What Does Listening Really Look Like?

The other day I came across an interesting tweet that made me think in a new way.  That’s kind of an everyday occurrence, so it didn’t really surprise me, but this one was one that really made me think about both my students and myself.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 22.02.15

I have never officially taught the idea of “whole body listening,” nor do I have a poster like this in my room, but I probably encourage this general idea in my students.  It would probably be said that in our room (and perhaps in our school?) quiet and still = listening.  I know that I expect students to be looking at the speaker, having quiet ….oh wait–I just remembered something hanging on our wall.  It’s a little blurry but you’ll get the idea:

IMG_5531Guess I do have that poster on my wall.  Well, on my door….

Ok, so here’s where my thinking went after I read that tweet.  I think I have always encouraged students to be still, quiet, sitting up straight (no slouching or laying down on my rug!), watching closely.  In theory, this is not a bad thing.  It’s worked for so many years.  But after reading Dr. Rosenberg’s thoughts, I thought of myself and how I certainly don’t listen like that.  I am pretty sure that I am quiet (I don’t interrupt the speaker without raising my hand!), but I am probably not still.  My hands are not in my lap and I am not just sitting there.  Often I am writing, many times I am tweeting (depending on where I am listening), sometimes I am doodling–I might even be doing a puzzle on an app on my iPad.  If I were to just be sitting still in one spot, I would be SUPER distracted by how uncomfortable I felt that I would quickly STOP listening to the speaker and start thinking about how I needed out.  My next thought was then How many students have been in that same predicament as me in all these years I’ve been teaching?  How many behavior problems on our whole group rug were really just kiddos telling me they needed to listen in a different way? Man…

This tweet, along with some learning I have been doing with a counselor at our school about mindfulness and focus has caused me to rethink (and then reorganize) how my students should look and sound when they are listening.  During Read Aloud, for instance, kiddos are invited to bring along paper, a notebook or their iPad so they can draw or write while they’re listening.  Usually I encourage them to visualize and sketch what the movie they are making in their heads, but often kiddos just doodle other things while they listen to me read.  At first I was not so sure this was working, but I can usually tell by the way they still react to events in the story as well as by talking about the text that they really are focused in with me even if they don’t look just like that “whole body listening” poster.

While I do think there is a need to teach kiddos to listen, to be respectful to others and to focus in on their learning, I’m thinking differently about telling them how this looks.  I think it is ore important to get to know each kiddo personally and help them figure out what their body looks and feels like when they are listening well.  It would be interesting to make another version of that poster with my class.  I wonder what it would look like…



Second Steps

In first grade we have many really important lessons to learn.  Some of the most important ones are simply about how to be learners!

We’re lucky to have some well-designed lessons that are part of a program called Second Steps; these are part of the foundation for our work that continues in gr. 3-5 with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Every week, Mrs. Wilson comes to our room, often accompanied by her friends Puppy and Snail.


Together they have taught us about listening with our whole bodies (including our eyes and ears and brains), how to focus (and we even have attention-scopes for this purpose!), how to use our self-talk to help us do the right thing and keep trying, and also how to be assertive (which is a GREAT BIG word for a first grader with GREAT importance).

Often there are times for students to turn-and-talk, hearing someone else’s ideas about a topic.


Makayla and Sara share ideas with each other in a turn-and-talk conversation.


While I love the time during the day when Mrs. Wilson is here, the lessons she teaches and the songs we learn to help us remember the concepts, my favorite thing is when I see and hear kids applying them outside of those times!  I often see kiddos using their attention-scopes to get refocused, hear them use their self-talk to encourage themselves to try again or solve a problem and also hear them being assertive as they “ask for help out loud” (which is a line from The Learner Song we sing).

The lessons are simple, but have staying power and build a STRONG foundation for these learners.  Yay Second Steps!

One more thing…check out who showed up in our school pictures and will be in our yearbook this year!: