I attended a PASS program this summer where business and education partnered
and one of the skills business asked for was listening. (Of course the
others were etiquette, appropriate dress, learning attitude, critical
My steps for gaining attention:
I say: Active Listening Skills to the count of 3: 1,2,3. Students have to
turn their entire body, face the individual who is talking, look at the
individual, listen, release everything in their hands. sometimes I say - and
smile. When I taught elementary I said: "Tickle the air, lock your fingers,
put them in your laps". If some are not quite there I say: I'm looking for
blue eyes, hazel eyes...., or I'm enjoying seeing your beautiful eyes thank
you for turning around. Lots of thank yous: thank you blue table you are
ready, thank you.... I do not start talking until the room is absolutely
quiet. If the call is interrupting them during work: "this is the one time
you get to relax those busy hands..." Some students are short of reading
people signs and to help them out: "If someone is still talking to you, help
them out, ignore them turn around, face me (peer), thank you."
If my voice is going I have students convene around a table, most times it's
more intimate. I am tiny so sometimes I just sit up on the center counter
space which starts quieting the class, then say my lead in line....
Alternating the voice between soft, loud, lilting, asking questions, having
peer demonstration also keeps their attention. I think that if the class
knows the teacher loves/cares for them and holds high expectations they will
more likely respond positively.
I have had a whole class stop, stand up, walk out of the classroom, sit down
by the wall, outline what civilized behavior looks like, sounds like, feels
like, this is a time for growth, allow them to chill and reflect, then
welcome each individual back with a handshake and a smile while each tells
me how they are going to act like a civilized person. If they can't they go
to the back of the line.
During elementary school teaching I also had to compete against the music
room. Playing music was a sign for work, stopping the music was a sign for
teacher attention/demonstration. Other teachers have used bells or chimes
for signals. The best was when the entire school used the same signal,
everyone comes to attention faster.
I emphasize how active listening skills is the one predicator that will set
one individual apart from another in terms of job promotion - given equal
qualities the active listener (with great learning attitude another must
have in my class) will succeed. Applying active listening (and learning
attitude) will dissipate parental anger allowing them to better access their
rational side, and I ask my learners to try it. For those involved in
relationships it is one of the key components in strengthening
communication. This makes for meaningful learning and school is a safe
place to practice a skill.
This year I plan to have students role play (following a course in Emotional
Intelligence - excellent book by Daniel Goleman): describe your absolute
favorite thing you did this summer, your partner must be rude - ignore you,
fiddle, look around, act inattentive. Then do the same with active
listening. Talk about the response, identifying feelings in both
situations, and students identify how their bodies felt (self-awareness) and
the impact of their words and actions (social management).
Like you I am open to new ideas and better ways of teaching