To develop listening skills in children

Last Updated : 19 December 2019, 00:30 IST

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Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her.
Many a thing she ought to understand.
But how do you make her stay and listen to all you say...

These lines from the nuns’ song in the immortal classic Sound of Music never fail to bring on a smile. But if you were a primary school teacher, you would probably have your eyebrows knotted, because the lines echo your query too. How do you make the first, second, third, fourth and fifth-grade kids listen to all or, at least something of what you say?

Demanding task

The primary classes have always been the hardest for any teacher to handle. Children of this age are notoriously disobedient, easily distracted and extremely energetic and playful. Teachers often compare the crowded classrooms to ‘fish markets’. Teachers complain that the majority of the kids in the primary classes are distracted and fidgety and it is a demanding task for any teacher to get them to listen to what she or he has to say. To make matters worse, this behaviour is seen to be highly infectious; it starts with a handful, quickly spreads and soon the whole class becomes inattentive and restless!

Where the child is not clinically diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, psychologists list a set of reasons that could be making the child inattentive in class. Insufficient sleep, poor nutrition, sugar-rich foods are among the top physiological causes in this list. Disinterest and the lack of motivation are the other commonly cited reasons for a child to lose focus in class.

In addition to the above, we now have a modern-day contributor. Children today lack practice in taking in pure auditory inputs.

Right from the time they are babies in the crib, modern-day children are bombarded with a variety of visual stimulation. Since toys with blinking lights, bright colours, and moving parts amuse and hold the child’s attention more effectively than a simple rattle, the toy industry has gone overboard and flooded the market with a variety of alluring toys. This continues into the toddler stage with the child’s engagement, entertainment, and education is predominantly through appealing and enticing visual inputs.

Sounds and words play only a secondary role in what the child sees on the screen. So much so that a child entering the first grade is accustomed to having screen stimulation to sustain interest. Since, in a regular classroom, the bulk of the teaching is given as pure auditory inputs, many children are unable to sustain focus in class.

Auditory input refers to both what we hear and how we listen. Since the weight of the syllabus in the primary classes is less, a teacher can introduce various activities designed to improve the pupils’ listening skills.

Various types of recorded music played in the classroom work wonders in getting kids to calm down and take in auditory input.

Include story listening session as an everyday activity in class. Age-appropriate stories work very well with children of all ages. In addition to their entertainment value, stories are also very effective learning tools.

Grade-appropriate, but simple arithmetic problems may be given out at dictation speed by the teacher. The students are to listen carefully and write the answer in their notebooks. Initially, many children may have difficulty holding the numbers in mind and calculating, but with practice, they are bound to get better. This again must be done on an everyday basis, with not more than 5 sums per session.

Old style dictation of words from the lesson could be taught in the day. The difference could be that the children are to have the book open and refer to the lesson. This activity may be scheduled for the last slot in the day. This will serve the added purpose of the students revisiting the lessons taught earlier in the day.

Introduce an activity which may be called “Repeat-it”. For this, have each child write his or her name in a square bit of paper, double fold it and drop into a box. The teacher to read out a sentence from the book (in slow, clear tone), pick a name from the box at random. The child whose name is called will have to recall the sentence read and repeat it. Stars to be awarded for accuracy.

Using their ingenuity, teachers may come up with any number of activities that call for focused attention. The point to be remembered is that each activity must be carried out at the same time of the day, and on a regular basis for at least a month. This will ensure that the activities are understood as a part of the learning process and not as classroom entertainment.

Published 19 December 2019, 00:30 IST

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