Writing for Ears

I have been doing some research for a MOOC I will be teaching with Erik Palmer and Corbin Moore this summer. Teaching Speaking & Listening Skills will launch June 20th on the Canvas Network. Like most teachers, I assign speeches and presentations within my instructional program and I am almost always disappointed by how poorly my students listen to each other and how little they gain from their colleagues’ presentations. This is because I rarely give them directions on how I want them to listen and what I want them to listen for.

This post asks questions about how teachers can inspire their students to Write for Ears. Specifically, what writing tasks teach students to listen? TED speaker Julian Treasure has an excellent primer that explains why we are losing our listening.

Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997). Research suggests that listening while reading helps people have successful reading events, where they read with enjoyment and accuracy. This also helps with decoding, a fundamental part of reading. The average person talks at a rate of about 125 – 175 words per minute, while we listen at up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).

Imhof (1998) found students do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process and they often find it easier to criticize the speaker as opposed to the speaker’s message. Conaway (1982) demonstrated how listening skills are crucial to academic success by giving a listening test to a freshman class of over 400 students at the beginning of their first semester of college. After their first year of studies, 49% of students scoring low on the listening test were on academic probation. Conversely, 69% of those scoring high on the listening test were considered Honors students after the first year. Only 4% of those scoring high on the listening test were on academic probation.

Similar findings have been replicated in other studies, on average, viewers who just watched and listened to the evening news can only recall 17.2% of the content. Timm & Schroeder (2000) showed that listening and nonverbal communication training significantly influences multicultural sensitivity. Further, listening has been identified as one of the top skills employers seek. Despite this, schools, districts and assessment consortia have turned a deaf ear to this important skill. What strategies and techniques have you found helpful in improving listening comprehension?

Active Listening

Don’t miss our #TeachWriting chat on April 5, 2016 at 6pm PT. Where we chat about the following issues in increasing the listening comprehension of our students.

08: Q1 What prevents our students from becoming good listeners?

14: Q2 What are common misconceptions students have about listening?

20: Q3 How can you use audio to increase literacy skills in your classroom?

26: Q4 What listening objectives are most frequently used in your class/discipline?
Photo-Card w/ Mead (1978)

  1. to recall significant details;
  2. to comprehend main ideas;
  3. to draw inferences about information;
  4. to make judgments concerning the speaker (e.g.,attitude, intent, bias, credibility);
  5. to make judgments about the information (e.g., type, evidence, logic, arguments)

32: Q5 What types of listening activities can help students improve their writing skills?

38: Q6 What writing assignments do you use with songs & speeches?

45: Q7 What strategies/games can Ts use so that Ss actively listen to their peers’ presentations?

52: Q8 What writing assignments have you created that teach listening skills?

I look forward to hearing how you are teaching your students to listen. Dust off the lessons you have used to help students improve their listening skills with writing and get ready to share. Thanks to www.listen.org for a great collection of listening facts.

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