Any child can improve their listening skills, especially when they are taught in a way that is great fun! We rarely focus on developing listening in young children, but using a few simple games every day can lead to a life-long ability.
Even better, these games require no preparation, no experience, and no supplies. Once learnt, these games can fill an odd moment with an exciting distraction, helping children learn to amuse themselves whilst they wait relatively quietly for the next activity to begin.
Word At A Time (also known as “WAAT?!”)
This is a game for two or more players. The goal is to improvise a story, by saying one word each, creating complete sentences and trying to make a coherent story.
1. Keep the story in the first person, eg. “one..day..I..went..to..the..beach…”
2. If the story is going nowhere, interject with “suddenly..” as this forces something to happen
3. A good way to end is “the..moral..of..the..story..is..” which can be interjected as a whole phrase
Demonstrate this activity after a quick practice with another adult, as it is easier to demonstrate than explain. For very young children, follow the demonstration with one child and one or two adults. The adults will usually be able to make a sort of story come out no matter what the child contributes!
Just remember, beginning, middle, and end. Once you have trained your group, you can do this in twos, threes, fours, fives, and even at a distance by texting or emailing.
Players are forced to listen in order to make the story come out. No one can control the story, so it is also a good game for improving teamwork.
Speaking In One Voice (also known as SPIIV)
This is a game for two or more players, usually no more than six. The players stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a horseshoe shape, with their arms around each other if possible. The players become one person and the teacher interviews this “famous person” as if for a radio or tv show. The players must speak with one voice, in the first person, all together By listening hard to each other they will be able to negotiate their words.
1. Begin by introducing your multi-headed person as an expert in some field, such as Crayon Master, the maker of the world’s best yoghurt, winner of the broccoli-eating contest, or some such invented speciality.
2. Ask the person for their name. Once this is negotiated, ask a couple of yes/no questions to build confidence, then ask for the secret of their success.
3. Finish by asking for their number-one tip for students of their craft, then thank the expert profusely and have them bow and accept applause.
Players must listen to each other and ‘agree’ in the moment on what is being said. This heightens their awareness of what others are saying.
This game forces players to work together. If one player constantly dominates, either switch them out, encourage others to lead instead, or put them on silence for 20 seconds.
Prepare for surprising answers to your questions and take your cues from whatever your expert says. This game also improves the listening skills of the interviewer!