September 24, 2006

Modeling Active Listening and Not Interrupting

Lesson from Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney. What follows is a slightly modified quote found on page 109-111

"I am going to demonstrate [active] listening, so imagine that Ms. Jones is sharing a story at meeting time and I am a good listener. Watch me." (Ms. Jones is the assistant teacher and has been recruited for this modeling.) Ms. Jones begins to tell about their trip to the museum. I sit still, facing her, and when she finishes, I raise my hand and ask a question.


After Ms. Jones answers my question, I ask the class, "What did you notice I did as a [active] listener?"
  • You looked at Ms. Jones
  • You didn't fidget or anything
  • Yes. I kept my body still.
  • You raised your hand.
  • When?
  • You waited until she was done to raise your hand.
  • You asked a question
Summarizing and Reminding

I summarize and remind students of the discussion that just took place. "[Active] listeners are still, look at the speaker, and raise their hands with a question after the speaker is finished. Remind me, what's one thing you do when you listen? Who else remembers something?

Have students demonstrate

Now it's a student's turn to demonstrate. "Who thinks they can show us how to be an [active] listener?" I ask. (I may reset the stage with anew speaker or use the same exact setup as before.)

Repeat Noticing

I then ask the class for responses to the student's demonstration. I might ask, "What was one thing you noticed that showed Alisha was listening?" or "Who noticed something Alisha said that showed she listened?" To stretch children's observation skills, I ask, "Who noticed one more thing Alisha did to show she was listening carefully?"

Everyone Practices

The lesson isn't complete until everyone has a chance to practice the behavior. In this case, it is easy to have everyone practice listening in the circle. Sometimes the behavior is practiced later, in the context of the day.

Paradoxical modeling

After children 'get' the appropriate behaviors, it may be effective to model how not to do the behaviors, using real examples we've seen from the class. I never cite names or make fun of individuals, but when I model what is clearly them, they are amused and know that I've been watching. I might use examples like the following:
  • "Is this [active] listening? Why not?" (I model rapt concentration on my shoelaces.)
  • "Is this [active] listening?" (I wave my hand madly through the presentation.)
  • "Is this [active] listening?" (I send hand signals across the room to a friend.)
  • "Is this [active] listening?" (I ask a question that the speaker has already answered.)

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