A prerequisite of good listening is consistently good hearing. Speech and language can only develop through being able to hear speech and language. Students with mild to moderate hearing difficulties may say sounds such as s, sh, ch and f incorrectly or miss out end sounds altogether.
Watch for middle ear problems (including glue ear). They are not always accompanied by ear infections and pain and can go unnoticed, even by the student. These problems can also be intermittent, for example, a hearing test may be clear one day but by the following month the ears can be sufficiently blocked to cause a hearing difficulty.
Sam is playing on the mat with his back to the classroom. Tidy up time is called but Sam keeps on playing. The teacher notices and calls his name but Sam continues playing. The teacher walks over to him and calls his name again. Sam looks up surprised.
- Refer students to a hearing and vision tester or public health nurse
- If necessary, support the family to ensure follow up happens with the GP or appropriate agency
- Give every student the best opportunity to hear information in the classroom
- Stand where students can see and hear you clearly
- Keep background noise to a minimum
- If you suspect a student has hearing difficulties, place them close to whoever is speaking.
Attending to Verbal Messages and Environmental Sounds
Students must be able to identify the important features of a message often against the background of a noisy and distracting environment. They must also be able to maintain their attention until they have received the whole message or the activity is complete. A good listening environment is crucial to successful classroom learning.
The teacher gives an instruction to the class - get your story writing books out of your desk, and a pencil and bring them over to the mat. Susan starts off listening well, but when some students cross the playground outside the window, she watches them. By the time she looks back at the teacher, the instruction is complete. Susan gets her maths book out of her desk and joins the other students on the mat.
Create an environment where students know they are expected to listen and attend. Use a prompt when listening is expected eg, put on your listening ears or clap to a pattern.
Keep the noise level at a minimum when students need to listen and give a visual symbol to listen eg, hand to ear
Use listening games such as Simon Says, Hide and Seek, Scavenger Hunt
Use barrier games ie, following instructions from the other side of a barrier without the advantage of a visual cue
Concentrate on activities that are fun and simple to create for individuals and groups.
Following and Interpretation
Students need to be able to listen to stories, information, and discussions, recognising concepts from their prior knowledge. They then need to integrate this new information into what they already know. This knowledge will build their skills for prediction and guessing. Students who are able to predict find it easier to listen attentively.
Kiri sits in the middle of a group of students during science. The teacher is talking about the life cycle of a monarch butterfly. Kiri lacks the vocabulary and prior experiences necessary to process the new information she is receiving. While she is quiet and not disruptive, she is switched off and not absorbing the information. She is unable to respond to the questions.
- Sit students having difficulty close to you
- Use familiar stories and repeat them often
- Use visual prompts to carry meaning eg, pictures, symbols
- Allow time for the student to respond
- Rephrase questions or comments linking them to a known aspect for that particular student eg, remember the caterpillar you found that day, Kiri?
- During a group discussion, rephrase or summarise what the previous student has said
- Help the student find the main idea
- Become familiar with the story before reading it to the class so that you can signpost it as you go.
Students must be able to retain what is said to them, and be able to retrieve this information when required. This enables them to build concepts and develop an understanding of the world around them.
Joanna follows what is going on during the topic time, and she is able to correctly answer questions about that topic. However she can no longer do this after a break.
- A set of pictures can act as a reminder. These might be photocopied out of the book you are working on, or the student might draw them, to keep the ideas fresh
- Encourage students to bring photographs of familiar people, places, pets or objects from home
- Provide many opportunities for students to retell familiar stories and rhymes with visual aids
- Present the same concepts in a variety of different ways on successive days
- Use prompts to refocus the students on the topic by reminding them of the previous work
- Provide a fun activity to take home that will carry over the concept covered that day.
Students must be able to process what is required of them and respond in a timely way. Difficulty in following instructions may be a problem of attention, memory, an inability to understand, lack of vocabulary, or all in combination.
Jessica is chatty and doesn't listen. Her hearing is reported to be good. She needs several prompts to get started on a new task and leaves out part of what was asked of her. She frequently gets her cue for what to do by observing her classmates.
- Ensure you have the student's full attention before beginning - this might be done by saying their name
- Keep instructions short and simple and where possible break the instruction down into composite parts and give only one or two parts at a time
- Arrange for students, in pairs, to play barrier games together. One student gives the instruction, the other carries out the task
- Provide regular, repetitive routines. These require far less processing and are therefore more likely to be followed
- Use visual prompts wherever possible - a gesture, picture, or symbol
- Pair the student with another student who will be a good model and/or prompt.
Listening and Interaction to Clarify Understanding
Students need to be active listeners. Students must be able to listen to their teacher and peers. They need to use verbal and non-verbal means to encourage the speaker to clarify when they do not understand. This may include eye contact, facing the speaker, affirmers like uhuh, did you? and clarifiers: What do you mean? What did you say? Students also need to be able to reply to direct questions.
Leilani is standing in a group of students listening to Rangi describe a game they are now going to play. Leilani has never heard of this game before. Rangi explains carefully and when he has finished, he goes to take up the position to start the game. Leilani doesn't know what to do - she has not understood what Rangi has said and has failed to let him know this. Leilani shrugs her shoulders and walks away from the game without asking what she should do.
- Use role modelling
- Discuss the partnership of communication - that it is a two-way process involving a speaker and listener
- Role-play social situations such as in the class, in the playground
- Give the student a chance to rehearse asking questions where they do not understand.
Developing Sound Awareness, Links with Literacy (Phonological Awareness)
The student needs to be able to identify and name the different sounds, segment and blend them, create rhyming patterns and clap rhythms. Students who have difficulty in this area will also experience difficulties with literacy. There is a hierarchy of learning for the development of phonological awareness: rhyming, alliteration, letter-sound link, segmenting, analysis, blending and manipulation.
James and Steven are twin brothers in a Year 3 class. Neither can write a sentence and they can only read known text at emergent level. When asked to write a three letter word they can get the initial and final consonants correct but the vowel in the middle is usually wrong. They could give rhyme examples for three letter words but could not clap out two syllable words without practice.
- Ask the speech-language therapist, Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and the Resource Teacher: Literacy (RTLit) in your area to support you with training and resources
- Become familiar with at least the most frequently used texts and programmes in this area, for example: A Sound Way; Tata
- Provide opportunities to build skills with fun listening games, action games and matching activities
- Use activities to build skills in recognising rhyme and generating new rhymes
- Read stories which include plenty of repetition and alliteration
- Encourage students to develop their own raps
- Include body movement for maximum learning opportunity eg, stamping out syllables, hopping on word parts, moving people about to create new words.