Listening and Learning in Kindergarten and Beyond

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Today was our first day of summer school in kindergarten, yes imagine that summer school in kindergarten. There are many students who benefit from maintaining and continuing to learn skills they acquired over the year. I find the biggest skill students need to learn is when to listen and when to talk. I remember as a child standing in front of my father waiting to be acknowledged before we spoke or interrupted him or another adult. While speaking and learning go hand in hand so does listening and learning. Students can be expected to listen to adults and what other children have to say. Many children spend so much time in front of video games and tablets that they don’t get a lot of experience listening and speaking to anyone any more. There is a great deal of learning necessary in the social curriculum.

I have found that many Responsive Classroom strategies work in helping student learn their listening and speaking skills. Luckily, I began my teaching career at the same time  my school decided to investigate and implement a Responsive Classroom approach school wide. I was trained in Responsive Classroom I  and II III over a period of years. While there are 7 guiding principle as shown below:


Guiding Principles

The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Seven principles guide this approach:

  1. The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  2. How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills that include cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  5. Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach.
  6. Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
  7. How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

The most important principle in my opinion is the social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic one. This includes the Morning Meeting with the components of a greeting , activity and sharing. During these times children get practice in taking turns, listening, playing fair, showing empathy and interest in each other and problem solving.

We started our first day of summer school today with a simple name clap greeting, each student got to tell us their name as we all said it again while clapping the syllables of their name. Every child got to be cheered at the same time we began learning everyone’s names and also begin learning about hearing parts in words that can help us to write and read them. Many students delighted in hearing their name being spoken by others in such a way.

Some students have a great deal of trouble waiting their turn or listening to others while they are speaking.  I often have to quickly remind them how we all like to speak and be heard and that we can’t learn if we can’t listen. With teacher modeling and reminding by simply stating expected behavior most children can exhibit the expected behavior of raising his hand, waiting their turn and not interrupting others while they are speaking. This critical early skill is often ignored in early childhood education as if students of this age are too impulsive to wait their turn to speak. Also, many adults don’t remind children of expected behavior and hold children to their expectations. If we are consistent, fair and kind in how we remind children that listening and learning go hand in hand, we will go a long way in helping them to become life long learners.


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