Getting Kids to Pay Attention – Part 1 Listening Comprehension Tips

Boy oh boy do you know this….paying attention is so important to learning….but so many kiddos have such a hard time with it, don’t they?  Whether they have ADD, would rather play games, have a not so great home life…or a zillion other reasons, they still need to pay attention to learn.  So howzabout some tips for helping them to pay attention?

This week, let’s start with listening. It was so great to see that listening has made its way back into the standards wasn’t it?  And the other day, I heard that the intermediate teachers were saying that their students really needed work on listening comprehension.  That’s a pretty crucial skill for learning! I wonder though, do students know that it’s important?  Do they know how to pay attention and listen well?  After all, we don’t usually take the time to teach that in school.  But what if you start by teaching them why it’s important and how to do it?  Would that make a difference for your students?
If you have a class…or a few kiddos…that are having a hard time with listening attention, try teaching them why it is important.  Then, do a few of these fun activities to help them practice.  It’s worked well for me over the years, so maybe give it a try. I bet it will help.  

1. Play a cd of nature songs and ask students to write every sound they hear.  (Or the little kiddles may draw them.) How many sounds did they miss?  Ask them -What if you were reading a story to them and they missed some things like that.  Would the story make sense?  Would it be as interesting?

2. Show a photo or picture of a busy city scene, a woodland forest scene, or other scene that would have lots of sounds.  Have them list all the sounds that they would hear if they were in that scene.
Explain how it helps them pay attention to what’s happening in the story if they can “hear” in their mind what it would sound like.

3. Put a selection of items behind a file folder that is standing up on a desk.  Ask one student to come and make a sound with one of the objects, while keeping it out of sight from the other students.  Ask the other students to listen carefully and either write down, or tell, what they think the object was? Did they get it right?  Ask them – What did you have to do to figure it out?  Would it be important to do those same things in class when the teacher is talking or reading a book to them?

4. Read a story aloud to the students and leave out many important words that you have pre-selected.  Read it as naturally as if it was supposed to be like that.  Don’t tell the students you will be doing that.  Wait for them to notice and figure out what’s going on.  It’s a fabulous way to get the idea across – that listening is important!  (True confessions – One time I did this with first graders and they didn’t even notice!  Eek!  When I asked them to retell the story, they couldn’t do it in a way that made sense, of course! After dramatically acting out how confused I was, then reading it again slowly with with emphasis on the missing words, they got the point. But it worked!!! Phew – talk about making the teacher work for it!)

5. Telephone Game – An oldie but goody.  Line up the students and whisper some directions to the first student.  Something that they haven’t heard already in class…..Maybe some important steps in solving a math problem – “More on top no need to stop.  More on the floor go next door and get ten more.”  Or maybe some steps for a new type of writing or editing that you will be doing. “CUPS  equals Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, Spelling”  Then each student turns to the next in line and whispers it to that student.  This continues until the message gets to the last student in line.  The last student says the message out loud.  Is it the same as what you told the first student?  What would happen if we didn’t listen well when the teacher was teaching one of these things to you?  Things wouldn’t turn out correctly would they?

Well there you go.  A few ideas for working on listening attention.  If you don’t need them now, maybe tuck them away for the weeks that come after Spring Break.  You know, when they have all checked out and seem as if they lost their ears?  (I see you nodding your head…it must happen in your class too. Wink, wink!)

Happy teaching to you!


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