered about certain aspects of your teaching life?

When forced to remove yourself from your normal day-to-day activities, you often start to see things in a new light.

At least it got me thinking about listening skills in the classroom.  

And it hit me. 

As teachers we often take it for granted that our learners have the ability to listen and understand.  

We seldom take time to sharpen the listening skills as they get older.  

We seldom check for understanding.  

As teachers we just carry on teaching and assume that those who want to learn will listen and those who are ill-disciplined will fiddle and fall behind.

We are SO WRONG.

Listening is as much a skill as is talking.  

In our syllabus we spend quite a bit of time on speaking and very little on listening.  

We assess speeches and conversation skills, spending many a lesson on explaining how the learners should plan a presentation.  On the other hand, we overlook the flipside of the coin.  

If our learners were taught how to listen and their listening skills developed they would be able to:

  • Follow instructions for class assignments
  • Pick up on the tone of your voice when you are serious
  • Understand written work better
  • Follow instructions for assessments better
  • Be less anxious and will ask you to repeat an instruction less

I know, I know your next question is HOW do you up-skill listening skills!

You improve the listening skills of the learners in your class by making them aware of sound and the meaning of sound.

  • This would entail stopping everything and being quiet.  Now ask each learner to listen to sounds far away (like trucks rumbling on the highway in the distance).  Then ask them to listen to sounds that are closer but not inside the classroom (like the cars driving past or the teacher next door talking).  Second lastly you ask them to find a sound within the classroom (like the desks creaking or someone moving).  Lastly you ask them to listen to their own breathing.  This exercise has the added advantage of restoring calm in a classroom and lowering anxiety.
     
  • During a music lesson use various musical instruments and teach the learners the names of these.  Now ask them to close their eyes and identify each instrument by the sound.  For the older learners of grade three you could introduce listening to classical music and asking them to identify musical instruments such as the harp, the violin, the piano and the flute. You will be amazed at how difficult they find this.
     
  • Play a game where the learners have to imitate the sound of water using their hands:
    • Rain splattering on a window pane  (clicking of fingers work well)
    • Running water (rubbing palms together as a group)
    • Big drop of rain dropping into a bowl of water (clicking of the tongues
    • Now sing a song and use some of these “nature sounds” in the song.
       
  • Read to your learners EVERY day.  Keep in mind that few parents still have the opportunity to read out load to the learners since the learners themselves might prefer audio-visual entertainment.  Choose stories that have a strong element of rhyming and rich vocabulary.  Stop from time to time to ask learners to describe events from the story.  Explain “difficult” words.  Use the story time to show grammar in action by pointing out compound words, active and passive voice as well as proper pronunciation.


In conclusion, there is much more to say on the subject and many more games a teacher can play to enhance listening skills in Foundation Phase.  

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