Listening is a skill that is a lifelong process and our students with attention and social cognitive difficulties need to continually work on active listening. I like to use the term active listening instead of whole body listening with my middle and upper elementary students for several reasons. First, although active listening includes whole body listening, there is more of an emphasis on understanding the speaker’s message. Second, as my students get older, they naturally rebel against labels they consider to be “babyish”. If I use the term “whole body listening”, many of my students balk! The term active listening sounds more mature, bypassing an adolescent barrier.
Here are some activities I like to incorporate into my sessions to address active listening skills:
- Have students say the word “spot” five times quickly. Then ask “what do you do at a green light?”
- Ask students “what does “R-O-A-S-T spell” then “what does C-O-A-S-T spell”? Then ask, “what do we put in a toaster”? Most will say “toast” when you really put bread in a toaster.
- If you take two apples from three apples, what do you have? Answer: you have 2 apples!
Simon Says: Although this is typically a game for younger children, it can be adapted to older kids by incorporating more complex or silly directives. For example, “Simon says high five your neighbor.”
Storytelling: Have students tell a story in which each student adds just one word to the story at a time. The first student says just one noun, then each other student adds a word until everyone has contributed. For a variation, have students add one line at a time to the story.
Telephone: This is a fun group exercise that shows how information can become distorted as a result of passive listening. One person begins the game by whispering a sentence (prepare this ahead of time) to the person after them. The person who received the messages should then whisper it to the person after them, and so on. By the time it gets to the final person in the group, they should say the message aloud. The first person will read the sentence they were given, and participants can note how much the two have changed.
Background Noise: Background noise interferes with your ability to listen actively. An activity that challenges students to focus on listening while inhibiting background noise is to put on competing noise while giving information. This could be anything from white noise to music to a radio a broadcast. I like to start with short intervals of giving directions or information with competing noise and gradually increasing the amount of time/information.
I also like these free visuals from Autism Teaching Strategies.
Here are a few YouTube videos that focus on active listening:
You might want to also check out my resource available in my TpT store:
Engaging them in fun listening activities will hopefully motivate them to practice more listening and take advantage of all opportunities around them.
How do you get your students excited for listening practice?