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How to facilitate effective listening in your classroom

Posted by Paul Boyd on Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Paul Boyd
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Facilitating effective listening in your classroom is an area that most educators find tricky to lock down into a single strategy.

Wouldn’t it be great if every child followed your instructions the first time you gave them?

I don’t know about you, but there have been occasions in my lessons where I am baffled as to why children have not listened to or understood my instructions.

What seems perfectly clear and obvious to the person who planned the lesson may not always be as transparent to those following it. And there are a host of possible reasons for that. Are the children appropriately focused? Are you helping them manage their distractions? How are you phrasing your instructions? The list goes on.


Additionally, if you’re a supply teacher it can be even worse, as the children don’t know your personal teaching style and may regard you with a different attitude as you’re a stranger who’s only there for the day.

Heading into the next half-term, it might be worth re-examining how you give instructions to see if there’s any way you could make things more fluid for your classroom.

A lot of these reminders are particularly useful for those with additional needs but work just as well for all children.

Ask for their attention first

You might think you have everyone’s attention, but there might be those couple of children still writing or thinking through a problem. Announce that you need their attention before saying anything important.

Tell, don’t ask

I find this particularly useful with younger students. “Could you write an answer to this question?” may be interpreted as a command by an adult, but not by a child.

“Write your answer to this question” is clear and direct without any ambiguity.

One instruction at a time 

Depending on the nature of the work, try and deliver a step-by-step approach, rather than giving all the instructions at once.

class students

Order your instructions 

If you can’t do the previous suggestion, something as simple as numbering the order of items in a task can make a bigger project much more approachable for children.

Wait time 

A concept that I really have to remember to use! After giving instructions, allow children a few seconds to think about what they have to do before taking questions or allowing them to begin. According to research, 3 secs is the ideal time.

Check their understanding

I often get the class to repeat back to me what it is they have to do before they do it. That way you can clear up any misconceptions before they begin!


The precision of instruction

Remember, what is obvious to you may not be to your class. Saying ‘complete the worksheet’ may not sufficiently activate children as they may not know how to deconstruct this open instruction.

‘Read the text at the top of the worksheet, then answer the questions that follow below’ may produce a much quicker response from students as you are giving them specific directions to the task.



About our Community Expert


Paul BPaul Boyd
Community Expert

Paul is an actor and English teacher from Northern Ireland. Alongside his acting career working in theatre, film and television across the UK, he also teaches in primary and secondary schools throughout London.

Paul provides performance coaching to both individual clients and businesses.

Topics: Classroom success


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