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Build Listening & Note Taking Skills in your Middle School Class

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 10/31/2012

These strategies will help your students build active listening skills. By listening carefully and following directions, your students will improve their note taking skills.

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    Middle school students are taught good listening skills in preschool. However, by the time they hit middle school, they seem to have forgotten them!

    If your students need to improve listening skills, there are a couple of different strategies or activities you can try. If students have a hearing impairment, please make sure to make changes or modifications to this lesson so that these students can be successful as well.

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    Following Directions Activity

    One fun way to improve students’ listening skills is to give them directions and see if they can follow them. It sounds simple enough, as teachers give directions all the time in class, but these directions are to draw objects in the right space. To add more interest, turn it into a competition. All of the students who correctly draw the items from the oral directions can win candy or a small prize.

    Note: You will need the key that is included below.

    Steps to Listening and Drawing Correct Shapes

    These directions are to be given orally in class. Tell students that you will only be reading each step of the directions twice, so they need to pay close attention.

    • Step 1: Turn your paper horizontally. That means “landscape” or long ways.
    • Step 2: Draw a two-inch five point star in the left hand corner. The top point and the left point should touch the edge of the paper.
    • Step 3: Now, move your pencil to the middle of the paper. Draw a one inch square. Shade or color in the square.
    • Step 4: On the bottom right hand corner of the paper, draw a two inch circle. Leave about a one inch margin, which means to come over one inch on the edge of each side of the paper. Inside the circle, draw a happy face.
    • Step 5: For the last object, you are going to draw a two-inch equal lateral triangle. It goes in the top right hand corner. Leave a one inch margin on both edges of the paper.

    After the students have finished drawing the star, square, circle and triangle, they need to trade papers. Included in this lesson is a key to the directions. Make a transparency of the key or project it directly from the image included.

    Students should check that the paper they are “grading” looks exactly like the paper on the screen. The shape sizes should be approximately the right size; however, if the shapes are obviously the wrong size, the students need to “mark it wrong.”

    Also, if a student forgot to shade in the square or place a “happy face” in the circle, the student should also mark this wrong.

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    Assessing Students’ Listening Skills

    • Students who drew all four shapes in the right place and the right size are excellent listeners.
    • Those who had three shapes correct are above average listeners and need to work on listening to details.
    • Students with two shapes correct are average to below average listeners and need to make a conscientious effort to improve their listening skills.
    • Students with one shape correct are poor listeners and need to focus on becoming better listeners.
    • For students with zero shapes correct, the student didn’t listen at all and needs the teacher’s help.
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    Key to the Following Directions Activity

    Key for Listening Activity
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    Other Listening Activities

    The reason students need good listening skills in the middle school is for note taking. At the middle school level, taking good notes from lectures becomes important. Some students will need help in this area.

    Testing Student Note Taking

    To test students’ proficiency of note taking, teachers can select a short lecture to give to the students. The teacher should make notes from the lecture that he or she would use to study for a quiz. This should be made into a transparency or electronic slide for the projector.

    The teacher needs to tell students to take notes from the lecture. After completing the lecture, the teacher needs to ask students to compare their notes to the teacher’s notes. The students should see what they missed and add it to their notes.

    Then, the teacher should discuss why the things that he or she wrote down were important.

    In addition, the students should share what was left off and ask how to know when a key concept that is spoken should be writing down.

    Two additional activities to improve listening is listening to numbers and listening to music.

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    Listening skills are not just important in pre-school and kindergarten, they are important in a student’s life all the way to college. This is a crucial skill to have in personal and work relationships as well.