Maggie Johnson


Maggie Johnson is a speech and language therapist and educational consultant and gives talks/lectures on a range of topics. For more information on her courses Click here.

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Special Needs London 2012

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Active Listening for Active Learning  


Active Listening for Active Learning


Price £69.50 (FREE postage)


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Look at sample pages


"This is a magnificent resource ..." read more


The programme has been developed primarily for 4-12 year-olds but the principles apply to all age-groups. Many of the activities can be introduced in preschool settings, adapted for older students or used with teenagers with special needs.

Behavioural problems are a major barrier to achievement and pupil-involvement.

When we see a headline like this we think “That’s self-evident – we all know that” ... but our experience is that we end up having to manage behavioural problems when those behaviours are already well established.

Yet the causes of most behavioural problems include hidden communication and language processing difficulties. So, doesn’t it make sense to identify and address these issues before children develop avoidance tactics, over-reliance on adults and low self-esteem? It is such an obvious and effective solution! Of course it won’t solve all behavioural problems, but it will have a huge impact.

Maggie Johnson and Carolyn Player (both widely respected speech & language therapists) have developed a programme called Active Listening for Active Learning that does exactly that . . . it will help you recognise and assess children with attention problems and poor thinking skills, and give them the support they need to communicate effectively, ask for help and seek clarification.

The programme provides a range of strategies that will help children develop clear two-way communication; improve their attention and listening skills; develop and trust their judgement; and view mistakes as part of the learning process.

Helping Children Hang on to your Every Word  


Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word


Price £12.50 (FREE postage)


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Understand why some children find listening so difficult

Are you frustrated by children who switch off, fail to listen, or won’t pay attention?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then this book is for you.

By highlighting the links between behaviour and hidden language processing difficulties, this book will help you understand why some children find listening so difficult, why they disengage and seem to lack the motivation to learn. In Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word Maggie Johnson provides practical solutions that will help you support children overcome the barriers they face.

Well known to many people working with children with communication difficulties, the author’s involvement in mainstream schools makes this a very practical and readable book, packed with well illustrated examples and scenarios.



Sample pages

The 416 page resource pack comes in a lever arch file with a wide range of strategies & photocopiable resources. To get a feel for the resource, here are some sample pages (if you are unable to read the attached file, please click on where you will be transferred to the Adobe Acrobat website.  This will allow you to download Adobe Acrobat Reader free of charge).


Reviews of Active Listening for Active Learning

Review of Active Listening for Active Learning  by Glynnis Smith, education consultant

Reviewed in Support for Learning: British Journal of Learning Support (August 2010)

This publication is described as a resource manual to enable schools to support children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). The introduction makes it clear that children with speech, language and communication needs are sometimes difficult to identify and this can lead to disengagement and underachievement. The aim of the resource manual is to prevent this happening using a whole school, inclusive approach to SLCN. The material manages to deal successfully with the whole school issue and specific needs.

There is a wealth of material to draw upon in the manual and the authors have provided guidance and a coding system to help the practitioner in their selection. The main aim of the material is to develop active listening skills and Section 1 of the file focuses on creating a safe environment for children to do this. Two sections (steps 1 and 6) within the manual are intended for general classroom use and include a range of activities and useful strategies. The remainder of the material focuses on children with additional educational needs and step 2 provides a collection of screening and assessment material. Step 2 exemplifies the quality of this resource. Sound guidance and explanations underpin the materials throughout this section. The language is always accessible and it feels as if the authors are able to forecast the next question posed by the reader. The materials were trialled prior to publication and this could account for their usefulness and readability.

Step 2 leads on to planning for both individual and group needs. It is at this stage that the flexibility and scope of the material becomes evident. The materials cover a wide age range and include individual work, small group work and activities suitable for children and with delayed language development in Early Years settings. Step 3 focuses on linking language to social interaction: step 4 addressed the concepts of understanding and knowledge and step 5 is about developing clarification skills. Each activity is well set out using a common template, coded for mode of delivery: further useful resources are signposted and practitioners are occasionally alerted to a specific teaching point. Each section also includes strategies to use. The photocopiable resources for each section are grouped together and listed. The materials are well organised and easily located, and should therefore prove useful to schools that wish to improve their provision in this area.

One theme that is raised throughout is the over-reliance of children with speech, language and communication needs on adult help. The guidance that fronts step 4 discusses children with comprehension difficulties and how they are so used to being confused that they develop and expectation that the adult will tell them if they are right or wrong: ‘They become passive in that they expect failure, readily accept correction and do not query explanations'’(p. 179). The guidance for adults is extremely useful and should encourage reflection no how we provide support in addition to the ‘when’ and ‘why’.

This is a valuable resource, both useful and practical. In the current context where Early Years practitioners express their concern about the numbers of children with speech, language and communication needs, this is a resource that could be adopted by a school and used with all teaching staff. The material is underpinned by a theoretical understanding of what is needed to develop active learners and one of the authors, Maggie Johnson, is well known nationally for her work in this area.

In summary, this is an excellent publication. One has to appreciate and respect the amount of work that has gone into the manual and how the authors have managed to organise such a breadth of material in an engaging and accessible manner.

£69.50 FREE postage


Review of Active Listening for Active Learning in Special Needs Information Press (SNIP)

This is a magnificent resource - more than 400 pages presented in a lever arch file, crammed full of ideas and strategies to promote pupil involvement in their learning. Although aimed at primary pupils it would have great value in KS3 also.

The resource seeks to promote the provision of a safe environment where pupils are enabled to seek clarification when they do not understand. It then moves on to identification and response to the variety of language and communication barriers that may underlie reluctance to participate and provides detailed individual, group and classroom strategies and activities to overcome barriers to success.

The pack would be of enormous value to support and training agencies asked for advice to increase the success of all pupils, but particularly those with special educational needs with undiagnosed language and communication deficits. It would also provide an invaluable resource for schools looking to supplement the Inclusion Development Programme on speech, language and communication needs as well as speech and language therapists who work with schools.

£69.50 FREE postage


Review of Active Listening for Active Learning by Jill McMinn, Advisory Teacher SLCD 

Reviewed in Afasic News, Summer 2010

In Active Listening for Active Learning Maggie and Carolyn share a range of effective strategies to help all children in mainstream and specialist settings. Although the resource has been developed primarily for 4-12 year-olds the principles apply to all age groups. Many of the activities can be introduced in pre-school settings, adapted for older students or used with teenagers with special needs.

The publication comes as a loose leaf file clearly organised into six parts:

  • Creating a safe environment
  • Further investigation and planning
  • Linking language to social interaction
  • Concepts to understanding and knowledge
  • Developing classification skills
  • Maintaining listening skills

Each part has its own resource section, many of which are photocopiable. It gives a clear overview and structure for teachers to follow and can be used for a whole school/class approach, to support individual education plans and provide additional activities for pupils with specific attention and listening problems.

It provides a complete programme for observation and assessment, planning and intervention and photocopiable charts and record sheets are included. The resource aims to help children clear two-way communication, improve their attention and listening skills, develop and trust their judgement, view mistakes as part of the learning process, and seek help in an appropriate and timely manner.

I am being increasingly asked about helping children accept that mistakes are an essential part of learning so am particularly glad to see this included.

The layout and style of the file are very clear and additional teaching points are set in shaded boxes for emphasis and ease of reading. The loose leaf nature facilitates easy photocopying.

Even for those of us familiar with Maggie’s work in this area and have used some of the strategies and materials included here before, it is so very useful to have it all gathered together in one publication.

At £65 it is quite costly but well worth the price. I will be enthusiastically recommending it both to mainstream schools and to specialist settings in my area.

£69.50 FREE postage



Reviews of Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word


Review of Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word by Penny Buckle, Independent Speech & Language therapist


Have you been frustrated by children who switch off, fail to listen, won't pay attention? Well then this is the book for you. Maggie Johnson will be known to many people working with children with communication difficulties; her focus on functional communication means her books are very readable and practical. This book is no exception.


By highlighting the links between behaviour and hidden language processing difficulties this book aims to help us understand why some children find listening so difficult, why they disengage and seem to lack the motivation to learn. The reader is challenged to consider whether it is their own behaviour that makes listening and attending easier or more difficult.


In the introduction, eight attention control factors are explored in relation to engagement and attention control. These include four environment factors, task organisation and understanding, motivation and success. These factors are all variable and dependent on issues such as time of day, preceding events, environmental conditions etc. and, as such, Maggie Johnson explains their inter-relationship in terms of a sliding scale or 'control panel' from low to high depending on those variables.


A chapter is given over to each of the eight attention control factors. The chapters take a common format - signs that affect attention; factors that are important; possible barriers (school and/or child); how to improve. Most chapters have a list of additional useful resources and the appendices provide additional support materials. An added bonus is the information about patterns of development for attention, play, narrative skills and phonological awareness which serves as a useful reminder. As one has come to expect of Maggie Johnson, she includes well illustrated examples and scenarios throughout the book.


This book won't necessarily provide you with the quick fix for those children who find it difficult to listen and pay attention, but it provides a very practical toolkit. It is a useful resource for any classroom, providing accessible and realistic advice to all staff and, indeed, any professional working in school settings.

£12.50 FREE postage


Review of Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word Dyslexia Review, 2007

Probably one of the greatest sources of frustration for a classroom teacher is the child who simply doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t listen; not only are they not learning much themselves, but the chances are they are also disrupting lessons. Unfortunately, these are the very children that many teachers feel least able to help.

Maggie Johnson’s concise book is a very useful ‘first stop’ guide to understanding the reasons behind poor concentration and finding strategies for dealing with it.

Eight factors (attention controls) are identified as having an impact on attention and listening in the classroom - some negative, e.g. distractions, and some positive, e.g. understanding. The author explains that these can be minimised or maximised to produce a more tuned-in student. Each ‘attention control’ has its own section in the book.

We are given clues to look out for in a child’s behaviour which will help us to know which attention controls are likely to be at the ‘wrong setting’, why, and what we can do about it. Each section ends with an excellent list of useful resources – not too long, but carefully selected, including small items such as Chewy Tubes which readers may not know about or may not have been able to source.

A speech and language therapist, the author offers an insight into the links between language processing difficulties and behaviour, but deals with many other issues, including relatively minor ones which can nonetheless affect concentration – borrowing rubbers, fiddling with pencils – which all teachers are regularly annoyed by – and doesn’t overlook them. Her suggestions for help are realistic, practical and informed and she acknowledges that some things are beyond our control.

There are a variety of useful appendices at the back of the book, including work plans, timelines and details of developmental progressions.

I recommend this book to teachers; it will certainly be on my shelf at school for regular reference!

£12.50 FREE postage


Review of Helping Children Hang On To Your Every Word by Special Needs Information Press (SNIP), August, 2007

Maggie Johnson has written widely on supporting pupils with speech and language needs within schools. In this book, she examines the possible barriers faced by pupils who struggle to attend, by providing scales that identify the impact of the environment, the task and pupil attributes such as motivation and determination to succeed. This provides a useful, visual overview to break down the problems and also to enable highlighting of solutions, that many will find helpful.

The areas that contribute to success or failure in the environment are characterised as comfort, organisation, focus and distractions, with factors that influence the efficacy of each and ways to improve them identified. This process is repeated in the areas relating to the task and pupil attributes.

Many school staff are aware of those pupils who underachieve due to lack of maintenance of focus. They require high levels of adult input to ensure they complete work and are often slow to become independent learners. This book provides a toolkit that would enable positive responses to reduce the problems being experienced by those who are unable to maintain attention. It is practical and user-friendly and provides a range of further links as well as photocopiable resources to support staff in impacting on pupils skills in listening and paying attention. It would provide useful support to all schools, in increasing staff awareness of the strategies they could put in place to increase effective teaching and learning.