When I ask middle and high school teachers about their thoughts on teaching listening comprehension in their classrooms, there is a mixed bag of responses. Some teachers have success integrating listening activities throughout their units of instruction and other teachers find it difficult to fit in.

Think back to when you were in school, did your teacher work on developing your listening skills?  Now, think back to college- how did you use your listening skills in your courses? I can honestly say that I don’t recall learning specific listening skills-other than “Listen up!”. In college most of my learning was through lectures which I wasn’t fully prepared for.  The amount of listening comprehension students need in college is exponentially greater than their earlier experiences. We want students to be successful in college and in their careers and by incorporating listening skills in our instruction purposefully, we are giving them an asset to learning.

What is the importance of listening comprehension for students?

Getting Smart posted an article titled, “Listening is a 21st-Century Skill”[1]They discuss research that shows students can listen more than 2 grade levels above what they read. This research determines that listening comprehension is of importance for students.  Students in middle and high school need listening tasks that are more sophisticated than talk and turn, or think, pair, share which are wonderful tasks and have a place. When students enter the workplace or college, they need strong listening skills that integrate critical thinking skills, so they can listen and actively participate in meetings and in lectures.

How do we get students to be great listeners?

One way is to specifically teach students listening skills that they can internalize and take with them.  Mirrors and Windows curriculum includes speaking and listening workshops for each grade level. In these lessons, students will learn how to be an active listener- by not only paying attention but also by writing down questions as they listen.  Mirrors and Windows also includes audio with many of their selections. Students can practice listening to the selection and having a discussion with classmates based on prompts from the guided reading questions.

How can technology help support listening skills?

With EMC’s Passport, FlipGrid and Avenue are digital tools that focus on these skills. With Flip Grid, you provide your students tasks that meet speaking standards. They record themselves and you can assess their skills. When you create tasks in Avenue, you provide speaking and listening tasks as well. Avenue provides a teacher-student interaction which enables specific feedback and growth.

A student’s 21st century skill will be listening and as we prepare them for the future let’s think about how we can get them to not only talk and listen but to be active talkers and listeners.


[1] http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/02/listening-is-a-21st-century-skill/


Making Listening Comprehension Stick

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