Activities to Improve Listening Skills: How to Help the Elementary Class Learn To Listen

Activities to Improve Listening Skills: How to Help the Elementary Class Learn To Listen
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Teaching Young Students to Hear You

If you are a first time teacher preparing for the year ahead, or a seasoned veteran you will want your classroom to be one that is well behaved. One of the simplest things that takes place in the classroom is the skill of listening. Simple you say? Well, maybe not so simple for twenty or more students who may be used to being able to talk whenever they’d like too! The art of listening is something that has to be taught and reinforced, just like raising your hand and taking turns has to be taught.

This lesson plan is designed for elementary classroom teachers and even music teachers. Children will practice listening to the world around them, not just spoken words, but sounds in the environment too. The lesson works well for younger students (pre-K through second grade) although it could be modified for older students.

Let’s Go on a Walk!

First, you will want to explain to the students that there are sounds all around us.Many elementary music teachers have CD’s with sound clips of environmental sounds (horn honking, dog barking, etc.). If you are a classroom teacher in search of this type of CD check with your school’s music department. Play some of these examples and have the students guess what makes the sound they heard.

You will also want to let the students know in order to hear the sounds in the environment they will need to listen. This means their bodies will have to be quiet. For pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten students, a good book to start the lesson would be Listening Time by Elizabeth Verdick.This can be obtained on or possibly through a local library. This book creatively reminds children that the rest of your body needs to be quiet to hear the sounds around us.

If you have a small enough class size (or parent help for the day), and permission from your principal, the next step is to take a sound walk. Explain that you will be taking a clipboard, paper and pen and the class will be going on a ‘sound collecting walk.’ When a student hears a sound he should raise his hand and the sound he heard will be “collected” by writing it onto the paper. If you’d like to modify this activity for older students you could have a pre-made check list for each student with types of sounds they will likely hear. Students could work silently as they walk to check off what they hear.

The sound walk works best when you can go outside, pass a noisy gym, lunchroom, or office area. Students will hear all sorts of sounds…printers going, children laughing, clocks ticking, etc. You can either route out a certain walk and once it’s complete you’ve ended back in your classroom, or pre determine a certain number of sounds to collect and then return. Once back in the classroom review the list aloud.

Modification For Music Teachers

As a side note, if you are a music teacher using this with a general music classroom, you can still review the general art of listening, but modify it to hear musical sounds in their environment such as a the steady beat of a hammer pounding, or the hum of a fan, etc.

Whether you are a music teacher or a classroom teacher, starting out your year right, by teaching children how to listen to one another, and the world around them, will help your year go more smoothly.


Wikimedia Commons:walking.jpg: author: Henri Bergius

Laura Powell taught K-12 music for three and a half years. This sound collection walk was a lesson plan she used with her elementary music classes to reinforce listening skills.