Classroom Games to Practice Good Listening

Listening is a skill that takes discipline and practice.
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Hearing and listening are not the same thing. A challenge for the classroom teacher is guiding students from simply hearing sounds to active listening, or understanding and responding to spoken messages. Listening is a skill that requires discipline and practice. It should not be overlooked when planning lessons.

1 Listening Discriminately

Listening, in its most basic form, is called discrimate listening, or being able to distinguish different sounds from one another. To practice this skill, record different sounds and play them back to your students. Ask them to identify the sounds. You might record sounds like birds chirping, construction workers hammering or a toaster popping up. Have students close their eyes and bring someone to the front of the class. Have a student speak, and see if classmates can recognize who it is by the voice. To practice listening phonetically, say a word and ask students to say another word that begins with the ending sound of the word you pronounced.

2 Listening to Follow Directions

Teaching students to follow directions can be a challenge for classroom teachers. Playing this game will give students practice listening carefully to a set of instructions they must follow. Hand out index cards to students. On your own index card, draw a simple shape without letting students see it. Then, accurately describe to them how to draw the same image. You might say, “Starting from the top of the card, directly in the center, draw a line from the top to the bottom. Then, starting from the side of the card, directly in the center, draw a line across the card to the other side.” Ask students to hold up their cards to see how well their shape matches yours. Start with simple instructions and increase in complexity as listening skills develop.

3 Listening for Comprehension

When children are listening for comprehension, they should understand the main idea, sequence the events, draw conclusions and determine cause and effect. Divide the class into groups. Read short paragraphs from children’s books and give the group members time to consult and give a unified answer as to what the main idea of the paragraph is. When a group gives a correct answer, they earn points. Points can be “cashed in” for classroom incentives. Make up sentence strips that require students to determine cause and effect. For instance, “When Sally smiled, we could see that her teeth and her tongue were blue.” Put the sentence strips in a basket or hat. Have students take turns picking a sentence from the basket and determine a cause, such as, “She had just eaten a blue popsicle.”

4 Listening Critically

Listening critically is a more complex skill that requires the listener to listen for clues to the speaker’s specific purpose, attitude or bias. To help students understand this, record some age-appropriate television commercials and play them in the classroom. Ask the students questions like, What is the purpose of the commercial? What is it trying to achieve? What clues tell you this? What important information might be left out that would be important for you to know? You could also record scenes from popular TV shows or movies and ask the same thing about what different characters are doing and saying.

Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.