We first need to start and look at the difference between active and passive listening.

Before diving into why it’s important to teach effective listening skills, let’s go over what exactly that looks like.

Active listening, loosely defined, is paying attention to a teacher and listening to understand, not to respond. It also includes complete focus on the teacher with minimal distractions and intent to learn. In school, one example of active listening would be a student waiting their turn and considering what their peers have to say before stating their opinion in a classroom discussion.

Passive listening, however, is like listening while multitasking. A passive listener might pay attention to the teacher with the sole intent to respond or place some of their attention in another task. A classroom example of passive listening. Students who text during class, interrupt other classmates to voice their opinion, or do homework during lecture or story time may be passive listeners.

Strategies that encourage active listening and limit its passive counterpart as much as possible are important ways to help students perform well in class.

The Benefits of Teaching Students How to Listen

Students with strong listening skills don’t just retain more information, but they are also less likely to feel unprepared and frustrated in class. This means that students who develop better listening skills are more likely to feel confident, comfortable, and prepared to succeed in school.

Students who listen pick up more knowledge to reflect on and think critically about before they respond. Plus, for dual language learners in your class, learning how to listen can help students pick up their second language faster.

The importance of active listening also branches into social-emotional development. Active listening promotes mindful thinking, which can reduce anxiety and depression in students

Teaching students listening skills leads to lasting advantages in a student’s academic career and beyond, including:

6 Engaging Activities That Teach Students Active Listening

  • Mindful Listening Meditation: This meditation teaches students how to tune out their thoughts and tune into the sounds surrounding them, a strategy that directly connects to active listening.
  • Listening with Openness Group Activity: This group activity can teach students how to take turns and listen during a classroom discussion.
  • Simon Says: Did you know that this classic game can help students learn to listen? Try any of the ten variations included in this resource, then have a discussion on listening to and following directions.
  • Outdoor Sound Scavenger Hunt: Head outdoors for this active listening game as students identify and find different sounds around your school.
  • Active Listening Conversation Partners: Pair up your older students and have them practice active listening skills with their conversation partner for a few minutes at a time.

Karin Visser
Biolink Attention Training Head Office