How to encourage active listening in the classroom.

Jalongo (1995) describes how during a conference one of the older teachers mentioned their frustration because very often pupils don’t know how to listen. Without going into too much detail here on what the causes for this might be, this post aims to give some insight into how this can change.

Define what you mean by active listening:

It is a common misconception that listeners are passive receivers of information and that the listening process is practically automatic. Actually, good listeners ”are makers of ideas. Listening involves the reception and processing of incoming data.To listen is not just to hear; it is the active construction of meaning from all the signals – verbal and nonverbal- a speaker is sending” (Hennings, 1992:3).

Encourage students to answer these questions to identify areas they can improve on:

1. Do I judge people based on the way the speak?

2. Do I have biases towards some people when they come to talk to me?

3. Does my mind wander when people talk to me?

4. Do I interrupt people when they talk?

5. Do I try to focus the conversation in what I have to say?

6. Do I change my mind if I am proven wrong?

7. Do I need to have the last word?

8. Do I end the conversation when I have had enough with it or because I feel bored with what someone tells me?

9. Do I only listen to what people have to say if they are my friends?

Jalongo (1995) provides some suggestions how teachers can be role models for active listening:

1. teaching and learning can occur without teacher talk


2. the emphasis should be on learning how to think rather than on collecting information

3. most good questions should encourage deeper thinking and have more than one answer

4. pupils should play a major role in formulating questions and the teacher should probe deeper whenever an intriguing idea is raised

5. pupils need to relate subject matter to their own lives

6. pupils should spend as much time listening to one another as to the teacher

7. problems and conflicts often can be resolved by listening and talking together


Hennings, D.G. (1992). Beyond the read- aloud: Learning to read through listening to and reflecting on literature. Bloomington,IN: PhiDeltaKappa.


Jalongo, M.R. (1995). Promoting Active Listening in the Classroom, Childhood Education, 72:1, 13-18.

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