active listening in the classroomWe’ve seen the documentaries and heard the buzzword enough to know that bullying is a problem—despite the fact that it isn’t a problem in our school. Confident as we may be, scholarship from Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, suggests something to the contrary.

According to him, administrators witness a mere 4 percent of bullying incidents. Now couple Kazdin’s findings with the results of another recent survey of 40,000 high school students: Nearly 50 percent of these students admitted to bullying and 47 percent of the students said they had likewise been bullied.  

Perhaps our schools need more work than we originally thought.

But how does it happen? How do we wipe out bullying? Giving a single answer would grossly oversimplify the issue and we’re not prepared to do this. What we do know is this:

Kindness, empathy, respectful listening and general politeness are learned behaviors—behaviors we have to teach and model for our students if we are truly serious about creating a compassionate environment where bullying cannot thrive.

A few weeks ago, we talked about creating a “Get-Along Classroom,” an idea we gleaned from Naomi Drew’s book, No Kidding About Bullying. We’d like to share two more of her ideas.

Two Active Listening Activities for Elementary Teachers

Activity 1: Teaching Respectful and Active Listening in the Classroom
Gather your students in a group and ask a student to come to the center of the circle next to you. This is going to be a role-playing exercise, but don’t let your students know what you are doing.

Now ask your student a question: “Tell me a few of your favorite things you did last weekend.” As the student talks, start looking around the room, fidgeting your hands and shifting your feet while you say, “Yes, uh-huh, I got you.”

Once you finish, the student can go back to his seat. Now you’ll want to ask your studentsactive listening in the classroom 2 to tell you what they saw during the role-play. What were you doing? What was the student doing? Make a list on the board and have them describe the implications of your body language. What did it seem to suggest?

Now try the role play again with another student. This time, model respectful listening: Make eye contact; ask the student questions and prompt her to give you more details about events; nod your head when you understand and stop the student when you need clarification.

Again, have the student return to the group and ask everyone what they saw. How did it make them feel about the conversation you were having with the student? Now make a list and have students add their own suggestions for what respectful listening might look like.

Now it’s their turn. Divide the class up into groups of two and ask them to take turns talking about something they are passionate about. The object, of course, is for them to practice respectful listening, so have them refer to “respectful listening” behaviors they helped you compile on the board.

When you are done, you might collaborate with your students to create a Respectful Listening Poster that you can display in the classroom.

Activity 2: Identifying active listening in our own lives
To help students engage with the previous activity in a more critical way, you might consider giving them a short writing assignment where they engage with the following questions:

  • Why do you think respectful listening is important?
  • Who is a great listener in your life?
  • Why do you consider this person to be a great listener? Show your reader what this person does when s/he is listening to you.
  • How does it make you feel when this person listens to you? Be specific.
  • Think back on our Respectful Listening poster. Which things on the list are you good at? Which could you work on?

If you found this article helpful, check out our Bucket Filling guide where you'll find more creative ways to nurture kindness and respect in your students and your classroom!

Download Successful Bucket Fillers Guide

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