One of the major problems that all teachers might have experienced is the lack of listening skills, especially for younger children; for example, the level of listening skills of children in grade one can be estimated as quite low. In 2001, 74% of head teachers responded that speaking and listening skills of children had declined during 1996-2001 period, according to the results of National Literacy Trust survey (Spooner & Woodcock, 2010). The survey of head teachers conducted in 2003 by the Basic Skills Agency showed that 60% of more than 700 head teachers who had taken part in the survey felt that the majority of 5-years-old did not possess the necessary listening and speaking skills for starting school (Spooner & Woodcock, 2010). Research shows that the attention and listening difficulties are quickly progressing: if in 1984 only 20% of children experienced listening and attention difficulties, by 1990 this number has already doubled (Spooner & Woodcock, 2010). Thus, the problem is that listening skills of children are not being developed.
This decline of listening skills might be conditioned by many reasons: focus on computer and screen-based environment, new types of interaction (based on keyboard entry and movement), growing level of noise outside and often inside apartments, and a general decline of communication skills at the expense of growing information consumption (and often overload). Addressing the problem of early listening skills is very important because attention and listening are the background for more advanced activities such as interaction, understanding language, expressing own thoughts and mastering the speech (Spooner & Woodcock, 2010), apart from future academic efficiency and personal effectiveness in adult years.
The hypothesis is that listening skills are not effectively addressed in elementary school and kindergarten. If these skills were properly addressed in the early age by focusing the attention of children on the importance of listening and by practicing listening games, children would show higher listening skills in first grade. Questions to support the hypothesis are the following: Why are listening skills declining? Will focusing children’s attention on the importance of listening help to improve listening skills? What practices and games can be used to improve listening in early age? What is the impact of these practices on listening skills of 5-6-year-olds? What can be done to address the roots of this problem? Key terms for this research are: listening skills, literacy skills, listening score, listening difficulties, group listening profile.
Spooner, L. & Woodcock, J. (2010). Teaching Children to Listen: A Practical Approach to Developing Children’s Listening Skills. Continuum International Publishing Group.