Sunday, February 15, 2015

Are you listening?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Listening comprehension is an area that usually gets a mention once a year after a PAT test but then goes back in to hiding in the shadows of it's older sibling, reading comprehension. My theory is that listening skills need as much training as reading skills. Yet we sometimes neglect to teach or encourage this important skill.

Traditionally, listening posts have been the mainstay of listening "tools" in the classroom. The problem is that technology is moving fast and tapes have been replaced by CD's, CD's have been replaced by MP3's and each time the resources are costing money to replace. So now what?

Podcasts and audiobooks are now so readily available on a digital platform. You don't even have to step into a public library now to access an audiobook. You can download it via an app like Overdrive and have access it for a few weeks. Podcasts are turning up at an alarming rate on iTunes and students are even beginning to make their own podcasts. And best of all they are free?

So why make the art of listening a focus? Well I noticed the first time I put on the Serial podcast (the podcast that got me back into podcasts) I didn't actually listen to it properly. I missed really important chunks of information.  For anybody else that may have listened to this particular podcast then you will agree with me that the whole point of this podcast is to listen to all the facts and make your opinion. Hard to do when you've missed half of it!  I actually had to listen to it for a second time. I realised that I needed to train my brain to listen with concentration and not be distracted by other visual, auditory or tactual events that could be happening around me. I had to disconnect from my phone/computer/thinking about other things.  I have now become a master at listening to podcasts while driving (I do concentrate on that!!) and doing chores.  Any time that I can stop thinking in a deep way I try to listen to a podcast. Food for the brain!

Kids are exposed to so many visual stimuli these days that vision must be overriding the auditory system in some way. I am noticing myself that I am becoming overstimulated by visual information often.  There also seems to be a rise in students with auditory processing disorder. Interestingly enough, teaching listening skills is one of the recommendations. Apparently it improves with age but are we not teaching enough specific listening skills in the early years? It makes you think.

So for home learning this year I have suggested that one of the questions on the form that the students fill out online each week (yay for google forms!) that there is one about audiobooks and podcasts. I believe that they should have as much status as books. I am interested to see if the use of these increases as the year goes on and I give more recommendations and links to these on our planning site. I'm also hoping their general listening skills improve too!

Postscript: Apologies for mentioning Serial yet again in a blog post. I guess it really had an impact on me! If you haven't listened to it yet make sure you do!