Even well-behaved students can benefit from learning effective listening skills.
Language arts lessons often focus on the essential basics of reading and writing. Likewise, parents and caregivers take note of whether their children can spell when writing, or sound out words when reading. Other critical factors in literacy are not as readily apparent as spelling and decoding. but are just as significant to a child’s understanding and enjoyment of language.
Students need explicit instruction in reading comprehension in order to enjoy reading and not just excel at the technical aspects of decoding text. According to Scholastic, “comprehension requires the reader to be an active constructor of meaning.” Strong readers will relate to a book because they participated in understanding it. Specific skills to build reading comprehension include making connections (to self, other texts or the real world), making predictions, forming opinions, asking questions, making inferences, visualizing, and self-monitoring. A variety of instructional methods can be employed to teach and assess these skills, such as whole-class instruction, guided reading groups, one-on-one reading conferences and literature circles. Students can also use bookmarks, charts, checklists, graphic organizers, reading journals and Venn diagrams to work on comprehension skills.
Becoming a fluent reader is also an essential part of language arts curricula. Students need to be able to read age-appropriate text with rate, pacing and expression that mirrors their own natural speech patterns. Reading for an audience can be challenging and stressful, which is why many of the strategies employed to teach this skill focus on fun. Teachers can use Reader’s Theatre, Partner Reading, Book Buddies and poetry to help students read fluently. Teaching students explicitly about punctuation, common prefixes and suffixes, and sentence structures during spelling and grammar lessons can also enhance fluency over time.
Students can benefit as readers, and in all other subjects, from a true grasp of listening skills. Public speaking is often a focus in classrooms, although students will listen many more times than they will speak throughout their academic careers. It can be easy to assume that a student who is quiet is also listening. Different activities call for different types of listening, as the purpose can range from entertainment to learning or evaluating information. Students should be taught to engage in quality listening by thinking about the topic and their own preconceptions, making connections or asking questions (much as in reading), and reflecting on the information they received. Strategies for responding to distraction, note-taking and remaining attentive should also be addressed.