Listening is the ability to attend to sounds across a range of stimuli. Use these activities to help pupils with listening and attention difficulties

Pupils with listening and attention difficulties are generally experiencing one of two problems. Either they cannot screen out what is unimportant from what they hear and so listen to everything, or they may not be very skilful at controlling attention and therefore miss large chunks of information.

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Pupils who have difficulties in this area may:

  • have problems with hearing (make little response to environmental sounds)
  • be easily distracted by noise and movement
  • tend to daydream and be in a world of their own
  • find it hard to focus on one activity at a time
  • find it hard to follow instructions – this makes learning and socialising difficult
  • often make mistakes because of an inability to attend to detail
  • have poor organisational and self-help skills (getting dressed, finding tools for the task)
  • avoid tasks that require sustained attention
  • be unable to concentrate during tasks involving turn-taking
  • have constant movement of hands and feet
  • have kinaesthetic strengths and learn better through using concrete materials and practical experiences
  • have visual strengths and enjoy learning through using visual materials (charts, maps, videos, demonstrations).

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Activities to develop listening and attention skills

  1. Listening to sounds on CD – there are commercial materials available, or you can make your own. Ask the pupils to listen to a sound and do a specific activity.
  2. Sound bingo – listening to sounds on CD and covering the correct picture.
  3. Sound walk – listening for different sounds they head on a walk, then using these to paint a picture or compose a group poem.
  4. Simon says – listen carefully for specific instructions and then do the actions.
  5. Share reading – using big books to help focus attention on the visual cues.
  6. Circle-time activities – when one child is speaking they could hold a listening shell, which means that everyone else (including the adults) must listen to what they say.
  7. Story CDs – listening-centre activities can include listening to story CDs interspersed with activities related to the text.
  8. Who am I? – miming activities can be related to a classroom topic (story characters, occupations, people in the school).
  9. Parachute activities – pupils need to listen carefully to the instructions in order ot be part of a team activity.
  10. Messages – ask the pupils to recall simple messages.
  11. Chinese whispers – pass an action message round the circle. The last pupil to receive the message has to perform the action.
  12. Listen and colour – colour a picture by listening to the instructions.
  13. Listen and draw – draw a picture by listening to the isntructions (there are some published materials for this).
  14. Twenty questions – allow the pupils twenty questions to discover the identity of a hidden object related to a class project. Pupils need to listen carefully to make deductions.
  15. Hot-seating – one pupil chooses to be a particular story character and sits in the ‘hot seat’. The other pupils ask questions to discover the identity of the character. This works well for all ages, from Little Red Riding Hood to Romeo.

From  A-Z of Special Needs for Every Teacher edited by Jacquie Buttriss and Ann Callander