Learning to listen
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By Karen Hartwriter

Hearing and listening are two very different things, and it’s within this difference that many learning difficulties arise – not just in nursery and primary, but also secondary and beyond.

Children listening

Children often assume that if they’re sitting quietly, they’re listening, but how much of what’s just been said by teacher has actually registered? Some children, it seems, are naturally good at becoming engaged, while others will, quite possibly unintentionally, use teacher instruction time as their cue to daydream. The trick is to get children tuned in – and it’s never too early to start.

Keeping things fun is always the best way to grab attention. Try out some of the following tried and tested games, using concentration skills to engage children and keep them on task. Once you’ve secured their concentration the listening becomes automatic.

Repetitive stories

Storytelling naturally encourages listening skills, and one of the best ways of focusing attention at storytime is by telling repetitive stories and rhymes. This allows children to follow the story, listening out for and joining in with the repetitive sections.

A good story to use is The Gingerbread Man, where children can try to remember all the characters trying to catch the gingerbread man, calling out the list of names. Children need to concentrate to remember everyone in the correct order, and they love the challenge.

Some other books and rhymes to use could be:
  • The Enormous Turnip
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Ten in the Bed
  • The Little Red Hen
  • Old Macdonald had a Farm
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
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  1. michelem
    on 8 August 2014

    learning to listen

    Of course, we often use these methods to encourage listening...but, sometimes it's good to have a fresh look at the reasons FOR DOING....good CPD

    I'm going to add one or two more prominently to my planning re: learning through sounds/themed activities.

  2. Feps
    on 17 January 2013

    learning to listen

    although i think most of these things were in the back of my mind to read them in one block was very helpful and interesting - good information

  3. Davinia
    on 14 January 2013

    Learning to listen

    Really comprehensive list of activities. These need very few props and those needed are very easy to find. Very useful as most groups have children who have problems with listening even if it is just for a short period of time when they have something on their mind such as moving house, new baby in family etc

  4. Caretta
    on 12 January 2013

    Learning to listen

    Many of these ideas I was familiar with already but I scanned through and picked up a couple of things like the memory matching game using old cards cut in half. Thanks for this simple idea and recycling tip! I was also delighted to come across the idea of filling icecream cones with fruit. I bought some half price recently and was wondering what I could do with them that would be healthy. There is so much that could be done with this to improve their listening skills, comprehension, vocabulary and mathematical skills. Thank you!