Active Listening

Whole Body Listening

Active Listening is a communication strategy where students give their full attention to the speaker and concentrate on what is being said. Students use body position, listening skills, and response techniques to maximize their understanding as well as convey that they are listening to the speaker. Components and Skills of Active Listening:
-- Look at the speaker, avoid personal thoughts, do not prepare a response
-- Use an open posture and affirming comments and gestures (e.g., head nodding)
-- Save comments until after the speaker is done unless it is to clarify meaning
-- Ask brief clarifying questions and periodically summarize the speaker’s thoughts to ensure you understand
-- Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, voice disagreements respectfully

Ready-to-Use Resources


Visual Behavior Posters for Whole Class Management

A set of posters with visuals to help with establishing classroom routines and whole class behavior management. Variations include a “Give Me 5” guide for listening and a “Class Talk” Odometer for managing noise levels during various classroom activities.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Implementation Tips

Model the techniques that students can use to achieve Active Listening when introducing the strategy, reviewing skills, and during normal class activities. During classroom discussions, engage in Active Listening strategies yourself while listening to students. Publicly recognize when students exemplify Active Listening behaviors.
Visual Reminders
Use visuals to prompt students to use Active Listening skills. Write Active Listening components and/or techniques on whiteboards or poster paper. Pair the words with pictures or symbols to support visual and language learners. Teachers can show students cards that display individual Active Listening skills as reminders before a discussion and use the cards for correction if students are not using a skill.
Prompt Students
Prompt students to use Active Listening before engaging in activities where Active Listening would be beneficial such as large and small group discussions, assemblies, collaborative projects, presentations, etc. Encourage generalization of the skills by having students use them in as many contexts as possible.
Teach students to take notes that enhance comprehension and do not distract from listening. Students can take notes on important information given by the speaker, questions that come up, things that they like or identify with, the speaker’s positive/strong points, and constructive feedback. Notes taken during Active Listening should be brief, containing only enough information required for the student to remember their thoughts after the speaker is done.


Preview and Model
When starting a new unit, a seventh grade Algebra class prepares for the introductory lecture by reviewing Active Listening techniques. As a group they brainstorm different strategies they can use to achieve the five components of Active Listening (see description). The teacher calls on an experienced student to model ‘summarizing the speaker’s thoughts’ in the context of a math lecture as a support to students who have trouble using this skill.
Partner Sharing
After writing first drafts for their five-paragraph essays, students in a fourth grade class find a partner, read their drafts to each other, and give each other feedback. Before the student’s begin the teacher reminds them to use Active Listening and notes the visual poster on the wall. While the students are sharing their essays the teacher walks around and monitors the pairs. To avoid interrupting the speakers, the teacher carries visual cue cards to show students when they need a reminder to engage in Active Listening behaviors.
Conflict Resolution
A teacher discovers two students yelling at each other in the hallway. The teacher coaches the students in resolving their issues. The teacher invites the students into their classroom and has them sit down, facing each other. The teacher explains that they will attempt to solve their problem by listening to each other's side of the story. The teacher then instructs the students to listen to each other without thinking of a counter-argument, refrain from interrupting, and respond respectfully after the speaker is done speaking. After each student speaks and responds to each other the teacher guides them in identifying the problem and a solution.

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