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Games to Improve Listening Skills for Elementary Students

by Erica Loop, studioD

Looking away, zoning out or ignoring your conversational efforts isn't something you should let slide when it comes to your grade schooler's listening skills. First-graders should have the ability to respond to instructions and follow up to a three-step direction process, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. If your grade schooler is struggling with these types of basic listening skills or seems distracted when others talk to her, you can help to improve her communication abilities with a few fun-filled games.

Retelling the Tale

If your grade schooler tends to drift off every time you start talking, actively involve him in the listening process by having him retell a story you read out loud. Play a retelling game to gauge how well your child is actually listening to what you say. Read your child a short book or tell him a story of your own. Instruct him to retell the story using his own words. Create a point scale, assigning different values to different aspects of listening. For example, he might get one point each for knowing the beginning, middle and end sections, two points for naming each character, three points for naming each place and five points for more abstract concepts such as retelling how the characters felt. Set a point goal and give your child a small prize for reaching the listening objective. Try a variation on this game and pit two or more kids against each other, seeing who can retell the story in the most detail and earn the most points.

Listening to the Model

Modeling appropriate listening skills can help your elementary school student to better understand what she should do to communicate well with others. Play a listening game in which you model both positive and negative communication behaviors, inviting your child to pick out which is which. Engage her in a conversation, and go back and forth between active listening and spacing out in an inattentive way. Have her ring a bell when she notices that you are listening well when she speaks and raise her hand when you phase out. Give her a point or a sticker for every one that she gets right. When she misses a modeling cue -- such as your eyes inattentively turning away as she talks -- she gets one point or sticker taken away.

Pick and Choose

Active listening requires that your child picks up on everything you say to him and how you are saying it. Help your grade schooler to improve how he listens by playing a pick-and-choose game. Cut out pictures of scenes or common actions -- such as a child playing baseball -- or create your own images. Say two sentences that possibly could describe the image -- with one correct statement and the other incorrect. Have the child repeat back the correct sentence. Put the pictures that he gets right in one pile to show him just how well he can listen. Play this game with two or more kids, having them compete to see who gets more pictures. If you don't want to make your own cards and sentences, print out a similar ready-made activity from an educational website such as School Sparks.

Take a Twist on Telephone

Infuse the traditional telephone game -- where one child starts with a phrase or sentence and tells the next, and so on to see if the words can make it through a circle of children without changing -- with a team type of effort. Split the group of kids into two teams. Start off each group with the same phrase. Reveal the beginning and ending phrases when the game concludes to see which team got the closest. The team that's on the mark gets one point. Continue until one team reaches a set number of points.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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