Metro Nashville Public Schools Pre-K Partnership Project

Increasing Teacher Listening to Children



Download Presentation Slides – Listening to Children

Download Companion Handout – Listening to Children

Importance of Teachers Listening 

Prekindergarten teachers must strive to limit their talk time for one simple, but vital, reason: if teachers are talking less and listening more, then more children have the opportunity to talk. Talking to teachers and peers allows children to express themselves and build self-confidence. Children who have opportunities to talk in their classrooms can better develop pro-social skills and more effective ways to communicate. Adults are integral supports for children’s language development, and through conversation with teachers, children develop both vocabulary and syntax. Further, listening to children allows teachers the opportunity to authentically gauge their understanding of concepts and further extend their learning.

The following video (produced by the Atlanta Speech School) explores expectations of talking and listening from a child’s perspective — and asks some important questions about which voices are heard most often in classrooms.

Benefits of Teachers Listening

Data analyses from the MNPS-PRI Partnership project have demonstrated significant associations between how often teachers were observed listening to children and children’s gains in math knowledge and in knowledge of letters and sight words. Further, children who were observed talking more frequently had stronger gains in both self-regulation and vocabulary skills; this was particularly evident for children who entered Pre-K scoring lower than their peers in these areas.

Generating More Opportunities for Child Talk

Teachers can facilitate child talk by asking open-ended questions and encouraging associative and cooperative interactions among students. Of course, employing these strategies in classrooms requires a degree of flexibility on the part of the teacher. For example, teachers have to be conscious of the wait time they allow for children’s responses, as children often need time to form and verbalize their thoughts. Furthermore, teachers have to be flexible and prepared for unexpected comments and work to gently keep the conversation on topic. Finally, instead of looking for times to insist that children be quiet, teachers can focus on the times that children can and should talk – and work diligently to encourage children’s talking.

The Rollins Center for Language and Literacy has developed a list of research-based strategies for developing children’s oral language skills, called TALK©. They have produced 4 short (3-5 minute) videos around each strategy, including:


Click here to view the videos

Click here for a list of discussion questions to keep in mind as you watch


Download Presentation Slides – Listening to Children

Download Companion Handout – Listening to Children


RELATED TOPICS: positive classroom climate, associative/cooperative interactions, engagement in learning


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