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Teaching Strategies to Create Active Listeners

Janelle Cox

How are your listening skills? Are you an active listener? One of the most important qualities a teacher (as well as a student) can have is the ability to actively listen. In order to truly be an active listener, you must be able to concentrate and focus on the person who is speaking without any interruption and without allowing your mind to wander. Most of the time when we listen to someone speak, our minds wander, or we are only half listening and thinking about what we want to say next. However, when we are being an active listener, we paraphrase what the person has said, or we ask clarifying questions once the speaker is done talking. Here, we’ll take a quick look at some teaching strategies that allow you to create active listeners in your classroom. We’ll also give you a few teaching strategies and activities you can implement to improve your students’ listening skills both inside and outside of the classroom.

Teaching Strategies to Become a Better Listener

There are a few teaching strategies that you can use to help your students become better listeners. First, teach students to focus on the speaker and not let their mind wander. This can be prove to be quite difficult, but the trick is to teach kids to be mindful when their mind is wandering, and bring their attention back to the speaker. Next, teach students to be mindful of their body language. As they listen to the speaker talk, have students make sure they aren’t sending out any wrong signals that they are not listening, such as having their arms folded or looking around the room. Lastly, instruct students to summarize what the speaker said, or ask clarifying questions once the speaker has stopped talking. All of these strategies will show the speaker that the student is an active listener.

Classroom Activities to Build Listening Skills

There are many ways to create engaging activities that will help students focus on their listening skills. Here are a few of the most effective activities try in your classroom.

Listen for the Hidden Phrase

This activity will focus on improving students’ ability to listen with intention. The goal of this activity is for students to actively listen for a hidden phrase. Here’s how it works. First, you must prepare a variety of hidden phrases before class and make sure that you have enough for each group to have a different one. Next, pair students together to create a dialogue using a secret phrase that you give them. For example, if the hidden phrase was “I like to play football,” then students would create a short dialogue using the phrase “I like to play football” somewhere in it. The key is to have students create a dialogue around the hidden phrase that would lead the others to listen with intention. Once they have created a short dialogue using the phrase, they must present it to their classmates to see which group can find that hidden phrase. Each group that guesses correctly gets one point. If no one can guess the hidden phrase correctly, then the group that writes the dialogue gets a point. It’s important to encourage students to use expression when speaking the dialogue to help their classmates guess the hidden phrase more easily.

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Listen for the Repeat

This activity focuses on improving students’ ability to listen for a specific sound or word. It helps them to listen for a purpose. Listening with a purpose helps students better develop their everyday listening skills. For this activity, students are to listen for the repeated sound. You can play this game as a whole group, in a relay race line where each team competes against the other, or in pairs. To begin, give students a sentence and challenge them to listen for the repeated sound or word. For example, if students were listening for a sound, you can say a phrase like “I saw a cat, eat a bat, then a rat, before he fell flat on his face.” As soon as students think they hear the repeated sound, which for this example would be “a~”, they must stand up next to their seat. If students were listening for a repeated word, then you say a phrase like “I saw an old man with a dog. The dog looked very happy, but the man looked sad.” For this example, the repeated word is “dog.” As soon as students hear the repeated word, they stand next to their seats. Once students get the hang of it, pair them up and have them create their own phases. Once they’ve created their phrase, each group must come up and take a turn reading it to the class for their peers to guess.

Listening is the activity of paying attention and really taking the time to get meaning from something that you hear. By engaging in a variety of activities like the ones mentioned above, students will continually develop their listening skills.

How do you help students improve their active listening skills? Do you have any teaching strategies or classroom activities that you’d like share? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educatorsor contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.