Social Emotional Learning in the Elementary Classroom: Listening and Following Instructions

Welcome to our series on social emotional learning in the elementary classroom!  We are going to be chatting about some effective strategies and procedures you can easily and quickly apply to your classroom for improvement in student self-awareness, self-control, and social skills.  During the month of January, we will cover four different SEL topics.  January has always been my favorite month to teach, because I was always able to do a reset with the students I already had a relationship with.  We could then really hone in and improve SEL skills to in turn take a deep dive into instruction.  The less you are having to stop and redirect student behavior, the more time you have to teach.  We know that is more important now than ever.  This month, we will cover four topics that I felt were most needed right now that could cover the most behaviors: listening, making good choices, kindness, and resilience.  Let's talk LISTENING and FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS.

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

Why is listening important?

Active listening is a vital skill in the classroom, as well as in life.  You listen to directions, announcements, instruction, conversation, and more.  As a student, I was not always the best listener.  I tried really hard to listen, but I lacked the strategies to comprehend what was being said.  I was more of a visual learner, so auditory was difficult for me.  I think we sometimes forget that our students need to be explicitly taught the strategies and skills we expect them to apply.  

I have found that students need explicit SEL instruction all throughout the year.  The problem is that we don't have the time to do that.  I tried to think of ways you could easily and quickly incorporate it into your day, because it's so important to keep your classroom running smoothly and to decrease undesirable behaviors.  The best time I feel to teach these, if you can, is first thing in the morning, during morning meeting.  I have come up with some quick mini lessons, along with quick and fun activities, to teach each SEL topic.  This week, we are going to look at some strategies to increase active listening in your classroom.

Listening Strategies and Tips

Call and Response

The first thing you need to have in place is a call and response.  I would only do one or two at a time.  One that I always do is:

Teacher: 1, 2, 3 Eyes on Me

Students: 1, 2 Eyes on You

When I teach this, I practice it a ton.  It is important that students STOP AND LOOK AT YOU.  Do not let them continue what they are doing.  They will not be actively listening if they are still doing something else or talking while you are talking.  Be firm about that expectation and wait until everyone is focused on you.  We want to establish a muscle memory of them stopping, looking at you, and listening until you are finished.  It's so important to have high expectations here.  There are many different call and responses out there to choose from.  Just be consistent with one or two for a while before changing to a different chant.

Voice Volume and Tone

If you know me, you know that I am not loud at all!  Ha!  I am pretty quiet so I use that to my advantage in the classroom.  The lower I talk, the more they have to really listen.  I also make sure that I keep a calm tone when I speak.  This is also very important to have a calming environment because they tend to mirror what they are seeing.  Something that I have found that has helped a ton with listening is buying a microphone headset and speaker.  I just got one off of Amazon.  It saves my voice and my energy, and I can use a calm tone that students are more likely to listen to.  

Keep Directions Short and Direct

Stick to one-step instructions.  Be direct and clear with your instructions, as well.  If you can also add a visual, that will greatly help students.  As students get better with one-step instructions, begin to slowly introduce more steps.

Echoing

One of my favorite and most effective ways to give instructions is through echoing.  I will say the instruction in a sing song voice.  The students know to echo me when I use that voice.  Not only does it help them better comprehend the instructions, they also are busy being engaged which cuts down on opportunities to get off task or misbehave.

Read Aloud Books

The best way to begin a discussion with students about an SEL topic is through a read aloud.  We want them to understand why listening is important.  It helps us to be a better friend, we learn more, we are more caring, we understand what to do next, etc.  I really love the book, The Worst Day of My Life Ever! by Julia Cook.  The character in the story is having a very bad day because he chose not to listen to others.  Students get to follow along on how those choices affected his day.  His mom gives him tips on how to be a better listener and how to follow instructions that students can also apply.


Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

(I have made a resource that contains all of the mini lessons for teaching students to be better listeners, along with quick activities for a week focused on this topic.)

Two other good ones are Lacy Walker, Nonstop Talker and My Mouth is a Volcano.

Songs and Videos

I love to incorporate music to help students better remember a strategy.  You will get a song I wrote in the unit call "I Am Listening", but I have also linked some classroom approved videos you can show before or during your mini lesson about listening.

Be a Whole Body Listener

I Am a Good Listener (begin at 1:00)

Why is Listening Important?

Listening Game

The Dance Freeze Song

The Listening Game: Cosmic Kids

Listening Mini Lessons

Incorporate mini lessons into your morning meeting devoted to listening. I like to focus on one topic or skill per week.  These lessons are quick and to the point.  I also like to create an anchor chart with my students so that they have a visual reminder to refer to.  Students also make a mini anchor chart to add to their SEL notebooks.

Listening and Following Directions Activities

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

Practice the Strategy

For each lesson, I review the anchor chart and sing the listening song to open the lesson and review what we have learned.  I then read a portion of the read aloud, The Worst Day of My Life Ever!  I do this similar to an interactive read aloud, including text dependent questions that also start discussions about listening.  After the story, I teach a new strategy that we then practice.  I will take you through each day of this unit.  We already covered day one and the anchor chart, so let's move on to day two.

On day two, we learn a new listening strategy and then students listen to the story Go Away Big Green Monster.  I do not show them the illustrations; they have to draw the monster by listening to the description.  This is a fun way to practice active listening!  They love to share their monsters with one another.

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

On day three, we learn another listening strategy and play Listen, Draw, Check.  You can use this game in all content areas for review.  The game is very similar to Battleship.  They have to be really great listeners and follow the directions to match my game board, which we check at the end.

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

On day four, I introduce the students to an SEL animal character.  Each character is a different animal and has a poem.  For this activity, students have to follow the oral coloring instructions and color their Listening Lion.  They also get a copy of the poem to trace.

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!

Finally on day five, we read the whole story and then discuss what lesson the author was trying to teach the reader.  I then assign a writing activity (differentiated sheets included) in which they have to apply what they have learned about listening and following directions.  This is a great way to wrap up the unit and assess their understanding.

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!


Listening and following instructions are skills that apply to so many parts of the school day, so they are vital to a smoothly run classroom.  When you are having to stop and address behaviors, it is draining.  Let's set our students up for success by giving them the tools they need to thrive in the classroom.  I would love to hear and share with others if you have any great listening strategies!  Thank you so much for stopping by this week!  

Be sure to come back next week for our next SEL skill, MAKING GOOD CHOICES.  The following two weeks will be all about KINDNESS and RESILIENCE.


You can grab the Listening and Following Directions Activities below or by clicking on any of the photos!

Looking for quick lessons and activities for listening and following directions?!  This unit includes listening and following directions activities, game, song, anchor chart, and more!











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