Oracy: Developing great listening

Learning to talk involves developing a pupil’s listening skills as well as spoken language. Attentive listening is a skill without which there can be a complete breakdown in communication in the classroom. As teachers we must explicitly model and teach this to pupils.

Sinek says there are five types of listening. The minimum we should be aiming for is stage 4 attentive listening. At this stage we are listening to make sure that we understand the other person’s perspective. Stage 5, empathetic listening, implies we are listening from the other person’s perspective, from their frame of reference, seeing the world through their eyes. We are listening without judging the speaker.

To model effective listening, teachers should try to:

  1. Demonstrate attention (physical body language, clarifying & summarising)
  2. Show curiosity and interest (“I love that. What made you think…”)
  3. Embrace silence and shut out distractions#

To teach effective listening, teachers should:

  1. Explain the why – “When we listen, we learn”
  2. Explain the how – physical body language, silence, curiosity, etc
  3. Ask pupils to summarise and elevate
  4. Get pupils to ask questions
  5. Celebrate great listeners!

Having explicit talk rules to convey this helps, as well as talk roles that require pupils to listen carefully in order to be able to respond with a specific perspective.

Here is a handout summarising strategies to develop great listeners.

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