In my last post, I talked about my presentation norms that I use in my class. Today, I'm going to address another important part of a class discussion: listening. For most kids, listening is a passive activity. It is our job to teach them to be active listeners. These are the strategies I use to teach my students to be active listeners in class.
1. Listen carefully. The first one is pretty obvious and speaks for itself. If you're not paying attention, it's hard to hear what someone else has to say!
2. Write down questions, comments or notes. I think we all fall into the trap of thinking that we will remember what we want to say, what question we wanted to ask, etc.. when it is our turn to contribute. The reality is that if we jot down notes to ourselves, we are far more likely to remember things. Making sure that students always start with a piece of paper in front of them, even if it's just a scrap of paper or a post-it, is very important in making sure that students are active listeners.
3. Be ready to summarize what the speaker said... This requires a focused kind of listening. This requires that students be more ACTIVE in their listening. As students try to do this, I think it also requires them to really think about whether or not they understand the explanation that is being give. This leads to the second half of this expectation.
4. ......or ask the speaker a question. It was really important to me that my classroom listening norms leave room for students to NOT understand. I always want to send the message that it is OK to struggle and not understand, as long as you're still trying and working. At the same time, I want students to know that not understanding doesn't mean that you don't participate. This expectations gives students a way to stay active and involved even when they don't understand.
5. Think about how your strategy compares. I want a classroom that is open to many strategies. By comparing strategies, students can see more clearly how strategies compare. The more students get used to comparing strategies, the more likely they can start to pick the best strategy for the given problem.