Listening is the first skill children practice, no matter what language it is. Every parent starts speaking with their newborn the moment they see him/her.

We could, therefore, expect it is well-practised skill needing no special attention.

Contemplating about it ...

Have you ever been in a situation, when all (or a lot of) separate words were familiar to you, but you couldn't understand the meaning? 

Well, I have. Specially, when I was learning a foreign language. So maybe, understanding what someone says is not so self-understood after all? It's not only words that count ...

Understanding spoken language is the first skill children practice in foreign language learning. Let us try to recall how we go about our teaching when listening skills are involved:

How do we address children when giving instructions to execute an activity? In what language? Do we translate instructions? Is there a step-by-step demonstration involved?

How do we speak during the lesson? Is it English all the time or do we use separate English words, the ones we think children would understand and the rest is spoken in our mother tongue?

How do we evaluate children's listening skills? Do we check how they understand a complex text (a story, for example)? Do we simply enumerate fixed and well-practised non-related sentences and expect children to only detect and understand the change of an object in it (It is a blue truck. It is a red kite etc.)? 

There are different listening skills we need in our everyday life.

Global listening ...

... addresses the ability to understand the general idea of the spoken text.

Specific listening ...

...addresses the ability to discern information from the context.

Focused listening ...

...addresses the ability to focus on all the relevant information in order to be able to execute the instructions. 

Being able to do all the above means a person knows how to listen to UNDERSTAND THE MESSAGE.

Teaching listening in a very young classroom

How does one teach listening in a very young classroom (since children don't know any words in a foreign language)?

I am sure you have heard of silent films or pantomime. No words are spoken there, it is purely visual art, but it conveys the message nevertheless. 

Can you get the gist of it?

In its essence that is the way how to go about introducing a new language - through visual art. With one IMPORTANT difference, you speak what you act.

How to do it in a classroom?

When I introduce the language to the children for the first time, I forget about other steps of the PBA for the first few months and devote my entire lessons to the activities in the introductory routine

This way I prepare children to learn:

  • how to control their body in relation to other schoolmates and space (socialising);
  • how to control their brains (focus on concentration through rhythmic games and brain gym activities);
  • how to retain their focus when giving instructions.
All of that is, naturally, learned through playing games while using the target language.

Three months later ...

By December, the children are ready for their first project. Of course, I cover all the steps but let's focus only on listening today.

In Storytelling, we address different aims but listening prevails. 

  • The pre-reading activity 'activates' the sensors through listening discrimination.

  • The reading activity is performed in such a way to address multisensory learning and global listening.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
  • The post-reading activity addresses focused listening ...

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson - playing a game

... and selective listening

Which picture was described?

The step do it yourself extracts the language through focused listening.

Doodling - In the Wilderness at the workshop  (GB

The step Listen, Execute and Present introduces new songs and texts to children, teaching them how to focus on global and selective listening through a given context.

(Sorry, I have no pictures of the activities. But you can try it out at the Summer Saturday Meeting).

So, is teaching listening important?

I believe that a lot of problems regarding discipline can derive from the simple fact that children do not know how to listen. 

Children's concentration span is short. They simply cannot be focused for 45 minutes in one go; they need regular switch-offs. We should, therefore, not expect to have complete silence in the young children's classroom. 

By teaching them how and when to listen, on the other hand, we can gradually prepare children to be able to efficiently comprehend the instructions and consequently execute the activities successfully

Want to learn more?

Follow us on our C00lSch00l FB pageWe post activities we do in our classrooms.

Also, we have a FB group called Igra je resna stvar! (Playing games is a serious business!) where we discuss our classroom practices on the PBA approach (in English). You are welcome to join us if you feel it is your cup of tea.

Moreover, there are regular workshops performed in Slovenia throughout the school year. For other countries, do drop me a line and I'm sure we can arrange something.

Wish you all a successful continuance of 2019!




When we teach our own children the mother tongue, they start speaking in isolated words but with the meaning of the entire message. 

I can still recall the image of my son from years ago; he was standing under the cupboard, motionlessly staring at it saying, 'A cookie' (in Slovene, of course). 

The message was clear, "Mum, I want a cookie." 

It was not that he conveyed the message through the word solely. It was the way he posed his body and fixed his stare. He knew well it was that exact cupboard where the cookies were stored.

In the early language classroom, children also start speaking in isolated words. Often, the words have no complex message, because the way the words were presented to children had merely the 'dictionary' meaning.

The use of language

Knowing that the message can be presented with the body posture, mime, some acting, the PBA uses a multisensory approach to convey the message.

In step one, the words are supported by pictures, voice, acting, and in a context to present the theme (global understanding).

In step two, we encourage children to elicit words from the given context, put them in a new 'story'and practice language in a 'gap-fill' manner. All that through 'doodling'.

Children created a story and at the same time practised
the language:
1st grade: The snowflake is sleepy.
2nd-4th grade: There is an elf pulling a cart full of presents.
8th grade: I'll take 2 spruces. I'm glueing the spruces. I glued the spruces. I'm going to draw Xmas trees later.

In step three, children practice the language through games and in sentences.

In step four, we present the use of the words in meaningful texts.

Usborne Phonics Readers

In step five ...

... we present the use of language in speaking.

One way is to dictate the instructions. A good activity is 'the maze'.

Practising giving and executing the instructions
at the workshop Summer Saturday Meeting

The useful skill in speaking is to be able to present a topic in a structured way. For that, posters can be of great help.

It is helpful for children
to have some visual support
when presenting a topic.

In real life, when people are speaking with each other, they usually use many words to express something. Sometimes they are distracted by adding an irrelevant piece of information (or five) before returning to the main topic they were discussing a minute ago. Having the ability to focus on relevant information is, therefore, useful.

We can teach children how to do that through listening activities, where they need to find a specific piece of information in a complex text (or a song).

Children can prepare the templates for the listening activities themselves, and in the process practice focused listening.
(The teachers are trying it out at
the workshop Evaluation Saturday Meeting)

Want to learn more?

Follow us on our C00lSch00l FB pageWe post activities we do in our classrooms.

Also, we have a closed FB group called Igra je resna stvar!' (Playing games is a serious business!) where we discuss our classroom practices on the PBA approach (in English). You are welcome to join us if you feel it is your cup of tea.

Moreover, there are regular workshops performed in Slovenia throughout the school year. For other countries, do drop me a line and we can arrange something.

Wish you all a successful 2019!