The role of listening skills for children’s learning and development can hardly be underestimated. At the same time, developing listening skills in young children of the age of five or six is quite difficult because children still have difficulties with focusing their attention on the information they listen (Russell, 1999). In addition, they use all senses to learn the information about the surrounding world and listening is important but not the only sense with the help of which they learn (Schifini, 1994). Therefore, educators should pay a particular attention to the development of listening skills in grade 1 children because listening skills will help them to learn more effectively and to reach better results in their learning.
In actuality, listening skills are extremely important for children’s learning and cognitive development. They perceive a large part of information through listening (Mayer, 2001). In such a situation, children need to have well-developed listening skills to perceive and process information effectively because ‘listening to’ does not always mean ‘hearing’ (Torres, 1998). In other words, children can listen but they may fail to understand the information they have just heard or they fail to retain the information in their memory. However, listening skills are crucial for the successful learning of children and their cognitive development because they cannot learn effectively, if they fail to perceive accurately the learning material through listening. Similarly, their cognitive development slows down, if they have under-developed listening skills (Snow, 2002). Hence, educators should be concerned with the development of listening skills since the early age of five and six, or even earlier.
In this regard, focusing children’s attention on the importance of listening can help to improve listening skills. Children should be aware of the importance of listening that will help them to concentrate their attention on the listening (Ulanoff & Pucci, 1999). For instance, children should be aware of the fact that, if they fail to listen attentively, they will be unable to understand a story they are told. However, more effectively, children at the age of five or six will be more encouraged or motivated to listen, if they learn that they will drop out of the game, if they fail to listen attentively (Rockwell, 2001). If children focus their attention on listening, they are more successful in listening because listening becomes their predominant sense they use at the moment (Ulanoff & Pucci, 1999).
In this regard, Different strategies and practices based on the use of games can be used to improve listening in the early age (Taylor, 2004). For instance, educators can use games to develop listening skills of children because games are interesting for children and they are the natural way of learning for grade 1 children (Torres, 1998). Also, reading funny and interesting stories for children may be helpful in development of their listening skills (Trueba, 1988). For instance, while reading a story, a teacher may encourage children to fancy the ending of the story. In such a way, children will be involved in listening.
However, the implementation of teaching listening skills practices may be challenging, when applied to five-six year olds (Taylor, 2004). In fact, five-six year olds have difficulties with focusing their attention on specific activities for a long time because of specificities of their cognitive development (Torres, 1998). They are more oriented on the use of all senses than listening alone in the course of learning (Taylor, 2004). Therefore, they may have difficulties with listening, especially when they have to listen for a long of time.
In fact, the improvement of listening skills of grade 1 children and elimination of problems is extremely important. In fact, changing activities may be helpful to develop listening skills of children (Taylor, 2004). For instance, a teacher can read an interesting story and encourage children to talk about what they have learned after a short passage, instead of after the entire story (Rockwell, 2001). In such a way, children will learn to focus their attention on listening. In addition, a teacher can involve children in story telling through inventing the ending or some parts of the story that will help children to learn not only to the educator but also to each other (Ulanoff & Pucci, 1999).
Thus, developing listening skills is important but challenging task in relation to grade 1 children. They need to develop listening skills for the successful academic and cognitive development. In this regard, educators should engage children in interesting activities, especially games. Therefore, children will focus their attention on listening and they will be interested in listening.
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