Learning to Listen to Learn: Using Multi-Sensory Teaching for Effective Listening


Helen White & Christina Evans

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    How to use the CD-Rom

    The CD-ROM contains PDF files, labelled ‘Worksheets.pdf’ which contain worksheets for each lesson in this resource. You will need Acrobat Reader version 3 or higher to view and print these resources.

    The documents are set up to print to A4 but you can enlarge them to A3 by increasing the output percentage at the point of printing using the page set-up settings for your printer.

    To photocopy the worksheets directly from this book, set your photocopier to enlarge by 125% and align the edge of the page to be copied against the leading edge of the copier glass (usually indicated by an arrow).


    This programme is concerned with listening as auditory and visual attention, rather than listening as a comprehension activity. Effective listening may appear to be common sense, but in reality it is a complex activity, which benefits from direct teaching. Professionals need training in how to teach and engage in good listening behaviour. We have called the programme Learning to Listen to Learn, and it will lead to improvement in social skills and assist classroom management

    We have a keen interest in helping students to find new ways to learn, with a particular interest in improving listening and thinking skills. In our professional lives we sometimes support pupils with impaired language development in mainstream classes at secondary school to help them access the language of the curriculum. During these support sessions we observed that increasingly teachers were repeating instructions three or more times, only to have pupils ask, ‘What do we have to do?’ We realised that the listening skills programme, which we had used with our pupils in the Speech and Language Centre for many years, would benefit all mainstream pupils as well.

    We are fortunate in that the Speech and Language Centre is sited in a very forward thinking school, Lampton School in Hounslow, which is always seeking new ways to challenge pupils' learning. Lampton, despite having pupils speaking more than 50 different languages, is one of the highest rated schools for value added education. Susan John, the headteacher, believes strongly in keeping abreast or ahead of new ideas and it was her faith that allowed us to be able to develop a programme which could be used to train all mainstream pupils. Although the programme has been mainly written for secondary pupils, it can be adapted and used by primary pupils, business people and parents/carers.

    We developed two sessions, one for listening ‘to make friends’ and one for listening ‘to learn’. It was decided that we would train all the new Year 7 pupils at the beginning of the school year and so the programme commenced. Although neither of the authors had ever taught a class before we managed to hold each class's attention by the very nature of the skills they were learning. The programme has been running for six years which means that every pupil in the school has been trained in the active skills needed for listening, and it has become a school-wide policy to remind the pupils of these skills in every lesson, when the teacher is instructing the whole class. Other schools and other professionals showed a lot of interest as the programme became more widely known and we became involved in training adults in how to use it. Finally, when the Commissioner for London Schools, Professor Tim Brighouse, chanced upon a class we were teaching and requested a copy of the programme it was decided to publish.

    Tim Brighouse wrote:

    I was being given a whistle stop tour of Lampton School when I glimpsed some magic. It was the authors of this book engaged with a Year 7 class in something that was so enthralling that they quite failed to notice my sudden appearance with the headteacher in the classroom.

    There was something else unusual—namely the presence at the back of the room of a dozen or so other adults who turned out to be fellow teachers.

    ‘What's going on here?’ I enquired in a whispered intrigued aside to the headteacher. And that's when I learned about ‘Learning to Listen to Learn’ and how it was a vital part of the Year 7 curriculum. The fellow teachers were attempting to make sure that they reinforced the skills that the Year 7 pupils were all learning, in their teaching of other subjects.

    Naturally I was impressed because it's always seemed to me that acquiring the habits of behaviour and the associated carefully practised skills are essential to everyone and there's probably no better time to focus on them than during the first year in secondary school, when sadly it's all too often the case that youngsters slip backwards in their learning and most importantly in their confidence.

    So ‘learning to learn’ courses become part of any school's repertoire of programmes for Year 7—to be reinforced at regular intervals in later adolescence.

    Ever since my visit to Lampton School I've been telling other schools of their practice and I'm delighted that the outstanding practitioners involved have now written a book to make some of their knowledge and practice available to others.

  • Bibliography

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