Whole Body Listening

Active Listening, Listening Skills

Whole Body Listening teaches students how to use each part of their body to listen to a speaker. Prior to a listening activity (e.g. mini-lesson, class discussion, presentation), students are taught to watch and listen to the speaker while keeping their voices off and sitting with a calm body. Variations of Whole Body Listening also include teaching students what to do with their brains (i.e., mindfulness) and their hearts (i.e., empathy for the speaker and other listeners). This strategy differs from traditional Active Listening in that it is a more intense approach that focuses on not only the metacognitive components of being a "good listener" but how to physically focus each body part while listening. By assigning specific tasks to each part of the body while listening, students can focus on hearing and understanding what is being said by the speaker rather than how to behave.

Implementation Tips

Introducing Whole Body Listening
Scaffold Whole Body Listening by teaching students one component at a time. Give them time to practice each step in isolation before using it for a genuine listening activity. When students have mastered one component, add an additional component for which the students are responsible. Add additional components as slowly or as quickly as is appropriate for the class.
Reteaching Whole Body Listening
Revisit what it looks like to be a whole body listener, especially after extended school breaks such as winter and spring vacation. If a new student joins the class, give students the opportunity to take the lead in reviewing the components of Whole Body Listening.
Chants to Remember the Steps
Create a song or a chant paired with gestures to help students remember each component of Whole Body Listening. Activate their listening skills by having students participate in the chant prior to a listening activity.
Sample Chant:
--Eyes watch (put hands on eyes like binoculars)
--Ears Listen (point to your ears)
--Voices Off (make the silent symbol, put index finger to your lips.)
--Calm Bodies (put hands up near your ears, wiggle your fingers as they move down to close in your lap)
Use Mnemonics to Remember the Steps
Use an easy to remember mnemonic to help students remember the steps to Whole Body Listening. SLANT is a commonly used one that focuses on five components:
--Sit Up: Back against the seat, feet flat on the floor, hands on table
--Lean Forward: Lean body slightly forward to indicate listening
--Ask and Answer Questions: Engage the speaker in a discussion to show you care about what is being said
--Nod Your Head: Nodding indicates understanding, if students are not nodding--check for understanding and take time to further clarify or explain.
--Track the Speaker: Turn your eyes, head, and body toward whomever is speaking.

Visit this [[|link]] for a brief video demonstrating this strategy.
Make a Whole Body Listening Anchor Chart
Create an [[|anchor chart]] with the students in class to serve as a reference tool. Post it up in a prominent place in the classroom and refer back to the chart as needed.
Be Mindful of Students' Individual Needs
Be aware of each student's needs; Whole Body Listening components are not rules but guidelines. For some students, it is culturally inappropriate to make direct eye contact with the speaker. For students with certain disabilities, some components of Whole Body Listening may present barriers. Make adaptations as needed for each student in the class. Visit this [[|link]] for suggestions on how to adapt whole body listening for students with autism.


Morning Meeting
Before checking in during Morning Meeting, the teacher shows the students a YouTube video of a popular TV show character in a situation that requires Whole Body Listening (e.g. [[|Cookie Monster's Biscotti Kid]]). The students identify ways the character demonstrated Whole Body Listening and ways that the character could improve. Then, the teacher asks the students one way they can improve their Whole Body Listening during Morning Meeting. Afterwards, have students indicate with a "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down" if they were successful at accomplishing their Whole Body Listening goal during the meeting.
Class Discussions
A teacher has students employ the use of "SLANT" (i.e., Sit Up, Lean Forward, Ask and Answer Questions, Nod Your Head, Track the Speaker) during a whole group discussion. Rather than have all of the students participate in the discussion at once, the teacher has half the class engage in the discussion while the other half observes how the discussion group students use SLANT. After a set amount of time, have the groups switch roles. At the end of the discussion, begin debriefing by having students first share their positive observations of their peers using SLANT.
Individualizing Whole Body Listening
A teacher notices a student who struggles with Whole Body Listening. The teacher has the student create their own Whole Body Listening reference sheet that is taped to their desk. During a student-teacher conference, the student establishes a reinforcer that can be earned if Whole Body Listening can be demonstrated consistently during the school day. Throughout the day, when the student demonstrates different aspects of Whole Body Listening, the teacher places a sticker next to the corresponding component (e.g. a sticker to the feet for keeping still, or next to the mouth for remaining quiet). When the student earns a pre-determined number of stickers, the student can earn their reward. A new Whole Body Listening reference sheet can be placed on the student's desk for the next day.

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