Listening is always a problem with a new group of students.
You can count on it.
Dwelling on it or complaining about it—as many teachers are wont to do—is a waste of time.
The effective teacher is only concerned with what they can control. They’re only concerned with the actions they must take to fix the problem.
They meet their students where they are, and then show them the way up.
When it comes to developing good listening, the key is to speak in a way that will cause your students to tune in naturally.
It’s to make the act of listening to you a habit.
Stand in one place.
Standing in one place encourages your students to focus on you. It settles restlessness. It calms excitability. It removes many of the distractions and obstacles that interfere with listening, so that your highlighted voice becomes the most prominent stimuli in the room.
Soften your voice.
Most teachers talk too loud, believing that it helps students pay attention. But the truth is, it does the opposite. It makes them passive and disinterested. It discourages them from looking in your direction and tuning you in.
Good listening is active. It requires students to lean in and follow your lips, facial expressions, and body language. It requires them to meet you halfway, to do their part, and to seek out meaning and understanding. The good news is that students do this intuitively when you soften your voice.
Stop repeating yourself.
Repeating yourself effectively removes any reason for your students to listen to you the first time. It grooves the habits of passivity and learned helplessness and weakens the power of your words.
When you say it once, on the other hand, and expect them to get it, you encourage active listening, engagement, and relevant, pointed questions.
Cut the fat.
The fewer words you use, the better your students will listen. This underscores the importance of staying focused and on topic, of providing only what your students need to be successful.
Keep your thoughts, fillers, and digressions to yourself. They only water down your message and lessen its impact.
Remembering to pause will give your students a moment to download the previous information. It also makes you more interesting. It infuses your words with depth, importance, authority, and when needed, drama.
Pausing also allows you to check for understanding. In time, you can become remarkably accurate assessing comprehension simply by pausing to take notice of their expressions.
Focus on doing.
When speaking to your students, as much as possible, focus on what you want them to do. This is inherently more interesting to students and immediately activates their visualization powers. They automatically see themselves in their mind’s eye doing what you ask.
Furthermore, successful classrooms are action-oriented. They’re productive and active and locked-in on completing their objectives. Even lining up to leave the classroom is an opportunity to do something well.
It’s About You
Many teachers can be overheard lamenting the poor listening in their classroom, but their solution to the problem rarely has anything to do with them. In their mind, their students are the problem.
So they harp on the importance of good listening. They put their frustrations on display. They show a complete lack of faith in their students by incessantly moving about their room, increasing their volume, and repeating their words.
But good listening isn’t about the students. It’s about the teacher.
It’s about speaking in a way that leaves no one behind, that empowers students to tune in, that provides the conduit through which active, tenacious listening becomes a habit.
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