Help Kids Become Better Listeners!

“Aren’t you glad that you don’t have ears as big as this beagle puppy, class? But we need to use our ears to become better listeners!”

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

In a world that is dominated by Social Media, it is becoming clear that helping kids become better listeners is more challenging, and more important than ever before.


One answer…many children (and adults) seem quick to use Social Media to voice opinions on everything under the sun, but spend less time listening to or recognizing others’ points of view.

As children mature, they need to learn how to do just that to “get along” with others.

Storytelling time offers teachers an engaging way to help kids become better listeners.

Giant Puppy Ears – Find a book that features a character with big ears, like a cute beagle puppy.

Present it to the class and remind kids that we need to use our ears to become better listeners.

Play a Game: Close Your Eyes; Open Your Ears; Speak in Turn! – As you prepare to read a story to the class, instruct students to put their ears to work.

Follow these steps:

1) Pre-select the story your plan to read aloud. Choose one that is new to your class.

2) Gather the class in a reading circle on the floor of your classroom.

3) Announce that in this storytelling game, everyone will get to see the illustrations AFTER they hear the story! Why? “Because,” you explain, “we’re going to CLOSE OUR EYES AND OPEN OUR EARS!”

Remind the class, “Be very quiet while your eyes are closed, and listen carefully to what the story is about.”

4) Begin reading the story, picking and presenting voices that seem to suit the characters in the story you’re sharing with the children.

5) As needed, voice gentle reminders to keep eyes closed. You can even ad-lib with one of the character voices, saying for example, “Justin, this is Farmer Green, a friend of Mrs. Piggly Wiggly, reminding you to close your eyes and open your ears only. Thank you, Justin.”

6) Pause again after more reading, but BEFORE the story ends, and tell the class to open their eyes to play SPEAK IN TURN, the second part of the game.

7) Call on different students by name, one at a time, and ask them questions about the story they’ve heard so far. For example, “Julia, what’s the name of the farmer in the Piggly Wiggly story? It’s your turn to speak, Julia.”

Continue the game with a few more steps that can help children become better listeners…

Synopses of children's stories from around the world include snippets of ear-catching dialog.

Synopses of children’s stories from around the world include snippets of ear-catching dialog.

8) Announce to the class that it’s time to finish the story with EYES and EARS OPEN! Continue reading and show the story illustrations.

9) Ask if the characters look like how students imagined them. Same for the setting and action.

10) Close storytelling time by inviting the class to say aloud in unison, “That’s the end of the story!” followed by the funniest sound they can make that’s relevant to the story they heard (like the oinking sounds of pigs).

Develop Additional Skills – Helping kids become better listeners through storytelling that relies on ears, not eyes, can also help children develop memory skills, the ability to imagine and the ability to stay focused and on task.

In fact, focus is a key word in expert tips for becoming a better listener.

Use four key tips as the basis for age-appropriate activities to help kids become better listeners:

  • Encourage a focus on the person with whom you are communicating, not that person’s opinions.
  • Pay attention to the person speaking, not to distractions all around.
  • Hold off on judging the person in the spotlight (character education) until she/he is finished speaking.
  • Don’t interrupt; wait your turn.

Take Kids Back to Pre-TV and Social Media Days – Add a historical note to the storytelling game outlined in this post by telling students that years ago in the days before television and Social Media, families would gather around the radio to hear stories unfold.

In “radio days” there were no pictures, just voices…dramatic powerful voices.

Radio audiences enjoyed imagining what the elements of the story looked like – the characters, setting and action that the voices described.

Helping children become better listeners will enable them to hear other voices with new appreciation.

Please send comments on how you help children become better listeners.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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