Friday, October 29, 2010

Classroom Tip #2: Employ the Art of Listening

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Listening is an important art that many of might have heard about, but don't always apply. Most of the time as people, we're too self-preoccupied-- we try to push learning onto our students and worry about making the classroom schedule match the clock. Also, there's another problem. As a teacher, one shouldn't merely reduce "listening" to having good ears that pick out incorrect pronunciation and patterns. No, that's called "hearing". What I'm talking about is an entirely different sort of art focused on the ability to read your students and scan over them with your entire awareness

Reading your students will shed insight into your class's ability to learn from you.
Something as simple as reading your students can lend you clues about what and how they're processing what their lessons. It's the difference from getting  a look of "I get it!" vs. "I'm completely lost".  Aside from getting to know your students' habits and personalities, this can also shed insight
into deeper concerns like whether a student is having trouble with the lesson or simply lacks confidence in their speaking ability; whether they are shy, is lazy or bored.

For example, when I'm in front of my class speaking, I try to listen to what's being said and what isn't... 70% of the time, I'm not only reading lip syncs as they're doing repeat speaking drills (you'll catch at least 1/3 of your students faking -- either mouthing the words or pretending to mouth the words)  but I'm also reading individual facial expressions, actions and postures.  If I see a majority of my students bored and sleepy; I've got to change my approach to wake them up or my lesson is as good as dead.  If some of my students look "lost", then I know who to give more attention to when I walk around the classroom.  If someone has crippled self-esteem, I try to find ways to challenge them with material that might boost their confidence. And when enough patterns establish themselves, I know what I have to work on troubleshooting...

If you can read your students you'll be able to troubleshoot their learning problems, know how to change your teaching style to spark more enthusiasm, you'll become a more effective teacher!

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