Ways to Promote Active Listening in Your Classroom

Often, we talk, they listen…or don’t listen. It can be hard to tell (or sometimes blatantly easy – if they are falling asleep). When you are doing a lesson that requires a lot of teacher instruction, how can you keep everyone engaged? Here are some ideas.


Read about these different ways to promote active listening in your classroom. You can incorporate movement, brain breaks, games, and more to make sure that your students are listening and following along.


Pick a Random Kid

Use popsicle sticks with your students’ names on them or some other way to generate a random name. Draw names frequently. Every student should know that at any moment you may call on him or her to:

  • repeat the last few words you said
  • paraphrase what you just said
  • paraphrase what you said a few minutes ago
  • paraphrase what a classmate said
  • give an answer (to an easy question if you are not allowing students to raise their hands)
  • give an answer to an easy fun, unrelated question, such as, “What is you favorite dessert?” (I just think it is fun to throw these in every so often – just one answer from one kid and then right back to the topic at hand.)

Use Individual Group Response

It sounds like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that everyone is responding, but each person can respond differently, which means that it isn’t a verbal response. Not only does this keep everyone’s attention, but it also allows you to quickly scan the room to make sure everyone is with you. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Students respond using individual white boards; great for math or short answer questions
  • Students give sign language “yes” or “no” answers. Or you could use PowerPoint to give a little multiple choice quiz and have students give their answers in sign language letters – A, B, C, or D.
  • Students hold up the correct number of fingers to answer a math problem
  • Use a set of number cards 0-9; students hold up the number(s) that answers the question in math


If you can make movement part of the lesson – yippee! If not, then take a Brain Break every so often to play a quick game of Simon Says, do a  quick physical challenge (can you stand on one foot and touch both your ears?), or just stretch. It can make a world of difference.

Make It a Game

Great for review. There are tons of PowerPoint games out there that let you put in your own questions, or you can make your own. Or keep it simple: Student who gets a correct answer gets to try to throw a foam ball into a basket. You don’t even have to keep score.

Use Technology

PowerPoint and SMART Boards are so very cool, and they do help to keep attention, but you still may want to mix them with one of the ideas above, especially if you are using the SMART Board in such a way that only one student can participate at a time while the others watch. I have also heard that some schools actually have tablets or iPod Touches for students. If you can get ’em….wow!

Often, teachers have students follow along as the whole class completes a worksheet or other activity together. I am not a big fan of this approach (except maybe with the first one or two questions as an example). It is boring for the bright students who want to work ahead, and it allows the slackers to turn off their brains. As long as they get the answer that you just wrote on the board in the right blank, they are off the hook as far as actually learning anything.

Kids listen better when they are given time to move. Try these Brain Breaks to keep your students focused.

60 Brain Break Cards

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