When you think about a “good listener”, what do you picture? Quiet? Sitting, facing forward? Hands on desk? Tracking the speaker?

When my kindergartners or my first graders listen to me telling a story using Story Listening supplementation, not all of them are quiet, and not all of them are sitting criss-cross apple sauce with their hands in their laps. In fact, all my first graders lay down during story time. And yet, they are listening.

How do I know they are listening? Because I have taught them that I welcome their comments and reactions as long as:

  1. they are not talking while I am narrating but they are welcome to react when I pause or draw
  2. their comments are relevant to the story
  3. they are not shouting during the story
  4. they are not preventing others to listen to the story

Their comments and reactions are INVALUABLE for me to know if they are following the story or not. I have also noticed that allowing my students to react and get comfortable means they won’t need as many brain breaks.

Asking students to “just listen and enjoy” is not always easy. Our school culture has created kids that can only pay attention when they have a piece of paper and pencil in hand, or when they are answering questions. Yet, little kids have a natural propensity to enjoy a good story. With lots of patience and modeling, and a lot of stories, some successful, some epic failures, I can really see the progress:

  1. They are quiet(er) when I narrate, and they give me feed-back when I pause to draw.
  2. The amount of “irrelevant” comments has dramatically decreased.
  3. They are listening to longer and faster-paced stories.

Yesterday, I told my kindergartners the story of “The magic pig”. The story lasted 19 minutes! I only had to redirect 2-3 students (who were grabbing friends, preventing them from listening) in 19 minutes. Watch how they are engaged, listening (but not quiet), and giving me feed-back, letting me know they are following the story.

Towards the end, they got really excited about the show that takes place in the story, and started making a lot of noise. I did a quick brain break and quickly wrapped up the story: they had given me the signal that they were done. I was shocked when I looked at the clock to see we had been with this story for 19 minutes!

MAgic Pig

Click on the image to watch the video

Dr. Mason’s Story Listening has made me rethink how I engage my young learners in listening. I would love to hear how you engage your students in listening.