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