Why Students Don't Listen

Why Students Won’t Listen

Imagine you are on a game show. You are going to get a chance to win thousands of dollars if you answer the question correctly. The host opens his mouth to read the question. What are you doing at that moment?

My guess is you are leaning forward with your eyes on the guy’s face. You have your head turned slightly so that your better ear is toward him. You are concentrating. You are focused. There is no way you are going to miss what he says next.

Scenario two – Same game show, but this time you know the host will read the question three times, and then if you still didn’t get it, you can ask him to repeat two or three more times. Sure, you may still be listening, but will you be giving the same level of attention? My guess is probably not.

Why Students Tune You Out

The same is true for our students. When they hear you saying the same thing over and over, they tend to tune out. For one thing, it’s boring hearing the same thing over and over. For another thing, they know from experience exactly how many times you will say something before you “really mean it.”

Help Your Students Develop Listening Skills

I teach my students early on that I don’t like to repeat myself. I tell them I understand they might not hear what I said the first time – that’s totally normal. It’s just that I get tired saying the same thing again. If a student asks me to repeat something I just said, I ask for another student volunteer to repeat it. “Oops, you must have missed it,” I say. “Let’s see who got it.”

If you try this with your students, please, please avoid sarcasm or a mean tone. Be businesslike and calm. Also, if you notice that none of the students can accurately repeat what you said, you may not have been clear and you will want to repeat it. And finally, please be sensitive to students with special needs and adapt as necessary.

If you make the decision that, for the most part, you will only say things once, you may be surprised how many of your students suddenly develop better listening skills.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies

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