How to teach listening as a skill has occupied part of my thoughts each day since the beginning of the year. My interest with this was spawned before I ran into this TED talk, but this helped solidify what I was thinking:
He confirms what I already knew; we have to teach listening in the classroom. And he's given me a good starting point to do this: the RASA framework. I showed my class this TED talk at the beginning of the year, and for about two weeks we tried listening exercises after break.
But now our current read-aloud is No Talking by Andrew Clements, and the children are wondering out loud if they would be up to the challenge of staying silent for a day. For those unfamiliar with this great book, a fifth grader, Dave Packer, stumbles upon the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi while he is researching a paper on India. He's floored that Gandhi would spend one day a week not talking. And even more floored that Ghandi claimed that it helped sharpen his mind. So Dave decides to try to not talk for a day.
Dave doesn't make it. He ends up blowing up at someone for talking too much during lunchtime. But that's just the beginning, and soon the whole 5th grade class is caught up into a "no talking" contest. It angers some parents and teachers, and especially the principal. And it brings up some great questions, not the least of which is, "Does staying silent really sharpen your mind?"
After a couple of mediation retreats to Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, Thailand, I love this exercise. I'm not sure if my class could do it for a day though. Maybe they can. I know they're fascinated by the idea. Tomorrow we'll have a class meeting, where I'll propose it and set the ground rules. We'll try to follow the book as closely as possible, except that it won't be a competition between the boys and girls. I'll update this entry tomorrow with what the class decides.