Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
Whole Body Listening
Many teachers are catching on to the importance of teaching students whole body listening, or using the entire body to 'listen' to a speaker. Why? Children aren't born knowing how to fully pay attention to one another; much of what they know about social interaction is learned subconsciously through interactions. Like many important concepts, direct teaching is essential to ensure success.
Whole body listening needs to be taught directly, modeled, and practiced often. Typically, we refer to 'whole body listening' as using all parts to pay attention, things like:
- Eyes on the speaker
- Ears on the speaker
- Lips closed and resting
- Hands still in laps
- Feet on the floor or resting
- Shoulders facing the speaker
- Brain thinking about what is being said
- Heart giving time, love, attention and patience to the speaker
Use these fun and engaging activities to help your students get on the ball with whole body listening.
Activities for Whole Body Listening
- Play Dough - Give students different color play dough for each body part you've chosen for your class; giving them one at a time ensures their full attention. As you teach or review each listening strategy, ask students to mold the piece into the shape, such as a heart, ear, lips, etc. Place on pieces of paper with the student's name and allow to dry. Place in a plastic bag for students to keep in desks. When whole body listening is necessary, ask students to remove the parts they are using as they prepare to listen and place on desk. For example, as you read a story, Johnny first removes the ear, then the eye, then notices his feet are resting so removes them, and so on. For a variation, allow students to create a self-portrait on which to place the body parts.
- Ball Toss - Have students sit or stand in a circle. Begin by tossing the ball to one student who is using whole body listening, stating the action. For example, 'Johnny's eyes are on the speaker.' Johnny then catches the ball, finds a student practicing whole body listening, and repeats your actions.
- Whole Body Model - Use chart paper to create the figure of a child, then laminate. Label with the whole body listening parts. Using construction paper or index cards, create the parts and laminate. Secure Velcro to the back of the card and the accompanying body part. Remove before an activity. As you notice students exhibiting whole body listening, call them to the poster to attach the body part. For example, while doing a read aloud you notice Johnny has his hands in his lap. Say 'Johnny is practicing whole body listening by putting his hands in his lap. Johnny, come place the card on our buddy'. Challenge students to put the model together before the end of the activity.
- Zero to Hero - Before requiring students to be 100% in whole body listening mode, do this activity. Write the names of body parts on craft sticks and place in a cup. Pull one out at a time, stating the desired response. For example, if you pull out the brain stick, say 'Our brains are thinking and ready.' Give students a few seconds to complete, then continue until you complete the set.
- Sing Along - Use the rhythm of 'London Bridges' to sing this song and reinforce whole body listening. Start with the verse 'I am ready to listen, to listen, to listen; I am ready to listen, and it shows.' Insert each body listening part. For example, 'My eyes are ready to listen,' and 'My heart is ready to listen'.
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