Developing the higher order critical thinking skills, as outlined by Rasmussen College, includes multiple areas to concentrate on. The author, Will Erstad, states “critical thinking is the analysis of an issue or situation …the facts, data or evidence related to it (and) is a skill that allows you to make logical and informed decisions to the best of your ability.”
The six categories included for developing and improving the higher order critical thinking skills included in the article are:
- Identifying the situation and the factors that may influence it.
- Locating the basis for the research that is presented to understand the big picture.
- Learning how to avoid personal biases and to “evaluate information objectively”.
- After gathering information, using the knowledge to make logical inferences.
- Figuring out what information is most important and relevant to the situation.
- Developing the practice of curiosity– asking open-ended questions and following up on the answers.
One important skill for students to develop, that will help them attain the higher order thinkings skills, is the ability to listen. Including listening skills practice whenever possible can result in students becoming better communicators and questioners.
Listening skills practice ideas
In this framework, Nik Peachey provides an overview of the pre-listening exercises needed, how to develop listening skills tasks which allow repeated listening trials, and includes suggestions of post-listening activities that concentrate on the meaning of the text or those that target the linguistic features of the text. The overview of the lesson itself has students brainstorming, listening, and reflecting on the content of a song.
Elyse Rycroft, a primary teacher from Vancouver, British Columbia, includes six strategies in her blog post to help teach listening skills in the classroom.
- Model good listening strategies to the class by having a student come up and interact with you. Things like eye contact and not interrupting are some of the skills students need to promote active listening.
- Using the “Think, Pair, Share” strategy for students to practice listening skills works well.
- Explaining and practicing the “whole body listening” model can help students acquire the attentiveness habit.
- Have students play “Telephone” or complete the next word in a story being being created aloud.
- Students get into groups of three and develop a story aloud, but this time, each student adds an entire sentence to the story. You can have students audio or video record this activity with an iPad for your review later.
- And, of course, the old favorite, “Twenty Questions” can be used for both listening skills practice and content review.
Janelle Cox includes creative activities in this post. Two of these are:
- Having pairs of students come up with a “secret phrase” that other students need to listen for in regular conversation as the school day goes on.
- Have two students sit back to back. One student has a photograph that they describe in detail, and the other student draws what they hear either on paper or on a tablet.
Janelle Cox also penned this great overview of how we, as teachers, can support students as they enhance their listening skills.
- Model good listening skills by repeating what the student has said.
- Get to know your students personally.
- Have students use “thumbs up/thumbs down” for a quick formative assessment of whether they understood what they have heard.
- Talk less and chunk-up longer lessons into mini-lessons.
- Use online videos from subscription services like Discovery Education and/or YouTube or Vimeo to provide students with other “experts” to listen to.
- Provide students with a learning task during a break, such as a discussion with another student about what they heard you say.
- Give students time to check-in with a peer about something they do not understand or might have missed.
- Hold students accountable by providing them with a high-level overview of what is to be covered, but making sure they have to listen to learn more about the topic or concept.
- Have students listen for a purpose. For example, pause teaching and have them write a summary or a question about what they heard.
- Mix up your teaching strategies to keep students on their toes and listening!
This article, intended for working adults, provides a great overview of effective ways to become an active listener. As quoted in the article:
…the average person listens with only 25% efficiency. Research offers a number of interesting explanations for this, including our fondness for talking about ourselves, our tendency to interrupt and swap stories, and our inclination to go into “helper mode,” where we try to fix the speaker’s problems.
I felt as if the author of the article had met me and had a conversation with me! I love to talk about myself, interrupt others all of the time, and always feel I have the solution for everything. (Not traits I am proud of.) I am going to practice the suggestions in this article–
- Concentrate on the speaker and pay close attention; stay in the moment
- Provide “playbacks’ or short comments starting with “It sounds like you are saying” or “In other words” to prove to myself that I am really listening
- Practice and practice “playbacks” in all communications I have on the phone, with my friends, at the grocery store, etc. in order to be comfortable with the process
Discovery Education resources
Discovery Education includes many materials for helping students practice their active listening skills. Some are strategies while others include video and audio assets.
This lesson from Discovery Education involves students in finding out more about their classmates. The lesson starts with a few games of “Telephone” to have students work on their listening skills. Then, each student is given a sheet with sixteen boxes of things that a student might have done. Students need to find a classmate who has completed that event (i.e. build a treehouse, visit the ocean, etc.) by asking fellow students direct questions. In this way, each student gets practice in both speaking and listening skills.
This short cartoon showcases students who created a video about correct and poor listening skills. It is part of the Slim Goodbody series of videos.
Dana Johnston provides a strategy to help students both watch and listen to a video carefully. One students listens to a segment of a video (listener), while the rest of the class watches the video without sound (watchers). The class predicts and discusses each of the segments of the full video.
Anna Vaughan provides an overview of many resources within Discovery Education to support literacy initiatives in the area of speaking and listening for the PreK-2 grade levels.
This video, divided into sixteen segments, provides practice in advanced listening and speaking strategies such as listening with a purpose, active listening, and giving a speech.
This short video concentrates on outlining the basic strategies to help students develop the active listening skills necessary to become a better communicator.
Your thoughts and ideas
What methods have you used to help students become better listeners? Can you recommend some strategies that work better than others? Have you collected resources on this topic? Please share in the comments!