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Listening Skills

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According to scholars in the field of listening, “Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages" (qtd in Thompson, et al. 1994).
While we may feel that we are already good listeners, we are also aware that sometimes our attention wanders, we space out completely, or we lose track of a speaker because we begin thinking about our own ideas.
By asking you to practice listening, we are not suggesting that you are not a good listener already, but that by thinking about listening -- what qualities make a good listener, the various kinds of listening roles we play, and the personal challenges we have in effective listening – and doing some listening exercises, you’ll maintain the listening skills you have and perhaps develop new ones.
Getting Started (Class 1)
1. First, working in groups of 4 or 5, generate a list of 8 qualities that good listeners have. These might include both visible and non-visible items.
2. Next, create a list of 8 things that can get in the way of ones ability to listen fully and effectively. For example, what kind of environments are best for listening? What kinds of emotional states make it harder to listen accurately?
3. Next, think about the different kinds of listening people engage in; what roles do listeners play from day to day?
4. Finally, come together as a class and compile a master list of your group’s findings.
The “What I heard” Exercise (Class 2)
Because a big part of engaged listening involves giving feedback to a speaker, sometimes we have to be able to both listen and think simultaneously. While focusing too much on our own thoughts can get in the way of effective listening, making simple connections to explore later can be very useful.
In this exercise, you will listen to your classmates describe the main points from their Close-Reading papers (from Assignment One), and follow-up with a segue to your own paper.
1. First, one person says what passage his or her Close Reading is about and either reads all of it or an excerpt aloud.
2. Next, that person tells the class about the main points of his or her Close Reading, using the Close Reading paper as notes.
3. At this point, anyone whose passage is similar (some may even have identical passages) or raises similar issues, enters the conversation with an affirmation that he or she has heard the previous speaker by saying something like, “What I heard you say is …” followed by the link that the student sees between his or her own paper and the paper of the previous speaker. (Feel free to come up with your own phrase – you don’t have to use this wording.)
4. Next the student reads his or her passage aloud and then gives the main points of his or her Close Reading, and so on.

Works Cited
Kathy Thompson, Pamela Leintz, Barbara Nevers, and Susan Witkowski. “The Integrative Listening Model: An Approach to Teaching and Learning Listening.” The Journal of General Education 53:3-4. 6/10/2008 53.3thompson.html>.

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