13 Speaking and Listening Activities to Boost Your Students' Skills

Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 6 min read

Every teacher who has spelled out clear instructions only to have hands raise and the inevitable “uh, what do we do now?” knows that learning listening and speaking skills are both crucial in the early years of elementary school. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing all come together as children develop their relationship with the English language and their communication skills.

How to Teach Listening and Speaking

But how do you teach vital listening for learning skills? You can’t exactly pry open those little ears! And for that matter, how do you teach your students when to speak up and how to communicate their needs properly?

Here are some great tips to help you help your students!


Role Model Good Speaking and Listening Skills

As teachers, we are our students’ role models, and it’s up to us to lead by example! When your students are speaking, make eye contact, and let them know you’re listening rather than letting your mind wander to the piles of paperwork on your desk. Don’t interrupt your students (unless necessary!), and encourage your students to speak up in class rather than you talking “at” them.

Set Speaking and Listening Goals

Get your students off on the right track by collaborating with them to set some Speaking and Listening Goals. With goals specifically tailored to lower, middle, and upper grades, your students will have clear direction on the skills they need to develop on their journey to becoming better listeners and speakers.
Once students have reached their goals, they can proudly display ‘I Can’ Statements – Speaking and Listening in their take-home folders.

Hand signals are a great way for students to communicate without having to speak up and interrupt a lesson when they need help or need to use the bathroom. How can this help students learn listening and speaking skills? Simple! Knowing when to stay silent is as vital as knowing when to use your voice! 

Having hand sign posters prominently displayed will help your students remember which sign means what.

Scaffold Note Taking

Part of learning listening skills is being able to transfer what is heard into comprehension of a specific topic. Scaffold your students note-taking with graphic organizers, venn diagrams, and similar methods for chunking material to enhance their encoding and processing of information.

Teach Whole Body Listening

If a mime were to imitate the act of listening, you would no doubt see their hand held up to an ear – this is universally recognized, and why shouldn’t it be? Listening occurs in your ears, doesn’t it?
Despite this common belief, most teachers will tell you that listening does not JUST happen in your ears; it’s a whole-body experience! Get the fundamentals of listening down pat and teach your students how a good listener behaves with our Whole Body Listening Posters.

Speaking and Listening - Whole Body Listening

Games that require students to listen, wait, and then react, or listen and make a decision are particularly good at targeting not only listening but processing skills too.

These games can easily be incorporated into your morning routine!

Hurrah-Boo!

Ask your students to listen intently to statements you’re about to make.

If it’s a nice statement, they say hurrah! If it’s not so nice, they say boo.

  • “Everyone gets an ice cream!” – “HURRAH!”
  • “Lunchtime is canceled.” – “BOO!”

I Say – Go!

  1. The catch is, they have to wait until you say “Go!” before they can carry out the instruction.
  2. To increase the difficulty, leave a longer gap between the instruction and saying go!

The Telephone Game

This timeless classic needs little explanation.

  1. Students sit in a circle and pass around a message by whispering in their neighbor’s ear.
  2. When the final student is reached, they stand up and repeat the message they heard.
  3. Compare it to the start and see how well the message got relayed from person to person!

Grocery Store

This is a great game to challenge your students’ listening and memory skills.

  1. One child starts off the shopping list by saying “I went to the grocery store and bought…” something.
  2. The next child continues by saying the previous item and adding their own item!
  3. Continue around the class working through the alphabet and adding items to the list.

For older students, why not make the items topic-specific, such as items you’ll find only in the rainforest or animals that are herbivores?

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Read a list of true or false statements. Students have to listen carefully and decide on the validity of the statement.

If it’s true, they give a thumbs up! If it’s false, a thumbs down.

“My hair is blue.” – thumbs down.

“Ms. Stuart is the best teacher in the world!” – thumbs up (I can only hope!).

This game can be altered to suit older students – read out true and false statements about a curriculum topic you have been working on.

Mix Visuals With Listening

Play the Is It True? Listening Activity with your students!

Students listen to the description read by the teacher while viewing an image. They decide whether the information is accurate or not. This resource provides great exposure to descriptive vocabulary, and you can adjust the vocabulary to suit your students’ abilities

Speaking and Listening

Drawing on Demand

Listening and art can go hand in hand, too, and studies have shown that drawing can be a superior form of note-taking for kids — helping with memory retention.

Read the description out to your students several times. They need to listen very carefully as they are required to draw what they hear.

Image of Drawing on Demand - Sporty Spider

teaching resource

Drawing on Demand - Sporty Spider

A fun listening activity that involves drawing.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrades: 2 - 5
Image of Drawing on Demand - It's a Piece of Cake

teaching resource

Drawing on Demand - It's a Piece of Cake

A fun listening activity that involves drawing.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrades: 2 - 5
Image of Drawing on Demand - Corn on the Cob

teaching resource

Drawing on Demand - Corn on the Cob

A fun listening activity that involves drawing.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrades: 2 - 5

Use the picture on the second page to see how close your students came to drawing the picture described.

Write a Speech

Sometimes students have lots of lovely thoughts in their head, but when it comes to verbalizing it, things get tricky. Have students practice their speaking skills by using our Writing a Speech Poster.

Encourage students to think outside the box! How about a speech on their favorite animal, or a great movie they’ve seen?

State Your Opinion

If your students struggle to express their point of view, this effective lesson on investigating point of view will get them on the right track.

For or Against? is the first lesson in a unit on our Developing Opinion Writing Skills. In it, the class watches a video retelling the story I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff.

After watching, you will have the opportunity to ask students to share their points of view about some everyday issues that they can relate to. Encouraging the students to explain and justify their reasoning to the class is a great way to explore opinion and verbal expression of points of view.

Speaking in Rhyme

Sometimes the problem isn’t the processing of speech, it’s the nerves that come along with it.

Use these Nutty Nursery Rhymes Speaking and Listening Activity cards as a fun, open-ended speaking activity to build confidence. The emphasis is on being playful with language as students explore rhyming words.

The cards are designed for use in small groups! Print and laminate several sets of the cards so that each group can work on the same rhyme simultaneously.

Study the following rhymes with these cards:

  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Little Miss Muffet
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Little Bo Peep
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
  • Twinkle, Twinkle
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.

Dictation Activities

It’s the age-old debate – is dictation really necessary in today’s classrooms?

Love it or hate it, when it comes to the skills of speaking and listening, dictation is an easily assessable teaching strategy that can double as a tool for assessing literacy.

Image of Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 1

teaching resource

Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 1

A 22 slide editable PowerPoint Template which can be used for a range of dictation activities.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrade: 1
Image of Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 2

teaching resource

Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 2

A 22 slide editable PowerPoint Template which can be used for a range of dictation activities.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrade: 2
Image of Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 3

teaching resource

Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 3

A 22 slide editable PowerPoint Template which can be used for a range of dictation activities.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrade: 3
Image of Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 4

teaching resource

Dictation Passages PowerPoint - Grade 4

A 22 slide editable PowerPoint Template which can be used for a range of dictation activities.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrade: 4

Color Me Carefully Collaboration

This Color Me Carefully game is excellent for bringing the skills of speaking and listening together.

Your students can play this game in pairs, with the players separated by a barrier. There is a speaker and a listener. Prior to beginning the game, the speaker colors their sheet.

During the game, the speaker gives precise instructions to the listener who just listens carefully and colors accordingly!

The goal is for the listener to produce work that is close to being identical to that of the speaker. A good lesson in communication and teamwork!

What are your tips and tricks for teaching the skills of Speaking and Listening? Comment below to share!

 

Banner image via Shutterstock/Oksana Kuzmina

Comments

Login to comment

Popular blogs right now!