Knowing how to listen is the cornerstone to effective communication. Students cannot be successful in school if listening skills are not developed and honed. Teachers can assess students' listening skills by conducting a few simple activities. Record the results from the activities and develop an action plan addressing how to improve listening skills if needed. If you believe hearing is a problem, and not listening advise the student's parents to consult an audiologist.

Perform a listening/writing exercise. Provide each student with an activity sheet you can obtain from Healthy Schools of Mississippi (see Resources) and either a pencil or pen. Read directions aloud and ask the students to write down exactly what you say. For example, ask them to place a dot on the letter "i." Next ask them to write the word, Xerox in the spaces provided on the activity sheet. The idea is to have the students write and structure their paper according to your verbal directions.

Review and answer questions based on the activity. Ask students to show the class the answer for each verbal command to determine if directions were followed.

Furnish every student with a discussion activity sheet based on the first activity. Students will answer questions based on responses such as, "why do you think you responded incorrectly" or "does your response prove that directions may be ambiguous and need greater clarity?"

Conduct a group listening activity where students can observe each other's listening skills. Divide the group into two teams. Have one team form an inner circle and the other team form an outer circle around team one. Ask the inner circle group to discuss a topic of your choice such as "animals" or an upcoming dance.

While the inner group is chatting, ask the outer group analyze the inner group's listening skills. The outer group must rate each member of the inner group's listening skills from one being the lowest, "does not listen to speaker; absorbed in own thoughts" to five being the best, "shows by comments that he or she understands the feelings behind others' comments."

Rotate teams so the outer group becomes the inner group and the original inner group can do the rating. Assess this activity by measuring each student's involvement in the discussion. Use student-based ratings to assist you with your review.