How To Get A Child To Listen In School

In this article, you will receive information on how to get a child to listen in school based on both the parent’s and the teacher’s perspectives.

Each has an important roll in helping children become more successful listeners both inside and outside of the classroom.

We will start with the parents perspective.

When the parents have set a solid foundation for good listening it makes it much easier for the teacher and the child.


How To Get A Child to Listen In School

1. Get Involved With School

One of the best ways to show your child that listening is important in the classroom is to model that education is a priority.

A great way to do that is to get involved with school activities.

Parental involvement demonstrates to your child that education is important to you which models to your child that it should be important to them as well.

Many of the most important lessons that your child will learn will not be taught traditionally.

It will be taught by watching the adults around them.

When educations is a priority to the parent it will be subconsciously important to the child.

When a child understands that school is important than listening in the classroom becomes a natural progression of that belief.

Now, we are talking about kids.

Their listening skills won’t always be perfect but there are ways to help your child further master the art of listening.

One of the best places to start is building a solid foundation with education at its pinnacle.

The good news is that you don’t have to be the president of the PTA to show your dedication to your child’s educational well being.

While volunteering at your child’s school or participating in field trips is a great way to model education’s importance it really just takes a conscious effort to show your child that putting in the effort into their school work will be beneficial.

It can be as easy as taking the time to go over their homework with them, playing games in the car with an educational theme such as word games or math problems or just talking about what went well during the school day and what didn’t.

The idea is to get involved in your child’s education the best you can.

It’s not easy as we are all extremely busy running our households and putting food on the table.

Although, when you understand that a huge predictor in your child’s success in school is the priority that you put on education you start to see that every effort you put into getting involved with your child’s education is worth the hard work.

Modeling that your child’s education is important to you by being involved will make listening in the classroom much more of a priority to your child and increase their chances of educational greatness.

2. Set Expectations

In any successful endeavor, setting proper expectations are key.

When you set the expectation that listening in class is mandatory it shows to your child that it is an important part of being successful in school.

Sit down and discuss with your child what is expected of them in the classroom.

Explain to them exactly why it is important to be a good listener in the classroom and how you will be confirming that they are holding up their end of the bargain.

Also, discuss with them how you as a parent are working hard on your listening skills at work and at home as well.

When your child understands that you are also committed to being a good listener this will help them realize that listening is a real-world skill.

It is not just something meant for kids to do to be “good’ but a real skill that parents, business people and students need to continually work on to improve themselves.

If you are really committed to ensuring that they are great listeners having them write down the expectations is a great way to solidify their importance.

When a child writes down the expectations it not only helps them remember the expectations but becomes a silent contract to look back on which will be a great opportunity for reteaching if necessary.

Regardless of the goal, when you set clear, mutual and solid expectations you are setting your child up for success.


3. Reward and Consequences


When you are trying to help your child become better at something it is always a great idea to have premeditated rewards and consequences for when they are successful and when they need some reminding.

I am a big believer in positive reinforcement.

I am also a very big proponent of teaching before punishing.

When a child is successful in the classroom or at home, being reinforced positively lets the child see that they have made a great choice and they are much more likely to repeat the positive behavior again in the future.

Anytime your child is showing good listening skills at home or at school it is an absolute must that they are rewarded for it.

It can be verbal praise such as “You were being such a great listener by putting your toys away so quickly when Mommy asked you” or ” Your teacher wrote in your planner that you were really paying attention today!” I can tell you are becoming a great listener, all on your own!”

It could be a physical reward such as a hug or a high five.

It could also be extrinsic or tangible reward such as extra TV or tablet time when you see them making good listening a part of their routine.

Reinforcing good listening makes it more exciting for the child.

Many times there needs to be an extrinsic motivator in a child’s life in order for them to see value in something.

The children enjoy the benefits of the extrinsic motivator like the extra playtime etc. and change their behavior in order to receive more of the rewards.

Over time they will start getting the reputation of being “the good listener” or “the good student”.

This will be because of the effort that was shown as well as the extrinsic value that was placed upon good listening.

As a result, the motivation for good listening will eventually develop intrinsically as the child identifies with being a good listener as part of who they are.

Once your child has established for themselves that they are good listeners you have set them up for a lifetime of success in the future.

Now, what happens when you have set up clear expectations, are positively reinforcing them as much as possible but they are still having a hard time.

This is where reteaching and then having an appropriate consequence is in order.

If positive reinforcement isn’t enough for your child then helping them reflect on their poor choice with a consequence usually works well.

Children need time to make mistakes and relearn new expectations.

When your child is having difficulties, reteach your expectations and give them some time to implement them again.

Although, if they are well aware of what is expected of them but they just choose not to then appropriate consequences like losing TV or other coveted activity times may be in order.

The key to rewards and consequences are to find out what works for your child.

What works for some doesn’t work for others so be prepared to change things around and try new things if necessary.

Once they realize that poor listening will not be tolerated as well as good things happen when they are good listeners you will find that your child will start participating in the behaviors that bring them good things.

When that happens you will have a good listener on your hands.

4. Practice Active Listening At Home

Active Listening

One of the best way to help a child in the classroom is to help them at home!

Practicing listening skills at home is a great way to help children work on their listening skills.

An amazing way to do that is for them to practice a technique called Active Listening.

Active Listening is a way for your child to help themselves stay in tune with the speaker and allows for fewer misunderstandings and better retention of the information.

Active listening has 5 steps.

If your child is able to do even a couple of these steps it will help them fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.

Here are the 5 steps to Active Listening:

  1. Watch the speaker while they are talking
  2. Listen quietly without interruption
  3. Once the speaker is finished, ask clarifying questions
  4. Repeat back the main point the speaker was making
  5. Listen for the full meaning

Practice a couple of the steps with your child and then build up to having them try all of them.

A great way to help them with active listening is playing the “Change Game”.

This is done by reading or telling them a story.

Have them go through as many of the Active Listening steps as your child can handle at the time.

Then tell them a similar story but now have them point out the differences.

This gets them used to using the Active Learning steps.

It also allows them to be used in a game-like setting to point out the differences.

Once your child has practiced some or all of the Active Listening techniques you will find that their listening skills will have gone to another level.

5. Model Being A Good Listener


For most, this is good news and for others not so much.

A good amount of your child’s interpersonal skills will be learned from the adults around them.

Modeling good listening skills will be the most meaningful way that your child will learn listening skills.

When a child sees their parents or the adults around them being good listeners themselves, it will trigger a deeper understanding of what listening is.

This can be much better than trying to teach your child a technique or strategy.

Try to use the Active Listening techniques yourself when listening to your child talk.

I know it’s not easy but try to tune out any distractions while your child is listening and make what your child is saying your main priority, if possible.

By doing this you are modeling for your child what good listening skills look like.

By seeing you physically listening and concentrating on them as a speaker they will in time do the same for you, their grandparents, their coaches, and their teachers.


How To Get A Child to Listen In School

1. Get Their Attention!

-Getting Their AttentionWhether it is trying to sell something, get elected, raise money or teach children the first thing that must occur is to gain people’s attention or in this case student’s attention.

You could be selling a great product but if nobody knows that your product exists, no matter how good it is, it will not sell.

Along the same lines, you could have the best lesson planned but if you are not engaging your students the lesson will fall flat.

Your first order of business, as a teacher, when planning a lesson is to figure out… how am I going to capture my student’s attention?

I have always said that a great teacher is 60% entertainer and 40% educator.

This comes from the fact that if you don’t have the students attention it doesn’t really matter what you are teaching.

Now the good news is, you don’t have to be a blockbuster actor or actress.

You just have to make a conscious effort during the planning phase of your lesson to account for gaining their attention.

It could be a dramatic lead-in story, an engaging picture or if you really feel energetic dressing up as something in order to get their eyes on you!

Once you have their attention then everything thing else is a breeze, right?

Well, as teachers we all know that is not the whole story.

Getting their attention and keeping their attention is two totally different things.

In the age of video games and HDTV, it is hard to compete and attention spans seem to be getting smaller and smaller.

The art of getting and keeping students attention could be its own article all by itself.

With that in mind, here are a couple of quick tips to gain and keep your students attention.

  1. Make a game out of the lesson
  2. Give your students a “part” in your lesson
  3. Get the kids moving
  4. Let your students use structured talking techniques such as turn and talks
  5. Use technology

The good news is, that if you have accomplished the hard part of capturing their attention then, at least for a little while, real learning can occur.

2. Positive Reinforcement

-Positive ReinforcementVery similar to the suggestions in the parent part of this article, rewards such as positive reinforcement is an amazing way to help students repeat positive behaviors.

Anytime you see one of your students showing positive listening skills praise them for it!

It could be as simple as a “Thank you for being such a good listener”, you could give them a tangible reward or you could give them a special role during the lesson such as team leader etc.

Anything that shows your students that what they did was a characteristic that embodied success, you should incorporate it into your behavior management routine.

Once students start seeing that there is a reason for being a good listener the chances of it happening again increases.

We would all like to think that all of our student’s parents have read this article and are implementing active listening techniques at home.

Although, we all know that this is not true.

We as teachers, need to create a real reason for our students to take the time and energy to focus on listening.

This happens when students see a positive outcome associated with good listening.

Once this is established, the transition from an extrinsic motivator created by the teacher transforms into a real intrinsic belief that they are good listeners which forms good listening skills for a lifetime.

3. Give Students A Choice


Any time a student is given a choice you are allowing them to make the decision based off of their own interests.

The key to allowing a student to choose is developing structured choices.

Most students will choose recess over their math problems but that is not a choice you will structure for them.

When you are structuring choices for your students it must be outcomes that are appropriate for the lesson and the goals you want to be accomplished.

Examples of structured choices for students could be:

  1. Working independently or with groups
  2. Letting students pick the topic
  3. Students asking the questions
  4. Allowing students to pick where they work
  5. Having students choose how they will be assessed

When students are given a choice they feel empowered by their options.

Many times they take more ownership in the task at hand which increases involvement and then, in turn, creates a greater willingness to listen.

It can be hard to except but listening is something that a student must do and choose on their own.

We can try to strongarm them into listening by punishing or talking louder but when it comes down to it, it’s the students choice.

While we can not control students, we can use strategies like giving them choice and positive reinforcement to create an intrinsic desire to listen.

Using strategies like these are a good way to help students choose to listen which will ensure better engagement during the lesson.

When you give your students a choice you are showing them that they can make their own decisions and be a part of their own learning process.

When students feel like they have a part to play in their academic process and don’t just feel like they are a part of the audience they are much more likely to step up and be the star of the show like we know they can be.

For more info on best practices see our Kindergarten Checklist

4. Give Short Simple Directions


Listening is much easier when the directions are clear and concise.

Students will tune out or shut down when they feel confused or overwhelmed with the directions given.

It is difficult to feel confident completing an assignment if the student doesn’t completely understand what to do.

When giving directions make sure that you give directions one at a time and give them an appropriate amount of time to process those directions fully.

Also, be cognitive that the directions you are giving are age-appropriate.

If you are going “over your student’s heads” with the directions you can imagine how the lesson will turn out.

Use language that your students can identify with and ask if your students need clarification as you go.

If a student does need clarification it is always best to go over to the child and give the clarification in a more personal fashion.

Many times students are embarrassed that they need help and “getting closer” to them will ease their anxiety.

Once a student feels confident that they will be to understand the directions on a consistent basis the student will start making more of an effort to listen as they feel that they have a better chance to succeed.

Along with giving simple and clear directions, it is always a good idea to spend a couple of minutes discussing with the students why this lesson is so important to them.

When the directions are clear and they understand why this lesson will benefit them in the future listening becomes a given rather than an inconvenience.

5. Proximity

-proximitySometimes you give the best directions in the world, are the most positive teacher on earth, give them praise constantly and still some students just need more help!

Sometimes they just need to move closer to the teacher.

Other times students are benefitted by moving to the part of the room that has the least amount of distractions.

This could be in the front of the room where the teacher does most of the instruction.

This leads to a great strategy where if the student is not listening, getting closer to the student or placing your hand on their shoulders or desk can help a student snap back into reality.

It could also be in a place that is away from other students or influences that could distract them such as the windows or door.

Many times a student will perform better if they are away from distractions and choosing their proximity within the classroom can be a great strategy.

Once the distractions are minimized the art of listening becomes much easier to perform.

By all means, I am not suggesting that you set them in the corner facing the wall but thoughtfully using proximity to help students listen has been used for centuries.

If a student really has a hard time with distractions and you have thoughtfully placed them in many locations with no avail then using a testing carrel or shield to minimize distractions during directions and lessons has helped many teachers.

When thinking about where to place a student’s desk in the classroom and how to use proximity to your advantage ask yourself these questions first:

  1. Does the student sit next to someone they know like a neighbor or friend?
  2. Does the student get easily distracted by outside stimulation such as windows or doors?
  3. Will the student do better sitting closer to the teacher?
  4. Will placing a student in a certain group or area help motivate a child to pay attention and listen more?
  5. Will being closer to the teacher help the student attain more help or accentuate their neediness?
  6. Where in the classroom will the student perform at their best based on the accommodations that serve the student most appropriately? 

Once you have discovered the best place for your students to thrive you will find that listening becomes second nature.

This will be due to your willingness to provide the proximity best suited for your students.

Please comment below on what listening strategies have worked best in your classroom!



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