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;   


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.


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

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

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


Why doesn’t this child listen to me?

By Susanne Marie Poulette, CCC-SLP

So, why doesn’t this child listen to you?  

As parents, teachers, and caregivers, we may find ourselves saying this all too often. We expect our children to pay attention, listen and follow our directions.

Do as I do:  Modeling = Teaching

What can we do to teach children to listen?  To start, let’s look at how children typically learn to communicate. From the time that they are babies, children listen, watch, and imitate our interactions as we speak and listen to one another. Modeling good listening is then a critical step in teaching good listening.

Stop, Look, and Listen.      

Do we regularly stop what we are doing, look at the child, and listen carefully with full attention? Modeling these behaviors would be the first step in helping that child to develop good listening skills. (Case in point: have you ever seen your child imitate a behavior that you are not proud of? Some children learn very fast by listening to and watching adults!) 

chucks nose to nose with caption

Carl Smith provides the following clear, concise guidelines:   

Guidelines For Modeling Good Listening Skills

  • Be interested and attentive. Children can tell whether they have a parent’s interest and attention by the way the parent replies or does not reply. Forget about the telephone and other distractions. Maintain eye contact to show that you really are with the child. 
  • Encourage talking. Some children need an invitation to start talking. You might begin with, “Tell me about your day at school.” Children are more likely to share their ideas and feelings when others think them important.
  • Listen patiently. People think faster than they speak. With limited vocabulary and experience in talking, children often take longer than adults to find the right word. Listen as though you have plenty of time.
  • Hear children out. Avoid cutting children off before they have finished speaking. It is easy to form an opinion or reject children’s views before they finish what they have to say. It may be difficult to listen respectfully and not correct misconceptions, but respect their right to have and express their opinions.
  • Listen to nonverbal messages. Many messages children send are communicated nonverbally by their tone of voice, their facial expressions, their energy level, their posture, or changes in their behavior patterns. You can often tell more from the way a child says something than from what is said. When a child comes in obviously upset, be sure to find a quiet time then or sometime that day to help explore those feelings.

Carl Smith, How Can Parents Model Good Listening Skills? Indiana University, 1992.  ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills.

Whole-Body Listening Updated

The following post is a reprint of an article which provides my update on Whole Body Listening, published in ADVANCE.  You can visit the site for a “multimedia refresher” as well.  Click HERE to go there.


Whole-Body Listening Updated

Applications of this active-listening lesson for children often omit key points

It has been 23 years since “Whole-Body Listening: Developing Active Auditory Skills” was published in Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. Since then, many applications of these listening lessons have emerged in classrooms and therapy rooms.

Books and materials – creative coloring pages, worksheets, diagrams and wall posters – on Whole-Body Listening have been published on educators’ and parenting websites and blogs.

These diagrams, unfortunately, often omit the most critical part of Whole-Body Listening, the brain. Correspondingly, the instruction to think about what the speaker is saying may be missing or too abbreviated.

When we ask someone to think about what we are saying, we are in essence asking for the listener’s brain to be connected, tuned-in, to the spoken message. In other words, we are asking the listener to put his or her mind to ours as we speak.

Linking the listener’s mind to the speaker’s words is a key to active listening.  This direct request guides a child to learn how to listen, and therefore, how to attend by developing and practicing active listening.  As children’s attention spans naturally increase with their development, their active listening skills have more opportunity for growth through the reinforcement of practice.

It is important to be clear and use the correct description of listening with the brain. Often we abbreviate sentences to form catchphrases that are easy to remember. It is best not to shorten this cue to “The brain is thinking,” as seen on many diagrams and in preset poems based on Whole-Body Listening.

Children need a careful, but simple explanation: “My brain is thinking about what the speaker is saying.”

This can help engage a child’s attention to listen, reducing daydreaming or thinking of things entirely disconnected from the speaker. Shortened to “My brain is thinking,” a child might assume that thinking about anything is listening with the brain, and delight in thinking of a new computer game, what the family dog is doing, and the list goes on.

Thinking as Tangible Action

Susanne Poulette Truesdale, MS in Ed, CCC-SLP, visits first graders to review Whole-Body Listening. photo courtesy Matilda Barry

The point of Whole-Body Listening is for each body part to be tangible enough for a child to have some degree of control, even if for a short time.

A typical child can identify with his or her eyes, mouth, hands, feet, and seat. This gives them concrete, purposeful, doing behaviors in order to listen. The brain concept, the most important part of Whole-Body Listening, is less concrete, but provides a tool for listening and attending.

For example, if we ask a child to think of a dog, he or she would probably form some mental image or idea of a dog from previous experience. This presumes, of course, that a child has sufficient developmental ability to control what he or she is thinking.

Whole-Body Listening is meant to be simple enough for kindergarteners and first graders to understand. The lessons in the original article were developed with the ideas, comments, questions, and problem-solving of first semester, first-grade speech-and-language-impaired children working with the author. The children in this group demonstrated periods of control over their eyes, mouths, hands, feet, and seats.

With instruction and concrete cues, the children worked to manage what they thought about as they listened. Listening with the brain then provided a conscious doing behavior.

Difference between Listening & Hearing

The original Whole-Body Listening article did not include the heart as one of the parts of the body in learning how to listen. This was apparently added later as a creative proponent of Whole-Body Listening.

It has been explained that adding the heart signifies listening as a caring and polite act that teaches children to listen respectfully. Some professionals use this pleasant concept in teaching social language skills, which is a different goal. But as a listening goal, can we suppose that children have tangible control over their hearts? The heart doesn’t link to a doing behavior, such as thinking of a certain item, or managing the eyes, mouth, hands , and seat.

It is important to understand that when children use the Whole-Body Listening, as first described in 1990, then, they are listening respectfully. Bryant H. McGill wrote, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If the goal is to teach to children listening skills – that is, how to listen – then it is advisable to begin with the tangible doing behaviors with corresponding parts of the body.

Similarly the original article did not include the ears as a part of Whole-Body Listening because children cannot carry out a physical action, or actively do something with their ears, unless they are very talented and can wiggle them.

The lesson in the original article states, “When we hear a sound, we use our ears. When we try very hard to listen, we need to use more than our ears. We also listen with our brain, eyes, mouth, hands, feet, and even our seat!” Thus, the difference between hearing and listening is introduced.

Cautions to Consider

There are two important cautions to consider when using Whole-Body Listening lessons with students.


Refresher Course

First graders at Hillside Elementary School, Niskayuna, NY, brush up on Whole-Body Listening with author Susanne Poulette Truesdale, MS in Ed, CCC-SLP.

View the students at work and get take-home lessons to apply Whole-Body Listening in your classroom.

First, we need to be cognizant of children’s developmental readiness in terms of attention span.  At any age, we do not expect full Whole-Body Listening for lengthy periods, although we would greatly appreciate it. Expectations should be carefully considered with a child’s developmental level in mind.

Second is the concern for children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. “Listening with the eyes,” which is essentially eye contact, should be modified or deleted depending on the child’s individual needs and goals. Sensitivity, application of current knowledge of ASD , and professional judgment govern this part of Whole-Body Listening.

Colleagues are encouraged to continue using the tools of Whole-Body Listening; to be creative and share their success with colleagues in order to enrich the lives of children with better listening in academic and social milieus.


Barrick, W. (2000). Whole-body listening: Throughout the elementary school years. ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists, 10 (24): 12.

Merkel-Piccini, R. (2001). Listening to Learn. Super Duper Handy Handouts, #16,, Super Duper Publications.

Palacio, M. (2000). Whole-body listening: Simple approach to building preschool skills. ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists, 10 (12): 6-7.

Santore, F. (2006). Sounds in motion: Phonemic awareness. ADVANCE, 16 (34): 10-11, 42.

Truesdale, S. P. (1990). Whole-body listening: Developing active auditory skills. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 21: 183-184.

Wilson, Kristen, & Sautter, Elizabeth. (2011). Whole-body listening Larry at school. San Jose: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Zollner, K. (2003). Whole-body listening program benefits students. ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists, 13(30): 4.

Susanne Poulette Truedale, introduced Whole-Body Listening with her paper “Whole-Body Listening: Developing Active Auditory Skills” in 1990 in Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools. She is a retired school-based speech-language pathologist based in upstate New York. 


Welcome to your resource center for Whole Body Listening lessons, videos, music, books, and miles of information. This site strives to assemble some of the best resources for WBL on the web, and I would love to hear from you if you have ideas, lessons, strategies, or if you can recommend published sources that you have found helpful in teaching listening skills.

Please enjoy touring this site and learning about the origin of WBL. As you explore the pages here, I hope you will find something new that you can use to help children learn to listen.   Thanks for stopping by and please come back for updates. ~ Susanne