Children are sometimes viewed as ‘travelers’ as they look for meaning and answers around their world. With this curiosity and willingness to learn, they are capable to perceive and build theories. What is so amazing about them is that they are not satisfied with just what they experienced but the reason behind the experience. As teachers of young children how do we support their learning journeys?
We can start off by the simple act of listening. Simple as it may sound, it is one of the toughest acts to follow. Listening to children and talking with them is one of the most imperative things teachers can do for children. By listening, teachers create a more positive learning environment. Supporting the children’s interactions and at times listening to their unspoken words convey the message that you respect them and what they have to say. This is where active listening comes in. It is a tool that enables us to identify with the child’s feelings, interpret them, and demonstrate respect and trust.
Before teachers can be role models of active listening, they need to believe that:
* teaching and learning can occur without teacher talk
* the emphasis should be on learning how to think rather than on collecting information
* most good questions should encourage deeper thinking and have more than one answer
* children should play a major role in formulating questions and the teacher should probe deeper whenever an intriguing idea is raised
* children need to relate subject matter to their own lives
* children should spend as much time listening to one another as to the teacher
* problems and conflicts often can be resolved by listening and talking together.
(Adapted from Brown, S.L. 1991. Improving listening skills in young children)
To summarize, the small act of listening with your heart can contribute lifelong benefits to even the youngest child.
L = listen with your heart
I = identify and interpret their feelings
S = speak with them on their own level
T = take the time to listen attentively
E = encourage them to express themselves
N = non-verbal clues – listen for underlying feelings