Listening: The neglected literacy

by Patricia Hipwell July 08, 2019

Listening: The neglected literacy

Listening effectively is vital to academic success in all subject areas. While students are expected to listen, however, the skills of listening are rarely taught explicitly. Whereas it is widely accepted that reading, writing and speaking need to be taught directly and thoroughly, listening is often an assumed and therefore neglected skill.  Further, listening tends to be relegated to the realm of English as a second language, with a focus on de-contextualised activities involving recorded texts.

Given the amount of listening expected of students and its impact on understanding, listening needs to receive just as much focus in teaching and learning as other literacies.

Listening is similar to reading in that deciding what to do before, during and after these practices will ensure that meaning has been made.

Before Listening

  • set a purpose and focus for listening
  • generate interest
  • activate background knowledge or give background knowledge
  • highlight the structure and features of the text – purpose, audience, context, language
  • have students predict what they think the text will be about
  • pre-teach key or difficult vocabulary

During Listening

Record and actively process information

  • note-taking – key points or graphic organiser
  • answering questions
  • analysing non-verbal cues or language techniques
  • summarising
  • distinguishing main points and supporting detail
  • select relevant information

Generate questions or ideas

  • generating questions
  • anticipating what comes next

Interpret, infer and evaluate

  • adopting a listening perspective/viewpoint

After Listening

  • summarise main ideas
  • write or speak about the content
  • respond or act
  • carry out the instructions
  • repeat or paraphrase part of what was heard
  • recall key points or techniques
  • collaborate with another listener to solve a problem or complete a task
  • seek clarification from the speaker or another listener

Remember listening needs to be taught if students are to become effective listeners. Also, make them accountable for listening by establishing a clear purpose.

Patricia Hipwell
Patricia Hipwell


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