by Dr. Marvin Marshall
How to Help Kids Learn and Comprehend
Listening is a largely untaught skill that applies to every subject in school and is of paramount importance in good relationships.
I recently spoke to 65 middle level students in a major urban area. The students were using a section of my book, "Discipline without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards," as a source for their conflict resolution discussions. I was there by their invitation and was treated as a celebrity. Almost all wanted my signature. Nevertheless, during my presentation, I felt it necessary to use an attention management approach five times with two variations just to bring their attention back after I made a point or told a story to emphasize a point.
The principal commented afterwards that poor listening skills are what the teachers face on a daily basis.
For a number of reasons, this generation of students needs to be taught active listening skills. Listening with attention--let alone reflection--is mechanical and uncomfortable for many of them. It's like learning how to retype using both hands.
Here are some suggestions for increasing students' attention spans and listening skills.
Teach the five "W's" and the "H." Anything they hear--whether it's a song on the radio or a lecture from a teacher--has a who, what, where, why, when, and a how.
After listening to the five W's" and the "H," students next focus on details. It's not just a bike; it's green with a hard seat, thin tires, shiny spokes, and low handlebars.
After a writing assignment using these factors, have students share what they have written. The listeners repeat what they have heard.
Have students work in small groups using the old rumor clinic approach. Here is how it works. One person is selected to leave the group to return later as the final reporter. One person starts by very quietly whispering a descriptive message to the next person. This process of whispering the message continues until the last person repeats it to the final listener--the person who was in a different location during the sharing process. This student then repeats what was just shared with her/him to the entire group. Students will readily get the point of how important attentive listening is for accurate communications and understanding.
Have students paraphrase to a learning buddy what you have just taught. Then have the learning buddy repeat it.
In small groups, have students practice listening for what is the same and what is different, for points with which they agree and for points in which they disagree. Have them share their thoughts.
Create a series of cards containing what you want students to learn. Note: Students can make the cards from the lessons taught. Students work in groups of four. The first student picks a card. The card is handed to the second student who makes a question from the contents on the card. The third student answers the question. The fourth student restates the question and paraphrases what the previous student said. The cards rotate so that the second person then picks a card, and the process continues.
Remember to use unobtrusive approaches. For example, a teacher can oftentimes tell if students are listening by watching their eyes. If the eyes remain fixed with no blinking or the student is not looking at the teacher or taking notes, the student is vacationing someplace else. Move near the student's desk, call on a student next to her/him, or use the student's name in a sentence.
Although in some subcultures where looking down or away when an authority figure is speaking is the norm, teach that in American culture looking directly at the person shows respect and attention. Looking directly at the person speaking also makes focusing on listening so much easier.
Not much instructional time needs to be invested in listening activities. Short activities practiced regularly are the most effective approach to have students learn one of the most important skills in school and life.
Ideas for implementing the discipline system that promotes both responsibility and learning using concepts of Stephen Covey (proaction), William Glasser (noncoercion), W. Edwards Deming (collaboration and empowerment) and Abraham Maslow (hierarchy and autonomy) is described at http://www.MarvinMarshall.com
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Dr. Marshall's website: http://www.MarvinMarshall.com
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© Dr. Marvin Marshall, 2003.
Questions submitted to Kathleen Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org will be considered by Marv Marshall for responses in future monthly columns in the Teachers.Net Gazette.
Gazette Articles by Dr. Marshall:
- Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence (June 2009)
- Discipline Is a Liberating Word (May 2009)
- Eliciting vs. Punishments (Apr. 2009)
- Habit vs. Awareness for the 3 Practices and for the Hierarchy of Social Development (Mar. 2009)
- How to Be Consistent (Feb. 2009)
- Teaching is an Art, Not a Science (Jan. 2009)
- Tapping Into Internal Motivation (Dec. 2008)
- People Do Better When They Feel Good (Nov. 2008)
- The Brain and Sleep (Oct. 2008)
- Using a Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Hierarchy of Social Development (Sept. 2008)
- 5 Classroom Tips (Aug. 2008)
- Discipline Without Stress, Inc. (July 2008)
- Visualization (June 2008)
- Promoting Responsibility - Or How Not To (May 2008)
- Immaculate Perception (April 2008)
- A System Is Superior To Talent (Mar. 2008)
- To promote responsibility, Elicit Rather Than Impose (Feb. 2008)
- Understanding Boys (Jan. 2008)
- Descartes' Error: I think; therefore, I am (July 2003)
- Metacognition -- Thinking about Thinking Is Essential for Learning (June 2003)
- Listening Lessons -- How to Help Kids Learn and Comprehend (May 2003)
- Approaches of Outstanding Teachers (Apr 2003)
- Using a Discipline Approach to Promote Learning (Mar 2003)
- Curriculum, Instruction, Classroom Management, and Discipline (Feb 2003)
- Learning and Relationships, The two are inseparable (Jan 2003)
- Accountability in Schools (Dec 2002)
- Suggestions For Motivation (Nov 2002)
- Given Names - When NOT to Use Them and when TO Use Them (Oct 2002)
- The Power Of Hierarchies (Sept 2002)
- Use the Language You Want Learned (Aug 2002)
- Observations From Last Year (July 2002)
- How The Horse Whisperer Trains a Wild Mustang in 30 Minutes (June 2002)
- Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation (May 2002)
- Reducing Stress By Promoting Responsibility--Rather than by Attempting to Manipulate Behavior (Apr 2002)
- Rules Vs. Expectations (Mar 2002)
- How to Achieve 100 Per Cent Student Participation (Feb 2002)
- Positivity, Choice, and Reflection Exercise for Students (Jan 2002)
- Learning Climate (Dec 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 3) (Nov 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 2) (Sep 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 1) (May 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 2) (Apr 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 1) (Mar 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (pt 2) (Feb 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (Jan 2001)
- Home Assignments (Dec 2000)
- Collaboration is the Key (Nov 2000)
- Classroom Meetings (Aug 2000)
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