Three Tips for Developing Listening Comprehension in Children

This post is sponsored by Heirloom Audio Productions. All thoughts are my own.

Have you ever asked your child to do something, and they didn’t come anywhere close to doing what you asked them to do?  Have you ever read a snippet aloud and your child had no clue about what was just read? I have experienced this with my daughters.  In some cases, they just weren’t listening at all while at other times they really just didn’t understand what was being said.  Listening comprehension is one of those skills that can be easily be taken for granted with adults.  It is something that most adults do without thinking.  When I listen to a podcast or audio book, I don’t always feel like I am thinking about what is being said because I understand what the words mean or the topic of the conversation, but in reality I am thinking and processing what is being said.   

Listening comprehension is important to the education of our children because it hinges on the fact that they can fully understand what they are hearing.  If they hear a story read to them, can they understand what is happening or are they lost because they aren’t able to comprehend what they are hearing?

When our daughter was younger, I realized that listening comprehension was a skill that I would need to focus on for her sake.  Although she could hear me and in some instances she could follow along with what I was saying, there were many times when she didn’t understand. She wasn’t able to retell parts of a story particularly longer ones.  She didn’t always understand the directions that were given to her. She needed me to slow down and offer explanation.  Since those early years, I have been intentional about helping the girls develop their listening skills.

Three Ways to Help Develop Listening Skills

Continue to read aloud

I am guilty of stepping away from reading aloud to my daughters are night, but I still make it a point to read to them several times throughout the day.  We start our morning routine with me reading aloud to them from an anthology.  I also read most of the books that accompany our history program aloud to them.  As we all know, there are many situations such as church sermons, college lectures, and the like when a textbook or list of instructions will not be available so listening and listening well is imperative. By reading aloud to the girls, I am able to pause and provide additional information such as defining words that they haven’t heard before or giving them the opportunity to look at a map if they aren’t sure about the setting of the story.  Reading aloud helps develop listening skills because it allows the listener to focus solely on what is being said versus needing to decode or hone in on reading skills, and it provides an opportunity for discussion between you and your child.

Utilize audio books and dramas

We have been fans of audio books for several years now. I actually came to use these more regularly when I realized that one of my daughters had a more difficult time listening to audio outside of music and television. Audio books allow me to engage with them in a way different than if I were reading aloud. With audio books, I am not focused on what I am reading, but instead I am progressing through the story with the girls and processing with them during this time. With an audio drama like those from Heirloom Audio Productions , there isn’t a way for me to skip ahead to know what is happening so I am learning about the characters and the events along with the girls. Since the audio dramas are sound recordings, we have the opportunity to see through the story using our mind’s eye. In order to engage our minds, we have to be actively listening and we have to understand the words that are being spoken by the actors. Our first audio drama we listened to from Heirloom Audio Productions was In Virginia with Lee. The vivid sounds triggered vivid images. The sounds of the horses galloping gave us true sense of scene. The sounds of shots being fired put us in the mind of a war. Audio dramas allow us to use our own imagination to develop a visual of the story taking place. Audio dramas force us to put our listening skills into action, they help us move through the scenes at a pace which is different from when we are reading aloud or solo. Since the words are not before us, we are forced to be intentional with our listening.

Intentionally converse with your children

Since we are home often, we can become routine in our actions.  There are many times that we can get away with not saying much because we know each other rhythms’.  This is a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing because it doesn’t allow for verbal communication skills to be developed.  By intentionally engaging the girls in conversation, I can better understand how they perceive conversations.  Through our conversations, I have learned that some words have been misused because they didn’t understand the context.  I have also learned that they have larger vocabulary base then I realized.  By having insight about the girls’ vocabulary knowledge, I am also able to better gauge whether a text that we are reading or listening to will need additional instruction.  If they aren’t able to use context or already have the knowledge, I have found that it makes comprehending what they hear more difficult.

Listening comprehension is skill that continues to develop over time just like reading, but by being intentional your child can slowly but surely become a better listener.