Monday, January 2, 2012


Listening is pretty darn important. One of my classroom expectations is to be a good listener. Every once in a while I get a class that is soooo chatty (some might say disrespectful) that we have to take a time out from the project and do a different kind of lesson based on listening.

This is what I do when "drastic" measures are required.
I'm sure you've all participated in or at least heard of this activity before, but just in case you haven't, here is a description:
Put the students in pairs and give each a number 1 or 2. (Or any other labels you want to use.) I try to sneakily put the students who need the lesson most in the same group*. Tell one group to think of a story they will tell their partner and while they are thinking, tell the other group what their job is going to be. Their job is to be the worst listeners they can be. Tell them to do things that are problems in your classroom when people should be listening. I told them to play with supplies, avoid eye contact, get out of their seats, interrupt, and anything else I could think of. Send the group back to their partners and allow about 2 minutes for the storytelling to take place. You may need even less than 2 minutes. The first time I did this with a class, I had to stop early because students were getting so upset that they weren't being listened to that they started yelling at their partner. Not quite what I had in mind.

After students are sufficiently frustrated, stop them and ask how the storytelling went. Talk about the things that were happening and how it made them feel. I make sure to tell the students that the activity is not a punishment, I just realized that maybe they didn't know what it is like to try to convey information and not have a good listener. Call it forced empathy. Then I have a short, but candid conversation, where I tell them how it makes me feel when I work really hard to plan lessons that I think are important and will be fun for them and have students being disrespectful and not listening. I may play up the hurt feelings just a bit with my younger classes.

If I really need to drive the point home, I have the students write and make an illustration. I recently had to do this with a class of 2nd graders so after our discussion, I gave them paper and asked them to write about why you should be a good listener or how it feels when someone won't listen to you. I added pictures of the most legible papers.

 What have you done to address listening issues in your classroom?


  1. Katie,

    This is probably the biggest issue that all of us face with our students in art class. I really like your idea with the partners and the writing and listening activities. I am always willing to give new ideas a try. Most of my issues are with the 3rd and 5th grades as they are my largest classes. I just had a student teacher finish her time with me before Christmas and when she got fed up(and she was an EXTREMELY calm and controlled person)she would turn off the lights and make the kids put their heads down for a good 10 minutes which to a kid is an eternity. It also depends on which school I'm at during the week because one building has a discipline Administrator and the other two do not. At my "home" school, I don't ever send anyone to the principal because they just get sent right back without any consequences. With really tough cases, I have a deal with the first grade teacher across the hall and I get to send them over there to work at a tiny table in the corner of her room(they hate that!). Usually just the threat of being sent across the hall makes most kids get quiet for the duration. Hope this helps!


  2. I have had to call them out on their behavior a few times. I tell certain people who talk over me to not ask me a question during the lesson. They have to ask their friends instead because they did not listen to instructions. I follow through and won't give them any attention. "So and so needs help, maybe someone in the class will help you because I already explained this and you choose to talk instead of listen." After that a look can usually get them to listen.

  3. What a great idea. It will be trying it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. THANK YOU! I was not familiar at all with this activity and really need to use it with a few classes. I was trying to think of a way for us to "start over" and put the not listening of last semester behind us! What a great idea!!!

  5. I like that you had the children illustrate good or poor listening on their papers. When my classes get too chatty and off task I warn them, "If the talking continues you will earn a 1 minute silent time." So if it does continue and earn the 1 min. silent time. The class works on their art silently, all back on task. Anyone who talks, whispers, makes noises then loses recess time later that day or the next. I give a reminder note to their classroom teacher for that child to arrive in the art room during recess. The student stays with me for about 5 min. I do an intervention then they can leave. It works very well and rarely do student talk during a silent time.

  6. I sub a lot and I can think of numerous occasions this lesson could come in handy! Thanks for sharing.