Listening skills are important in life. They are vital to building communication within the home, the school and the place of work. Listening forms an active role in conversations, and building listening skills in elementary students is a crucial part of education. Listening is important for several other skills in language acquisition. Reading depends on how well elementary students listen. Students need to hone their phonemic awareness, which is the ability to recognize the elements of oral language that reading is dependent on. Students can only make sensible conversation if they learn to listen well besides contributing relevant verbal responses. Activities for elementary students to build listening skills should therefore focus on not only the ability to reproduce sounds but also the ability to comprehend what they are listening to.
The listening skills inventory (2008) was the brain child of a collaboration between RFB&D (Recording for the Blind and Deaf, Incorporated) and the New York City Educational Vision Services available to develop a listening and teacher training curriculum for the visual- and hearing-impaired. The skills are split into four standards, each standard containing three grade levels. The inventory can be used as a pre-assessment at the beginning of the year and as a post-assessment at the end of the year to show how much the students have learnt, and what the students will have to learn in the next course of studies. Although the inventory was designed for the visual- and hearing-impaired, it lists a range of standards that can be applied to students with normal speech and hearing abilities. Activities designed to help students achieve these standards therefore can apply to all elementary students.
* Activities to develop Listening for Phonemic Awareness
Students can be given groups of words with the same beginning, middle vowel or end sounds, except for one word that students have to identify. Other activities include locating a word to rhyme with a given word, identifying words that do not rhyme with the others in a given group of words read out to them, or simply saying words that rhyme with a given sound or word.
* Activities to develop Listening for Information and Understanding
The game Telephone Line is a favorite that has lasted through decades. Each group of students form a line. The first student in each group is given a message that he takes back to the next person in line. He can only whisper it to the next person who then whispers it to the third person and so on. The last person then says aloud the message. The group that has passed down the most complete sentence, wins. Active students will love to play ‘Simon Says’ which tests their ability to sieve out relevant information and respond accordingly.
Teachers can tell short stories to promote active listening in class. Students can also take turns to read out a prescribed story or tell their own, then ask their group mates questions based on the story that they have read aloud. Students can also demonstrate their understanding by responding in writing short summaries based on the story that they have heard or arrange prescribed sentences in the order given in the story.
* Activities to develop Language for Literary Response and Expression
Elementary students love to listen to stories told by their teachers. As in activities to develop listening for information and understanding, teachers can tell short stories to promote active listening in class, or students can take turns to read out a prescribed story or tell their own, then ask their group mates questions based on the story that they have read aloud. Students can also demonstrate their understanding by responding in writing short summaries based on the story that they have heard, and answer questions that promotes literary response and expression.
* Activities to develop Language for Social Interaction.
Class games and small group discussions are vital to help students learn to take turns and respond to others. Teachers and administrators alike must understand that students will go through a period of unproductive noise until they learn to listen well and wait their turns before they start talking while others are in the midst of speaking. Teachers will have to practice active listening skills and learn to distinguish between the productive and non-productive noises and learn to prompt their students to take turns and respond to others.
An easy way to help students take turns is to give each group an item that represents a turn to speak. Only the student with the item will be allowed to speak. ‘Show and Tell’ and ‘Circle Time activities promote taking turns to speak and respond in a conversation. Other ways include having the turn to respond only when the speaker makes eye contact with or gives the ‘Turn to speak’ item to the selected student.
By selecting the correct type of activities to match student response preferences, students can learn lots through listening activities. Allow them to go through different kinds of listening activities to develop their listening skills.