By Greta Pauly
We learn by listening. In fact, 85% of what we have learned in our entire life is through listening. Maybe we’re listening to a story over dinner, or having a phone call with a friend on the way to work. Every day we play the role of active listener, and this certainly holds true in the classroom.
It’s so easy to become distracted, especially when we should be busy listening to someone. For teachers, it can be tempting to try and get a little work done when students are chatting. But that doesn’t mean you should. For students to be active listeners, they need an example of what that means. If students notice a teacher isn’t listening to them when they’re speaking, they may start to feel like what they say doesn’t matter.
To inspire active listening every day in the classroom, let’s take a look at a few facts about listening that you may not have known.
1.) The average person hears 20,000–30,000 words every day. That means that on average, we’re spending about 70–80% of our days communicating, some of us more than others. While this may come naturally to many of us, approximately 3 million children in the U.S. suffer from hearing loss. To accommodate them, we need to ensure that every student can hear, no matter where they are in the classroom.
2.) We listen at a rate of 125–250 words per minute, but think at 1,000–3,000 words per minute. So, what does that mean exactly? Adults have “automatic auditory cognitive closure,” meaning they can fill in the gaps if they don’t hear some of the information a speaker is going to convey. Children, on the other hand, need time to develop that skill. They can only fill in the gaps of missed information if they already know what that information is.
3.) About 37% of children with minimal hearing loss fail at least one grade. Genetic factors account for about 50% of hearing loss in children, whether that’s loss present at birth or later in life. The most common type of genetic hearing loss, autosomal recessive, accounts for 70% of hearing loss among children. While it’s important for parents to make sure they have their child’s hearing checked and for teachers to know the signs of hearing loss, it’s just as important that classrooms be equipped so that students can easily hear whoever is speaking.
Next time you notice it’s your turn to listen during a conversation, try to practice active listening. Look at the person, don’t start doing anything else, be aware of their feelings and opinions, and don’t interrupt them. A learning environment that practices active listening empowers students and teachers to build the strong, trusting relationships that are essential to students’ success.