Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Look Who's Listening


“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.” Winnie the Pooh 

Today students in my speech glasses played a listening game called "Listen Up" in our ongoing efforts to become better active listeners as opposed to hearers only. The game rules:

  • Four students sit at the front of the room.
  • The teacher asks the students a question to which each responds in turn.
  • The first respondent speaks for thirty seconds.
  • The second student repeats the first person's response and then offers an answer--different from the first to the question.
  • The third student repeats the first response, then repeats the second response, and then offers one.
  • The fourth student follows, repeating each of the first three responses, followed by yet another answer.
  • Lastly, the first respondent repeats all four responses.

We played one round of the game in each of my three speech classes, using two questions: What quality is most important for a teacher to have in order for students to learn? What is the most important quality for a student to have to be successful in school?

Students' responses to the qualities necessary for students to have fascinated me:

Dallen said, "A willingness to work hard is the most important quality in a student." He expounded his answer by describing how a hard working student does assignments on time, studies for tests, etc.

Ty said, "A willingness to learn is the most important quality for a student to have." Students who are willing to be taught learn better than those who think they know everything.

Derek said, "Good study habits" are necessary for success in school.

Other students mentioned listening as the most important criterion for student success in school. I suspect that this student may have been riffing on the purpose of the activity. Still, this student's response offered an opportunity for discussion.

Students' responses to the question about teacher qualities surprised me:

The first student to speak said teachers need patience because students learn differently from one another, and teachers need to understand this. Another student indicated "teachers need to make the class fun" and that a teacher with a sense of humor helps make learning fun. This student also spoke about the importance of conversation to the learning process.

Notably, no student mentioned knowledge of the subject, although they may not understand that this is integral to the qualities they value in teachers.

Today's lesson reminds me that students understand their learning needs and responsibilities far better than many inside and on the periphery of education realize. We do our students a great disservice when we take away all ownership for their educational success.

“If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Winnie the Pooh

*For more on listening, check out this information on "The Art of Listening."