Slice of Life: Charting the Listeners

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give


In another writing space, in which connected friends from the National Writing Project write regularly and different folks take on different writing prompt hosting each week, my friend, Fred M., posed the question this week of nurturing active listeners. Fred, citing Peter Elbow’s work, used the launching idea of: “Listening is NOT waiting for the other person to stop talking.”

It’s a great topic, and one my colleagues at school and I talk about a lot, mostly from the deficit viewpoint: “Why isn’t he listening?” or “She was staring out the window again” or “He never participates in class discussions or raises his hand.” Maybe we need to think more of, what I am doing to bring her back to the classroom? Or how I am engaging him in something he is passionate about? That’s another day, another time.

I wrote to Fred’s prompt about some story activities that I do that encourage listening skills and then started to think about a typical class. I had this idea to use one of my four sixth grade classes, and to break it down (very unscientifically) along categories of listeners.

Here is what I came up with:

A Class of Listeners

Fred suggested I share the chart back with my sixth graders and get their input and perspective. I just might do that.

Peace (I’m listening),

  1. Maybe the Window Gazers and Silenteers are listening in their own way. I remember being really self conscious about participating in discussions in middle school.

  2. Did YOU make the distinctions or ask the students to self-identify? It would be interesting to see their chart and how it matches or differs from your perspective.

  3. Definitely worth a discussion with your classes, as listening may look different from person to person in the classroom. I’m thinking of myself, of course–a strong visual learner who gets distracted by looking at the speaker for long periods of time, and so I tend to doodle while listening–it really helps me focus, oddly enough.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this too. I think sharing this chart will open up a conversation where you might learn what those window gazers are thinking. You might ask them (using socrative or something) to write what they think they are–then compare the two charts. I’m going to do this too!

  5. Curious as to how you determined the categories and are there students who fall into multiple categories? Are we ever the same consistently?

    • We are always shifting … and I determined the categories just by thinking for a stretch (again, very unscientific) … and of course, it is my own perspective on them, so take it as a grain of salt …

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