Johnston writes about the power of listening.  In chapter 8 of Opening Minds he describes a situation in a classroom where the teacher asks students to share with the class what their partners said during a think/pair/share type activity.  Some students could restate accurately what their partners said and others couldn’t.  The teacher asked them to share what their partner said to bring awareness to their listening abilities.

This was powerful to me because I have conducted these types of activities several hundred times.  I do them daily at least once.  Our class is a very collaborative class, but I had to stop and ask myself if we are a listening class.  I honestly don’t know the answer to that.  I do know though, that I could be a little better at listening to what all my students have to say.

We all do it.  We ask a question and then a student begins to answer it and the answer has an explanation that may or may not make sense, but it’s long… very long. I’ve been know to ask the student to wrap it up, to focus their answer, I’ve even drowned them out and did the automatic head nod accompanied by the “uh huh, hmm”s.  This doesn’t make me a bad teacher.  It makes me human.

I am very thankful for that example in chapter 8 because it has encouraged me to not only try an activity like that to build better listening skills with my kiddos, but to also be a better listener myself.

After reading I was left feeling excited to go to work tomorrow.  That’s always a good feeling!

Suggestions For Group Thinking (Ch. 8)
Listen, and respect each other’s ideas.
Everyone gets to be heard.
We give reasons when we agree or disagree,
and we ask for reasons when people forget to give them.
Everyone is responsible for group decisions, so we try to agree.



  1. I, too, really enjoyed Johnston’s focus on listening here. I once asked my students to share their partners’ ideas when asking a question on the carpet. You should have seen the number of hands that went down after I switched the question! It was so telling. I like your thought above about whether we are fostering a listening classroom. I know for our room communicating is NOT the issue – listening is everything. Let me know your updates with this! Thanks for your post 🙂


  2. I find it so interesting when I look out at students during a turn-and-talk and everyone is talking. Perhaps turn-and-talk is not the best term for the activity I’m after. Because if everyone is talking, no one is listening. But you hit it dead on – who did they learn it from? In many ways, they learn it from us when we don’t take the time to listen to everything they have to say. I am trying to stop myself from running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to accomplish everything that “has to get done”. In reality, none of that stuff really matters if I don’t listen to my students. That is the only way that they will realize I care and thus care about learning. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of modeling good listening!


  3. This is a challenge I always face too! I want to allow my students to share, but sometimes when they get “off topic” or their answers get a little “lengthy,” I try to get them to “get to the point” they are trying to make. I want more students to have an opportunity to share and I want to keep things moving. But you’re right, my students notice when I hesitate to call on that student that answers at length. They notice when I interrupt them to try to sum up what they are trying to say. They notice our “mm hmm’s” and raised eyebrows. It is not just enough to tell our students to be good listener’s. We need to try to do the same! Another very thoughtful post Jaymie! Always making us think : )


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