Are Active Listening Skills really Active in Your Classroom.
Well, you are not alone.
A lot of relief teachers assume that students will either listen or they won't. They also assume, quite wrongly, that their own teaching actions have little to do with whether students listen.
The truth is quite the opposite. You can either encourage and promote active listening skills or discourage active listening in your classroom.
There are many factors which encourage active listening skills in your classroom.
You may feel like you are saying things over and over without much activity taking place.
Here are a couple of changes you can use to bring about more active listening in your classroom
Talking is what teachers do best. The truth is talking does not always equate to listening. I am absolutely certain you have been in a situation when someone goes on and on and on and on. They think they are getting a message across.
In fact, the opposite is true.
People who "over-talk" seldom get any message through. After a few minutes of listening, attention is likely to wander. Even adults have trouble paying attention to "over talkers"
Talking is our craft. It is the hammer in our teaching tool chest. For most teacher, their voice is the most used and mis-used tool in the repertoire.
A hammer can place a nail perfectly or it can crush a thumb.
Your voice is the same. It can bring about the most exciting learning environment or suck enthusiasm completely out of a class.
Over-talking is the common cause of students turning off and not listening.
You know when you have been over talking, because when you stop everyone suddenly pays attention.
Have you ever left the range hood on over the stove? It drones mercilessly while you are cooking. As soon as you it stops, you get this energised sense of peace.
If you are over talking there is almost no chance that active listening skills are being used. Students will be in tolerance mode. When you stop, students will sit up and move into active listening mode.
The message is simple. Stop talking more often.
There are a lot of teachers who like to micro manage. That is, give instructions for every little activity occurring in your classroom.
That where talking become intrusive, listening becomes less active. In fact, listening to teachers who micro manage is almost painful, especially for students.
Loud is not always good.
Loud can be a powerful tool as well sometimes, but not always. Not every nail needs to bashed by the hammer. Even the thickest plank needs some carefully placed hammer taps.
Get the analogy - thick planks?
Even the thickest boofhead in the class won't always respond to a constant loud voice.
Your voice is your tool. While is can be sometimes be a weapon, it doesn't always needs to be.
Have you ever noticed how increased volume begets increased volume. It happens in the shopping mall, discos and classrooms.
Reducing the volume often requires more active listening skills than less.
Students are more likely to listening more actively to a smaller voice than a bigger one. Students will often lean in towards your direction. Students will also stop fidgeting. They will stop rustling. Most students will tell their partners to stop making any noise as well so they can listen more actively.
Often, with smaller voices, students use a lot of active listening strategies like reading lips, interpreting facial expressions, looking at body language and gesture in an effort to get the message. Listening becomes more intent focussed. Active listening skills are sharpened.
One the other hand, when a loud voice is over used, most students barely even look up.
Students like to be spoon-fed. Actually, most students do. They have built a pattern of learned helplessness which seems to have nurtured them through the school system.
However, learned helplessness does little for independence.
And so too does giving instructions more than once.
In fact, giving instructions repeatedly feeds that learned helplessness. This tends to discourage students from using any active listening skills.
They don't have to. The students know you will step in and give the instructions again.
Giving instructions once creates a sense of anticipation and urgency. Don’t be too eager to provide a safety net. Students will have to use their most active listening skills to ensure they get all instructions needed to move on.
Without the safety net, students will be more invested in their own learning. They will more readily accept some personal responsibility. They simply have to use more active listening skills to be able to participate.
It is best to give some cue that you are about to give instructions. This will provide them with an opportunity to actively listen to your instructions.
Students will benefit if you build protocols around giving instructions. And you will too.
Active listening skills in the classroom are the result of perseverance. While it is easy for classroom teachers to be persistent and consistent, it is not impossible for relief teachers.
The students will have you pegged within the first 10 minutes of the school day. They will pick up the cues early about whether you are a serious teacher or a time filler.
Take some advice. Build the need for active listening skills early in your day.
Quite often you will need to be the first responder in a crisis situation.
This is especially certain if the situation jeopardises the safety of others.
Every crisis is different.
Crisis management calls for a substantiated process of action. Develop a crisis management plan for all of these types of situation.
If you don't have one, use mine.
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