There was time when kids eagerly looked forward to their daily bedtime-story ritual. As a doting grandparent or aunt reads the tiny tot would silently listen, spell-bound by the narrative. Unbeknownst to the child, greater imagination and better flow of thought were qualities being ingrained into him/her, through attentive listening.
Fast-forward to the present day scenario where every one of these kids appear to be super-high on sugar. In this tech-first, intensely competitive world these kids chatter without a pause and provide instant reactions to everything! They have no patience to listen completely and imbibe information, owing to the million distractions around them.
Unfortunately, the current world order is akin to a rat race. To compete in such an environment, we are inadvertently teaching kids to be assertive and loud. So instinctively, kids tend to react even before the person can fully complete a thought. They need to be conditioned to break free of this habit.
It is therefore up to their caretakers and schools to discourage mindless hearing and reward good listening skills. Here is how you can do it:
Step 1: Make Active Listening F.U.N
Children need to be taught that listening involves eyes, ears, and the heart. So, the first step to getting kids to listen is by reducing the number of distractions they are exposed to. Phones, video games and TV are a big NO!
Then get them to understand the full message, not just hear the words. The way you can approach this is to pepper your sessions with interactive activities to encourage listening skills. In this case, lesson plans must be carefully constructed to include these techniques to achieve your goal.
Some of the popular interactive games for honing listening skills range from “Simon Says” (pertaining to following instructions) to “Story Chain” (predict what happens next in a story).
You could also get kids to follow simple cook-book recipes, read aloud. Alternately, there has been much success in turning curricular subject-matter into sounds and music – making it easier to learn and remember.
One could also create a sound motif to accompany the story read out, to help kindergarten children increase comprehension. For kids who do not understand basic language, sounds can help correlate to the theme under discussion. Music is also a great stress reliever, making learning much easier and fun!
Step 2: Participation is key to listening
Encourage kids to ask questions between sessions, or summarise each session at a designated time. Another way to ensure participation is by incentivizing kids to ask each other questions. So, in order to be able to ask questions, you need to have understood the subject matter. This way you know who is listening and who is not.
But you also need to keep tabs on the fact that kids are not continuously badgering the speaker with questions. This defeats the purpose of the exercise. Remember the focus is to listen actively. Asking of questions can happen at scheduled time-slots.
Step 3: Do not repeat the same point
Do not keep repeating the point you are trying to make. This way, you ensure that if the student blocks out what you said the first time, they will feel like they are missing out. Hence, you encourage them to listen carefully from the next time onwards.
Warning: Do not be too boring though, as this could backfire by the child completely zoning off. It is important to ensure you are being engaging enough for the kid to pay attention.
Step 4: Practice what you preach – Be a good role model
At the end of the day, you need to be just as open to listening actively to what the child says to you. Children learn from what they see around them.
Make sure you also teach them to:
• Maintain eye contact
• Politely let the other person speak and internalise what was said
• Keep an open mind and not dismiss anyone’s opinion
• Wait for the speaker to pause before asking questions
• Summarise the entire conversation. This helps the child verify if what he heard is
indeed what the speaker was trying to convey