The New Black Friday: Listen Up!

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Do you know what the Friday after Thanksgiving is?! If you’re wondering how I’m going to tie Black Friday into a blog about education, don’t worry, I’m not going to go there! The National Day of Listening is an unofficial holiday celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. It was launched in 2008 by StoryCorps, whose mission is to provide Americans of all beliefs and backgrounds to record, preserve, and share the stories of their lives. That got me thinking about the skill of listening and its role in social and emotional learning. In a 2014 Corporate Recruiters Survey, conducted by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), listening ranked as one of the top skills employers seek. But, how many educators actually provide instruction in listening? (I sure know I didn’t!) Moreover, how many of us actually practice active listening throughout our daily lives?

First, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to define active listening. A great lesson by StoryCorps on active listening defines it:

Active listening involves attentively seeking to understand a speaker’s message, rather than passively hearing the words that a speaker says.
Active Listeners provide verbal and nonverbal feedback to show their sincere investment in what the speaker is sharing.
Active listening can help to build trust within a conversation, thereby allowing the speaker to communicate more easily, openly and honestly.”

I actually attended a training several years ago where we were asked to practice active listening, and wow—it’s challenging! To truly clear your mind, not offer advice, opinions, nor formulate your next thought is harder than it seems. So, how can we empower our students to be better active listeners, thus providing them with the necessary skills to enter our workforce?  Here are some ideas to run with:

  1. Create a listening circle where all students have a chance to respond to a prompt, question, or assignment.
  2. Give students a listening comprehension task: similar to a reading comprehension task, but oral rather than written.
  3. Talk less, model active listening in your teaching practice.
  4. Encourage frequent collaboration: think-pair-shares, small group activities, or stations.
  5. Conduct a “round robin” exercise where you have students in a group or whole class complete a continuous story with each person having to stop mid-story and the next person picking up the story where they left off and creating their own continuation.

So, let’s work to promote active listening and develop critical 21st-century skills in our students. Let’s deepen the learning and foster inquiry-based learning. Are you on board? I’d say it’s a pretty valuable skill. I would love to hear how you’ve worked to promote listening with your students!

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About the author: Katy Garvey

Katy Garvey is the Social Learning Manager for Source for Learning, the non-profit parent company of TeachersFirst. She began her education career teaching Spanish before entering into administration. A former middle school principal, Katy spends her free time exercising and with her family.


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