Teaching listening to children: 5 simple exercises

September 18, 2020

I receive many messages from teachers and parents about teaching listening skills to their children. I’ll be collating various resources over the coming weeks but, for now, here are some quick practical exercises.

4 exercises for teaching listening skills at school

Teaching listening 1: Silence

Help them to consciously experience silence – possibly for the first time in their lives. Teach about it (take a look at this blog post on silence for some ideas) and then work up from short shared silences – maybe one minute to start with – to longer ones. This will be very precious for them, but also very challenging. Ask them to write or talk about their experience of these silences. Whilst this doesn’t have to be a formal meditation, there is plenty of evidence of the positive impact of meditation in schools.

Teaching listening 2: The mixer

Take them to rich aural environments (start inside the school) and have them pair and log all the sound sources they hear.

Teaching listening 3: Savouring

Give them a multi-day project to notice sounds and bring their three favourites in to class to share. If you have the resources do this one small group at a time and have them record the sounds to play to all. You could do the same with sounds they dislike.

Teaching listening 4: Listening positions

The most powerful of all. Pair them up and have A say what they had for breakfast while B listens from different ‘positions’ (for example 1. I’m bored; 2. I want to be friends with this person; 3. I’m in a hurry – please make up your own too). Have the As share their experiences at the end, then the Bs. Swap and repeat. If they understand the principle that you can change your experiences by listening from a different place, that will be a great gift.

Teaching listening 5: RASA (receive, appreciate, summarise, ask)

Have them share about their general experience of being listened to at home, in school and elsewhere (especially by adults), and how it affects their own listening to others. For older students, practise each element of RASA by pairing up again and have listeners turn each element off and on while listening to the other speak and then both people share their experience.

If you need any convincing about how important listening is as a skill, check out this blog post: 5 ways that listening can change your life.

Are you a teacher, parent or carer? Do you have any techniques to teach and encourage conscious listening with your children? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Latest Articles

All Articles

Looks what’s arrived!

I was so excited to get this in the post today! It’s looking beautiful, and I can’t wait for your copies to arrive too.


Judging and happiness: How to break your blaming habits

I was taught this exercise many years ago by a wise old friend named Charlie. I was bemoaning someone being in my way and Charlie put his hand on my arm.


How sound affects our happiness

“In the silence, you tend to meet yourself.” I’m excited to share this new video we’ve made with TED.