I used to think that students were only listening if they were sitting quietly and watching the speaker. Over the years, that’s changed, and today that changed a lot for me. Today I decided to do something that I’ve never done before, and certainly never so early in the year.
My Grade 1′s are learning about living things in Science, and my Grade 2′s are learning about animal life cycles. I found a fantastic “frog video” on Learn360, and I wanted to show it to the class. It’s only about 15 minutes, and it addresses both science topics with some great information too!
In the past, I would have turned off the lights, had everyone watch the video, and then completed a follow-up activity where students reflected on what they learned. This worked, and it worked well, but today I wanted to try something different. Today I wanted to rethink “listening.”
I thought that I would try out a backchannel. I would have the students use a variety of tools to write down their thoughts during the movie itself. They would need to listen, reflect, and write all at the same time. It was going to be a challenge, but my students love a challenge, and I thought that it was worth a try.
On the table near the carpet, I lay out the tools. There were 3 Nintendo DS’, two iPads, four iPod Touches, two Livescribe Pens, and a bunch of whiteboards. I also had a desktop and laptop computer up and running too. As a class, we quickly discussed the goal of the activity, and we talked about the different programs that the students could use on each of the tools. The children decided to use Pictochat on the Nintendo DS’ (they even showed me how they could draw and label their drawings on Pictochat — something I didn’t know they could do), they decided to use Twitter on the iPads, they decided to use WritePad on the iPod Touches, and they decided to blog on the computer and laptop. Every child chose his/her own tool. They negotiated, and quickly settled down ready to write.
It was incredible! Students were so actively engaged in listening. They were watching, they were reflecting, and they were writing as I’ve never seen them do before. One student using the whiteboards even asked if she could edit her work before taking another photograph of it. Wow!
I didn’t have to stop the movie one time to ask the students to be quiet. I didn’t have to ask any of the children to check their sitting. I wasn’t policing behaviour, but instead, I was sitting back and observing real learning. I stopped the movie a couple of times, and we chatted as a class about what was being discussed. We just talked. Students didn’t raise their hands and wait their turn. They waited until one student was done, and then they chimed in. We had a real discussion. I had to stop myself a couple of times and remind myself that this was a Grade 1/2 class.
Important Note: Some of the finished work is visible in the slideshow.
Completed work is also on:
This whole experience made me realize that listening can be defined in many ways. It made me realize that when we set high expectations for our students they will achieve them. And it made me see the real value in engagement.
Have you ever “rethought listening” before? What were the results? I would love to hear your thoughts!