Active Listening for Active Learning Reviews

Active Listening for Active Learning:  A mainstream resource to promote understanding, participation and personalised learning in the classroom

Recently, one of the authors gave a short presentation of Active Listening for Active Learning at Therapy Live in London. This will give you a good overall understanding of the resource

Review: 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: 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: 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 £69.50 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


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