Do We All Need “Little Listeners?”

Last year, I wrote some professional blog posts that questioned rules that we have at school (e.g., raising your hand and waiting your turn), and how we might reconsider these rules. My previous vice principal, Kristi, commented on one of these posts, and told me about the “Mr. Bucket” that she used in one of her old classrooms, for students that didn’t get a chance to share all of their ideas aloud with the group. In our Grade 1 class, Mr. Bucket transformed into the Little Listeners: two garbage cans that students could write notes to or talk to if they still had more to share. 

Recently, these Little Listeners made their way into our Kindergarten class. They’re being used for a slightly different purpose though. Often students have thoughts to share or emotions to express, and more than anything, what they need is a “listener.” A special welcome to these Frozen Listeners that are willing to hear anything at any time, and are sure not to interrupt.


As I watched students write these Listeners notes or hold them up nice and close to share their problems, I thought to myself, how often do we all just need a good listener? 

I think of issues that happen in the classroom where adults are quick to intervene (e.g., two students arguing over a toy). Maybe letting these students share their thoughts with a Little Listener would give them the confidence and skill to share them even more with each other. I even think about myself. I make sense of much of my thinking through talking. I’ll admit that on my car ride home, I’ll often utter my thoughts aloud as I drive. This is how I reflect. This is often how I formulate ideas for blog posts. Maybe I need a Little Listener bucket too.

Yes, it can sometimes be a little comical to watch somebody pouring out their heart to a garbage can, but for this child, it’s more than a garbage can. Undivided attention has tremendous value, and sitting back and seeing an example of great listening — without interruption, without judgement, and without a plan for what needs to be said next — makes me think even more about my current “one word” focus and how I can become a better listener. I wonder how these Little Listeners could be used in different grades, and even in a home environment, to support students, adults, and the development of problem solving skills. What do you think?


4 thoughts on “Do We All Need “Little Listeners?”

  1. Aviva,

    Love the idea of the little listener. I agree that talking things through can help solidify thoughts or plans – sometimes no responses are necessary, while at other times feeback and conversations are required.

    I know that when I really need to talk things through or I am needing to communicate my feelings, there is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who is really not listening to me. It is the connection made with the other person that makes all the difference.

    If our goal is to teach children how to communicate in order to resolve issues or express feelings than wouldn’t the process be more productive with an adult to help them? If our students are in need of more time for someone to just listen to them so that they feel valued and heard, then should we not be slowing down and taking the time to listen?


    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah! I understand what you’re saying, and in some cases, I think that having an adult there would be beneficial. (It’s why, even though I have the Little Listeners, I eavesdrop on the conversations to see if more support is needed.) That being said, I think that often adults intervene quickly to solve problems, when if given time, children could do so more independently. Being able to talk things out first is sometimes all that’s needed. Maybe the Little Listeners inadvertently force the children to listen to themselves talk, and this listening, eventually helps with solving the problem. I’m curious to hear what others think about this.


      • Aviva,

        You are absolutely right – we need time to think and “hear” ourselves speak when entering into problem solving conversations. I also agree that adults do often intervene too quickly. It is a fine balance between wanting to let our little ones be independent and sort it all out and wanting to be sure that they can handle the situation in a respectful and productive manner. Knowing when to provide added support and when to stay well enough out of it is key….get to your our kiddos and support as they need it.


        • Thanks for the reply, Sarah! As I read your words, I couldn’t help but think about how children solve problems. What’s developmentally appropriate? For example, if a student screams at another child that upsets him/her, is this how we would want this child to solve the problem? Depending on his/her age or skill development, is this solution a developmentally appropriate one for this child? What if the child grabs a toy out of another child’s hand, or pushes a child that takes his/her things? These are not necessarily ways that I would want children to solve problems, but is this part of a learning process? Can we use these solutions as opportunities to look at other ways to solve problems? From a problem solving standpoint, maybe these Little Listeners provide an opportunity for children to express anger/frustration/etc., so that they can then more calmly resolve problems with peers. I wonder if they’ll work like this.


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