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Listening & Comprehension Skills

by Patti Richards, studioD

Teachers must be actively involved in making sure students comprehend what they are reading or what is being read to them -- especially with increased focus on core curriculum standards in reading and comprehension. Pre-reading activities such as story mapping and listening association prepare students for what they will hear. Reading comprehension tools such as guided reading questions, listening for the main idea and summarizing encourage students to listen actively. With the right tools, teachers can provide students with strategies that increase their ability to actively listen and comprehend the material that is being taught.

Story Mapping

Story mapping is a tool teachers use to engage students in active listening. The Reading Rockets website calls story mapping “a strategy that uses a graphic organizer to help students learn the elements of a book or story.” Students use these graphic organizers to list characters, plot, setting, problems the characters face and solutions while reading for information and details. For example, a simple story map might have a circle in the middle with boxes surrounding it. Students write the main idea in the middle circle and fill the boxes with details such as character names and descriptions, the rising action of the story, the climax and the conclusion.

Listening Association

Another way teachers increase listening comprehension is by connecting the learning activity to something already familiar to their students. Education.com points out that teachers who associate new material with experiences students have had in the past increase their ability to understand and remember information. Do this by spending a few moments engaging students in pre-learning conversation. For example, if your science lesson is about mammals, ask students if they have ever been to the zoo. Direct their attention to mammals they may have seen in the zoo and use that experience to move students into learning about mammals.

Guided Reading

Like story mapping, guided reading is another tool teachers can use to encourage active listening from their students. Guided reading questions help students look for information and details while they read and are useful for both independent reading and when the teacher reads aloud to the classroom or small group. Examples of guided reading questions might include why the student thinks the author chose a particular title, what the student thinks is the main idea of the story based on the cover of the book and can the student make predictions about the story after reading the first paragraph or chapter. The Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears educational website encourages teachers to use guided reading questions as a way to engage students in classroom discussions, improve their ability to answer questions and expand their vocabulary.

Top-Down Strategies

Top-down strategies include listening for the main idea, predicting, drawing inferences and summarizing. According to the National Capital Language Resource Center, these strategies tap into a student’s background knowledge of the context, type of text, situation and the language. Letting students know ahead of time what they are listening for in these four areas gets them engaged in active listening and increases their comprehension of the material being read.

About the Author

Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images