Ready to Listen?

Are you ready to listen?

Is everyone listening?

Are your ears switched on?

These are questions that we hear in every class in school, especially at the beginning of the year.  Being a good listener helps children with all the things they do in school. It helps them to understand lessons, chat to their friends and play games in the playground.  Children growing up now need to listen as much as ever but it is far harder for them to develop these skills because of so many competing demands for their attention.

What can parents do at home to help their child be one of the children who are ready to listen to their teacher?

  • Get eye contact first – children starting school typically have single channelled attention. This means that they need to look in order to listen. You can see this when you try to talk to a child watching their favourite TV programme and you can almost see the words bouncing off them! If you call their name and wait for them to look towards you before you speak you will be giving them the best chance to listen to you. Praising them when they do look towards you will help them to understand why this is helpful “you are looking at me now so I know you are ready to listen!”
  • Keep your language simple – the less you say then the more likely they are to keep listening to you. Cutting out unnecessary language, especially at the beginning of an instruction will help to keep children focused to the end of what you are saying.
  • Turn it down. Turn it off – Young children find it really hard to screen out background noise in order to listen to you. You are much better at doing this and may not even notice how much noise you are competing with. You can help your child by turning off the background noise when you are chatting.
  • Be a good role model – Your child will copy what you do so make sure that you look towards them when they are talking and give them time to finish. This lets them know that you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Manage screen time – Technology has many fantastic benefits for your child. Today’s children have opportunities and experiences that previous generations could not have even imagined. However, research tells us that screens can’t prepare a child for the finely tuned, subtle turn taking of listening and interacting in the real world. Only people can do that!

Treat technology as you would any other environment your child spends time in and put limits on it. Grown-ups need to be the ones in charge of screen time and the easiest time to establish these boundaries is when they are very young.

Using some easy strategies at home can help your child to become a good listener. It’s a skill that will help them throughout their school life, both learning in the classroom and playing with their friends.

Liz and Jacqui are the joint authors of  ‘Teaching Children to Listen’ and ‘Teaching Children to Listen in the Early Years’ published by Bloomsbury.