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July 09, 2014

Listening exercise

One of the big challenges I face as a teacher is to keep a class present and engaged. One of the ways to keep children engaged is to have them participate in the class. 

Before taking up algebra the children need to be comfortable with the idea of what the basic operations mean in real life and we were going through these through stories addition and its two corresponding subtraction stories. Some children would state a story while the others would change it. However, I found that a good part of the class was distracted on more than one occasion. They were tuning out to both teachers and fellow students and I felt that it was important for them to understand what it means to listen deeply (vs background conversation).

We did the listening exercise. You work with a partner and think of something you are proud of or is important to you. You ask the partner to role play the person you want to talk to. In the first exercise they are distracted, looking at the time, interrupting you and generally ignoring you. After 30s you switch roles. After a minute make a list of how everyone felt. 
We then listen deeply as if listening to our partners was the most important thing for us at this time. This generally takes a little longer 1 min and then you switch roles for another minute and list how everyone felt.

Here is what we had in class:
very bad very good
difficult very nice
don't feel like talking happy
feel like beating super
angry feel like talking more
tired interested
kill proud


We closed with the realization that each of us have the power to make others feel like the left or the right in 1-1/2 minutes. Part of growing up is that the children can make the choice of how they wanted to listen. Since teachers are also human we also feel like sharing more when we have an engaged classroom.

The children still occasionally drift, but its lesser and there is something to refer back to. It has actually been fairly hot and we are breaking mental patterns the children have had for years so  if more than a couple of kids start to drift we take thought breaks (right and left side of the body doing different actions or breaking mental images if more than one person is drifting).

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