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How to Help a Kindergarten Student Who Is Not Listening

by Amy Pearson

Kindergarten students are bombarded with sounds, sights and experiences that make it difficult to focus and listen to instruction. In a room full of active children, it is easy for a child to become distracted. Help a kindergartner who is struggling with focus improve his listening skills by creating an environment that is conducive to learning. Minimize outside noises and avoid overstimulating children with too many choices.

Encourage Active Listening

Reading aloud helps improve listening skills and helps kindergarten students focus. Choose books that children can relate to, such as "Kindergarten Rocks!" by Katie Davis or "Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten" by Joseph Slate. Children's stories such as "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" by Bill Martin Jr. or "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" by Virginia Lee Burton are classic kindergarten books that encourage active listening. Allow time for students to make connections between the words they hear and the illustrations. If a particular child is struggling with listening, ask him to help turn pages or give him a special job to help him focus.

Minimize Distractions

Young children are easily overstimulated by the sights, sounds and distractions everywhere. Kindergarten students may be caught up in the newness and excitement of school and find it difficult to focus. Try to subtly isolate a child who has trouble focusing on one speaker so you can minimize distractions. Be careful not to shame or embarrass the child, but simply help her to focus on instruction and then allow her to return to the group.

Develop an Incentive Program

Reward kindergarten students with a sticker for using good listening skills. The instant reward will motivate and remind students to listen in the future. Also create longer-term incentives to give students something motivational to work toward. For example, after reading "Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten," plan a special party to celebrate your 100th day of kindergarten. Develop an exciting incentive program. When students use good listening skills, reward them with a token. Create posters with pictures of rewards that children can earn. On the 100th day of kindergarten, praise children for good behavior and talk about how their listening skills have improved. Allow children to redeem tokens for the reward of their choice.

Play Listening Games

Make listening fun by playing games to help kindergartners develop listening skills. The children will benefit from the activity and reinforcement. Simple games such as “Simon Says” require kids to focus and listen while having fun. Rhyming games will help develop not only listening skills, but also emerging literacy skills. Incorporate listening games into all subjects and encourage children to be involved in instruction as much as possible.

Model Good Behavior

Teach kindergartners to be good listeners by showing respect for their thoughts and feelings. Actively listen when children are talking to you. Teach them to take turns speaking and have a positive attitude. On the HealthyChildren website, the American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of maintaining good eye contact when communicating with children, while listening for the underlying message that a child is trying to convey when speaking to you. Appreciate that kindergartners have short attention spans. Don’t expect them to listen for long periods of time. Be sure to give many opportunities for all students to relax and play.

About the Author

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.

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