Springing Into Listening Activities

Spring is in the air, school breaks are coming up soon, and attention wanders from class work to thoughts of getting outside and having fun. To help keep those listening skills sharp, I have varied offerings for teachers today: three for elementary students, and one freebie for upper grades to high school.  Parents are encouraged to modify and use any of these activities at home. 

For elementary students, here are listening activities that incorporate academics. In order of estimated difficulty:


WHO’S MY PARTNER?          apples png

This listening activity focuses on counting and numeral recognition.

  • Split the students into two teams (for to 20 players).
  • Give one team secret papers that have from one to ten dots.
  • Give the other team secret papers that have the numerals from one to ten.
  • One at a time, have the students with the dots each knock that number of times on a table and ask, “Who is my partner?”
  • The student with the matching numeral responds, “I am number____.”



SPARKLE!    spelling

This focuses on critical listening and serves as practice for the week’s (or previous weeks’) spelling words.  

  • The teacher arranges students in a line. (This can be done with students standing beside their desks, if they are in rows; or standing in a circle.) Then the teacher calls out the first spelling word.
  • The first student in line calls out the first letter in that word.
  • The second person calls out the second letter.
  • The third person calls out the third letter and so on.
  • The person who says the last letter in the word must turn to the next person in the sequence and say “SPARKLE.”
  • The person who is “sparkled” must sit down.
  • If a word is misspelled, the person to say the first wrong letter must sit down and the spelling of that word continues.
  • After a student is sparkled, the leader calls out a new word.
  • The game continues until only one student remains standing, then all students stand back up and the teacher calls out the next word.

Adapted from Source: Gary Hopkins, Education World; http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/field_day_games.shtml#sthash.eSt5XI7u.dpuf.   


ONE, TWO, THREE, BUZZ!         bee-1296273_960_720

This listening activity focuses on math multiplication facts.         

  • Start in a circle by counting aloud, each student taking a turn, going around the circle to get familiar with the counting movement.
  • The teacher then calls out a change–a number that represent its multiplication table. Numbers of that multiplication table will be replaced with the word BUZZ.
  • For example, replacing numbers in the 5 times table with BUZZ instead of the actual number: 1, 2, 3, 4, BUZZ, 6, 7, 8, 9, BUZZ, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, BUZZ.

Source: The Drama Toolkit. (2015). Drama Games: Listening. http://www.dramatoolkit.co.uk.


For UPPER GRADES to HIGH SCHOOL, here’s a listening strategy for teaching listening and attending skills. Click to download the freebie: FOCUS

Happy Springtime!                                                                      © 2017 Susanne Marie Poulette





Freebie: Liam’s Listening Poster

Here’s a January gift for you and your students!  Download Liam Labradoodle’s Whole Body Listening diagram poster for your classroom. Feel free to reduce the size and print copies for each students’ desk. These can be good reminders for active listening and paying attention. 

Whether you’re new to this site or a returning reader, please check us out for other free downloadables as well as lots of listening resources for Pre K to Middle Grades. I hope you’ll follow this site! 

Click the image for Liam’s poster:



From: Liam Labradoodle Learns Whole Body Listening, Maminet Press, 2015

© SM Poulette 1/2017

Talking with Kids about Listening Filters

by Susanne M. Poulette, MS, CCC-SLP

Let’s talk about listening filters. We all know the signs, and no doubt we’ve been there. We may be in a public place and hear an announcement, and as soon as we identify that the message doesn’t pertain to us, we tune it right out. It could happen during a conversation or when listening to a speaker. We may drift off, not because we’re  tired or distracted, but because we’ve actively decided to block the message, for any number of reasons. We might be opposed to the speaker or the topic, we may think it doesn’t apply, or maybe we just don’t want to hear what we know is coming. 

What about our students? When we get exasperated with continually asking for attention, and redirecting them to listening…it might be worth exploring why they’re not listening and if they are filtering you out. 

Here’s my simple chart to help you get started in talking with your students about listening filters; what they are, and how to recognize and resolve them. I hope this is a good jumping off point for discussion and lots of problem solving with your students.

 Go ahead- click, download and print, it’s a freebie!


© S M Poulette 2017

Classroom listening before the holidays- herding cats?

December 17, 2016

By Susanne Marie Poulette, CCC-SLP

It’s the last week before the holidays, and I’ve been hearing from teachers. This is one of the toughest times to keep students listening and focused on learning. I don’t have a magic incantation, but I have some ideas to try.

clipart-light-bulb-lit-clipartbold    The first is an explicit instruction on using HEAR, Training the Brain to Listen: A Practical Strategy for Student Learning and Classroom Management, by Donna Wilson, Ph.D. This strategy “offers concrete steps to focus on and improve listening — and emphasizes why and how developing this skill is so important.”

There are four steps that teachers can implement in a lesson. Depending on grade level, I suggest the following: teach one step at a time, and then practice; or combine the first two steps and practice, or all at once depending on students’ ability levels.  When all steps are taught, the acronym HEAR can be used as a preset, a reminder, or to get students back on track.

HALT: Stop whatever else you are doing, end your internal dialogue or other thoughts, and free your mind to pay attention to the person speaking.

ENGAGE: Focus on the speaker. We suggest a physical component, such as turning your head slightly so that your right ear is toward the speaker as a reminder to be engaged solely in listening.

ANTICIPATE: By looking forward to what the speaker has to say, you are acknowledging that you will likely learn something new and interesting, which will enhance your attention.

REPLAY: Think about what the speaker is saying. Analyze and paraphrase it in your mind or in discussion with the speaker and other classmates. Replaying the information will aid in understanding and remembering what you have learned.


Reference: Wilson, Donna; Conyers, Marcus. (2014). Training the Brain to Listen: A Practical Strategy for Student Learning and Classroom Management. Edutopiahttp://www.edutopia.org/blog/training-the-brain-to-listen-donna-wilson.


clipart-light-bulb-lit-clipartboldVary the voices heard in the classroom and decrease teacher talk.                                   You know, this sort of thing: wah


 Designate students to speak or read. This gives the class another voice to listen to, and might help to increase focus on the message as students listen to their classmates.              

Announce that you will give instructions one time only* and invite questions. The questions allow students to interact with the message. When students know it will be said one time only, they will learn that they need to listen more carefully, and/or problem solve and use repair strategies. *It is not recommended that one-time-only directions be used with hearing impaired or other students with special needs. 

When a repeat of instructions is requested, there are options:ask another student to repeat it for the class, monitor and help to insure accuracy when needed, and reinforce the good listening.

Modify; plan fun, no-risk short practice sessions as needed.


clipart-light-bulb-lit-clipartbold How about some LISTENING GAMES for some practice and a little fun?

young boy listening something


SHIP AHOY!  A classic game – develop listening skills, spatial awareness, nautical vocabulary

The teacher first explains that we are about to go on a ship and as the crew.  Tell that there are lots of jobs to be done, and explain how to follow the commands.

Students start by forming a line (one behind the other) directly in front of the teacher to enter ship.

The teacher then gives a command and the children have to perform the activity associated with that command and go to various areas of the ‘ship’. Commands include:

Captain is coming – salute and stand still for inspection

Boom crossing – students duck

Scrub the deck – students all scrub the floor

Climb the rigging – all pretend to climb up sail

Port – go left and look out

Starboard – go right and look out

Bow – go to the front and all walk the plank

Stern – go to the back and all pull in the anchor

To remember where you’re going – “port” has four letters as has “left.”

Variations: This game could be adapted to a different setting – plane, car, beach.


LISTENING DETECTIVE:   This is a fun way to encourage careful listening for elementary students!

Instead of a detective’s magnifying glass to LOOK for clues, the children make paper “ear trumpets” as props to LISTEN for clues and use in listening activities. Each student makes an ear trumpet for listening activities. 


Download, print, and cut out the form shown below, or cut a similar wedge from a large paper plate

Roll the paper into a cone, overlap the edges and tape it closed. See the illustration and link below.

Cut about an inch from the pointed edge of the tip, so no one pokes it too far into their ear.

Voilà, you have an ear trumpet!

If not too distracting, students can be asked to use their ear trumpets when an important direction or instruction is coming.


To download the pattern:   http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Funnel-or-Cone-from-Paper



Listen Carefully: SOUND BOTTLES

Fill 8 small, matching containers with food or other items such as rice, dried beans, pennies, etc. (make two cans of each). Seal cans and have children try to find the matching sounds.

Listen Carefully: MARBLE DROP   Combining listening, counting, and numeral recognition

Provide ten paper cups, each labeled a numeral from one to ten. Put a corresponding number of marbles into each cup. Also provide a metal pie tin.

Two children play this game. One child turns her back on the second child (or an adult). The second child randomly selects a cup, takes the  marbles out, and slowly drops them into the pie tin one at a time so that they can be easily heard.

The first child listens carefully, counting to him/herself the number of marbles that were dropped. She then identifies which cup the marbles were from by recognizing the numeral.

The marbles then go back into the cup. The children can take turns dropping the marbles and guessing. 

Variation: Have one child slowly drop a given number of marbles into a tin. The class counts each sound and raise their hands to give the correct number.

                                           My best wishes to all…




Susanne Marie Poulette, M.S., CCC-SLP

It’s been a few days since Halloween, how’s all that candy working for us?  Are the sugar java-pup-in-pubhighs waning?  I hear from parents and teachers that it might be a good time for more strategies to help our kids listen and focus.   

For any age student, it’s helpful to review the reasons WHY listening is PERSONALLY important to each of us. We all want to know, “What am I going to get out of this? Why do I need to listen?”

You might like to try these ideas:

CSMP-2012-multi-art-4-ear Have a chat about why it’s important to listen mindfully – in school, in the community, and with family and friends. Some examples that you might find helpful:


To learn, to understand, and to follow directions.

To get instructions so we know what we’re supposed to do.

To listen and understand teachers’ instructions and lessons.

To gain meaning and understanding from new information and stories read aloud.


To listen and be polite even if we really don’t care or if we’re bored.

To respect others by listening to them the same way we want to be listened to.

To show that we care about the speaker.

To make friends, and learn and remember their names.

To understand and participate in games, sports, and other social activities.

We listen to be aware of the world around us, for OUR SAFETY AND WELL-BEING

To get important news and know what’s going on around us.

To follow directions to avoid dangerous situations or activities, such as: 

school bus safety, playground safety, fire drills, sports safety rules, water safety/lifeguard   rules, warnings about risks or dangers by parents, teachers, coaches, crossing guards, etc.


CSMP-2012-multi-art-4-earWhat are good listening skills? “Discuss among yourselves.”

Brainstorm some examples of good vs. poor listening, and make lists of each. Younger children can draw pictures of good listening scenes.  

Look for pictures in magazines that depict good and poor listening; make collages of each.

For young children: 


Who looks like they are listening and paying attention?

Who looks like they are NOT listening and paying attention?

CSMP-2012-multi-art-4-earEncourage reflection on the effort involved in listening: Is it easy, just okay, or difficult?

What makes it easy or difficult?  When, where?  

What are some solutions to make listening easier for you?

CSMP-2012-multi-art-4-earAsk “Listening is a skill, so how do you get better at a skill?                                          practice

 Example discussion:    

“Skills improve with practice, like catching a ball, tying shoe laces, playing a musical instrument…”

Encourage them to make this connection and understand that we CAN improve our listening skills.

© 2016 S M Poulette

For Teachers & Parents: Some Thoughts on Whole Body Listening

by Susanne Poulette (Truesdale), CCC-SLP

apple-border-for-casha-news-jpg-sofftenedSo it’s that busy September back-to-school time when thoughts turn to refreshing our students’ learning skills and strategies. Among the tools for teaching and sharpening listening skills is good old Whole Body Listening.

  • Brain – thinking about what the ears are hearing.
  • Eyes – looking toward the speaker.
  • Mouth – quiet
  • Hands – quiet, still
  • Seat – firmly in the chair or on the floor.
  • Feet – quietly where they should be (floor or criss-cross applesauce).



The critical word here is “tool.” WBL should be modified as needed for students who have special needs, difficulty with self-regulation, or discomfort with eye contact. It should always be used with sensitivity for a child’s developmental readiness and attention span level. 

WBL lessons are suggestions for teaching and practicing listening skills. WBL is a teaching tool that can be used as a key phrase to pre-set, or as a reminder for good listening, but not for lengthy performance expectations.


If I could identify the most critical element of WBL, it would be listening with the brain. When I think about what a speaker is saying, I’m essentially connecting my mind with that speaker’s mind. Isn’t that true attending and authentic listening?

Listening with the brain can also help us develop an internal schema as we think about what we are hearing and form mental images. In this way, thinking about what is being said can encourage visualization, and perhaps this might increase comprehension and retention.


We can use WBL to help students to take responsibility for their listening behaviors. Students become aware of and reflect on their own listening. Let’s encourage students to question themselves: “What do I need to listen for? Did I think about what the speaker was saying, or what was going on outside the window? How well did I do? Do I get it? Do I need to ask a question?”


We know that children learn by watching, listening, and imitating. In fact, we may know all too well how fast a child can learn a naughty word or behavior! The same holds true for listening.

When we’re good listeners, we demonstrate how we want our students to listen. Without interrupting or rushing, by maintaining eye contact and attention, we listen well and model the same courtesy to students as we do to adults.



  • Brainstorm examples of good vs. poor listening and generate lists.
  • Encourage students to reflect on the effort involved in their own listening: Is it easy or difficult?
  • What makes it easy or difficult?  When, why, where is it easy or difficult?
  • What are some solutions for making listening easier?
  • Ask, “Listening is a skill, so how do you get better at a skill?”  Elicit discussion: “Skills improve with correct practice, like throwing a ball, tying shoe laces, playing an instrument…” Encourage students to make this connection and understand that we can improve our listening skills.
  • Teach the difference between HEARING and LISTENING:  

              We HEAR with our EARS


  • Compare hearing and listening to TV channels:

             TV is turned on, but set at a blank screen: “TV is ON”— is like HEARING.

             TV is turned on and “TUNED IN” to a real channel — is like LISTENING.

  • TUNING IN makes the difference. TUNED IN means we connect our brain to the message; we think about it, focus on it, and give it importance.
  • Use the key words to teach self-monitoring: “Am I TUNED IN to the listening channel or a blank screen?
  • When listeners are distracted and then they hear the speaker say something like, “Now don’t forget…” or “What do you think about…” That’s a cue to click themselves back to the listening channel.



I wish you a joyful, productive, satisfying, and successful school year. May you optimize and cherish the profound impact you have on the future generation.        ~ Susanne



Back-to-School Freebies For Teachers

Dr. Mary Jalongo has been a faculty member in the Education Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania since 1978, teaching courses on language arts, early child-hood education, human development, and professional studies. I recommend her seminal work, Strategies for Developing Children’s Listening Skills, published by  Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation in 1991 and available for free download on ERIC at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED331099

I have found this paper to be a treasure trove of information on understanding the listening processes, variables affecting listening, strategies for teaching listening skills to children, and much more.

In a section entitled, “Create a listening environment,” Dr. Jalongo explains:

“The teacher who wants children to be good listeners considers possible sources of distraction and strives to eliminate or at least minimize them. When standardized tests are being administered, “Do Not Disturb!” signs appear on every door and the school hallways are very quiet. Yet it is common, when children are listening appreciatively to literature, for people to barge in, without apology, thus breaking the mood and the flow of the story. How refreshing it would be to see a sign that read: “Please do not disturb. Story-sharing session in progress.”  In an environment where literature is valued as much as much as test scores, such signs would be commonplace.”

Yes, wouldn’t that be refreshing? I suggest organizing a class activity where each student can make such a sign, personally decorated, and politely worded, of course. Students could take turns, for a few days or a week, each with their own carefully made sign posted on the classroom door during listening activities.  What a nice way to help for students to be invested in respect for listening times. 

To get you started, I have made signs, including Spanish versions, that you can download. This is my gift to you and your class.

As a speech-language-pathologist, I can’t resist offering another sign for times of communication sharing. Perhaps this sign could be used for when students make presentations, show and tell, class discussions or cooperative learning activities.           

Feel free to download, print, and share these door signs. Liam and Lily Labradoodle are there to help draw attention to the signs. Enjoy, and have the best school year ever!

I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know if this is helpful. Thanks in advance. 

Click on the poster below to download the LISTENING SIGN:

door sign freebie

Click on the poster below to download the COMMUNICATION SIGN:

door sign freebie communication

Click on the poster below to download the Spanish version LISTENING SIGN:

door sign freebie listening Spanish version

Click on the poster below to download the Spanish version COMMUNICATION SIGN:

Spanish door sign freebie communication

© Susanne Poulette, CCC-SLP, August 23, 2016