Why This is the #1 Skill All Students Need to Master and How to Get Them There

I ran a poll on my Instagram a few weeks ago, and the only thing 100% of teachers agreed on regardless of years of experience, grades taught, or community taught in, was that their students really need help…

not writing.

not reading.

not annotating.

not with organization.

not speaking.

…they really need help learning to listen to each other.

Stay with me here.

You might be thinking: “My students already listen really well! They’re respectful and our discussions are always lively and productive.” But before you click away, ask yourself this: Could my students put their classmates’ ideas into their own words in order to make their own meaning? And if they already can, do you believe they could do it even better?

Because listening to things like directions is important, yes, (more so that I don’t rip my hair out repeating myself 100 times) but what I mean is listening to understand. And I have the 1 step it takes to get them there. When is anything in teaching ever 1 step!? Let’s just bask in this for a sec.

So how to we get our students to be great listeners?

  1. Start Explicitly Teaching It and Don’t. Ever. Stop

We explicitly teach so many skills that I believe teaching students to listen falls by the wayside, like it’s just something they’ll pick up along the way. And while they might, I don’t believe many students will master it. And if we see each student’s comment as a building block to richer understanding, don’t we have to stop and teach them to listen? Aren’t we allowing our students to miss out on the chance to have that “ah-hah” moment or many? And that’s where we come in!

The download here includes TWO resources that will help you get your students to be the kind of listeners that make us all warm and fuzzy inside. I’m really excited for you to have them! And hey, no matter what time of year it is, print these or and tuck them away in your Google Drive or teacher files somewhere and visit them when you need to. (Which I think will be immediately once you see your students in action.)

Here’s what you get!

1.My Summarizing, Clarifying, and Synthesizing accountable talk sentence starters.

One my most beloved, valuable, growth-spiking class resources: I post mine on big poster board before the school year starts and refer to them in every class every single day, but these would also work great if students glued them into the front cover of a notebook or binder. If possible, taping them to a desk top is also an awesome idea! But this is not a share-it-and-forget-it kind of resource and kids won’t excel if it’s treated that way.

How I do this: Every time I give a multi-step direction, I’ll ask 2-3 students to say the directions back to me either by repeating it or putting the directions in their own words. I push them to use one of the sentence starters from our Summarizing category.

2. An Active Listening Debate Lesson Outline

How much do I love this lesson? So. Much. Mostly because students earn points not for sharing their opinions, but for how many of their classmates’ ideas they can summarize, clarify, or synthesize at the end of each debate round. It’s a perfect blend of active listening, note-taking, speaking, and best of all: respect and trust building in the classroom.

Every teacher’s dream (I think!) is when their students start internalizing routines and really owning their classroom space. I know this is happening when I stop being the one pointing maniacally at the Accountable Talk posters, and my students are stepping in instead.

When you try these, will you shoot me a tag on your Instagram story or post or pop a DM over at @cobbleandbrick and let me know how this is going for you and your students? I’m always hungry for feedback and I value your experiences and opinions deeply!

As always, thank you so much for being here and reading along!

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