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GOOD LISTENING SKILLS.    Your grandchild’s report card says he or she has poor listening skills. What to do? Very often when we hear such a report there is confusion between listening and good behavior. They are two different things. Here are four steps to successful listening:

1) Focusing attention (clearing the mind of other thoughts)

2) Hearing (physically receiving the words)

3) Understanding (making sense or asking questions mentally)

4) Reacting in some way to the information (following directions, giving oral answers)

If a child cannot focus attention on a speaker, or if he or she hears, but doesn’t understand, then the listening process is halted. In fact there can be interruptions in the process at any of the four steps. But take heart; there are ways to improve listening skills. One way is to play a game called Commands. The goal is to see how many commands one can hear and do with no reminders. You might start with 1) “Go and touch the picture of Aunt Sarah.” When the child complies, add 2) “Sit on the couch.” The child must remember command # 1 and #2 and do them in the proper order. Go on to a third command and see how high you can go. Children enjoy improving their listening and remembering in this game format.

Teachers know how important listening is and they often help their students by modeling the responses they want to see, for example they may do a sample problem in math or write a sample sentence in English. Children must learn to look back at these samples when they need reminders during a work period. Teachers also often leave written directions for children to refer to while working on a task. It is important that children take advantage of these aids if listening and remembering are difficult for them.

Another skill to aid in listening and following directions is to be able to determine when it is vitally important to listen well. For instance, it is much more important to listen carefully when the teacher is giving directions at the beginning of a lesson than to pay attention to the role call. This is called determining importance and is an important skill in every school subject.

If the children in your life are having difficulties with listening, make an appointment with his or her teacher to talk about the steps in successful listening and pinpoint the problems. Listening is a skill—it can be learned and improved. Wouldn’t you be proud to see the report card comment, “Sally has improved in her listening skills!”