Hearing and Listening

This is a one-to-one tutoring situation with a man in his mid-40s. Lavarre has a lifelong hearing problem that has affected his language and literacy development, but hearing aids help and make it possible for him to hear. He also reads lips. When the tutor asked him to reflect on past schooling, she learned that although he graduated from high school, he did so as a special education student and doesn’t feel like he learned much – he has lots of gaps in content knowledge and vocabulary that others would have learned by listening. Lavarre has a job that he likes doing maintenance at the baseball stadium. He also works with a tap dance group for youth. His reasons for starting to work with a tutor are:

  • to be able to talk about world events with his co-workers and friends
  • to communicate better with his family and others (he is part of a men’s group looking at anger issues and communication)
  • to communicate better with the youth in the dance group

Lavarre and the tutor talked about how his hearing impairment affects his ability to communicate and about the strategies he’s learned to use to compensate for his disability. He gets frustrated very quickly because hanging in with a conversation or listening to the radio takes a lot of effort. He tunes out . . . sometimes literally. He and the tutor made a chart of the problems he has listening in general conversations, talking to his family, and at the dance practices and the strategies he uses. The tutor added a column and wrote the strategies she uses in connection with some of the same problems. They discussed the similarities and differences. They agreed to spend a portion of each tutoring session on building listening skills.

Learning Activities: In preparation for the next few tutoring sessions, the tutor used the EFF Standard and performance continuum for “Listen Actively” to think about the skill components she needed to keep in mind . She also did some research on the internet and found some good resources on structured listening activities. She found an article on listening strategies from a magazine and designed some pre-, during, and post-listening activities to help build Lavarre’s knowledge base.

In terms of assessment, the tutor was interested in seeing how Lavarre’s awareness of and ability to choose among listening strategies developed over time. Lavarre was interested in seeing if the strategies worked for him, so that his interactions were less frustrating. To collect progress information, Lavarre would keep a listening log to chronicle his use of listening strategies over time and to talk about what he was learning.

At the next session, they read the article and Lavarre chose two related strategies he thought would help him in the men’s group. They practiced them by having a conversation about a current event that was recently in the papers, using the structured listening activity format. They talked about what the topic was going to be in the men’s group that week (“jumping on other people’s ideas”) and what he was interested in learning about the topic (how not to jump to conclusions and get into an argument). The tutor gave Lavarre a note card for him to take to the men’s group. The card had key words from the Listen Actively Standard:

  • Focus your attention on the person talking
  • Remind yourself what you’re listening for and how you’ll try to listen
  • Ask yourself: Is this making sense? If not, what can I do?
  • Think about what you heard before reacting.

The following week, they debriefed the men’s group and their tutoring session in terms of his target listening strategies and started a listening log as part of his journaling. They used a writing activity to name what was learned in the group : “I used to _______________ but now I __________________.” .All of this served to build Lavarre’s metacognitive awareness of his learning, his strategy use, his strengths and his challenges.

Lavarre continued to document and reflect on his listening skills over the extended period he came to the program. After the initial focus on listening in the men’s group, he began applying new strategies to his communication with the young dancers . He and his tutor discussed how the situations were different (these youth didn’t tend to say much to adults, they often mumbled or used slang he didn’t know, etc.). In some ways, their communication through music and dance rather than speech made things easier for him, but their lack of effort to speak clearly to him was also frustrating, and gave him a new opportunity to practice his anger management skills!

In this teaching example, the learning standard was addressed in the following ways:

Listen Actively

Ways addressed by lesson

Attend to oral information

In the tutoring sessions and conversations, Lavarre practiced focusing on oral information. The review of listening strategies provided him an opportunity to reflect on how much his attention stayed focused.

Clarify purpose for listening and use listening strategies appropriate to that purpose

They talked about what strategies he used and problems he encountered in specific contexts. He began reflecting on what strategies work and where he might need to do something differently. He also was exposed – through a think aloud sort of activity – to the tutor’s listening strategies. The reading the tutor used in the lesson built Lavarre’s knowledge base about what listening strategies he might be able to use. The pre-group discussion helped set a purpose for Lavarre before the meeting.

Monitor comprehension, adjusting listening strategies to overcome barriers to comprehension

The tutor began using structured listening activities to do some skill building in the tutoring session. The tutor provided Lavarre with a monitoring aid that was easy to carry and use. They discussed his experience with the men’s group. He had two strategies to practice and talk about at the next tutoring session. When and why did he shift strategies? What difference did using one or the other make to his comprehension? What barriers remained?

Integrate information from listening with prior knowledge to address listening purpose

There were opportunities for Lavarre to talk about the men’s group topic and to write about it in relation to his specific concern – his tendency to make assumptions about what someone is saying, jump to conclusions, and overreact.