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Listening comes before reading and writing. Children pick listening skills at an early age, mostly without any explicit teaching. These listening skills are the fundamental building blocks when they start their language journey in Kindergartens.
What are listening skills ?
There are two key aspects in children’s early listening skills.
- Recognize Speech and Environmental Sounds: Children should be able to distinguish what you speak from the environmental sounds around you like vehicles, ambulance siren etc. They should also be able to distinguish one environmental sound from another. You can observe whether they distinguish between the sounds of two different animals and whether they distinguish between the sound of a train and a car.
- Listening Comprehension: Children should be able to understand a simple story. They should also be able to remember, discuss, ask questions and retell these stories in their own words. They may miss out some details, but they should be able to tell the sequence of events. When you probe further, they will tell more details too.
How to impart, improve and assess listening skills ?
Start these at the earliest possible age.
- Talk to children: You should have good, frequent conversation with kids. Look at their face, give attention, listen to them, talk to them and repeat and assert what they talk.
- Read Aloud: Read aloud a lot of stories to Children. 15 minutes daily story is said to have profound positive impact on kids. Let them listen to Narrated stories or audio recordings. This is different from Videos or TV, where visuals take the focus. Let them listen to audio recordings, say when you are traveling in a car.
- Familiarize with Environmental Sounds: Familiarize them with various environmental sounds like birds, animals, vehicles, waterfall, rain, thunder etc.
- Music and Instruments: Let kids listen to music and the sounds produced by musical instruments.
You will be able to assess kids on the listening skills while you engage in these activities with them. Take professional help early on, if you notice anything concerning in your child.
What all to take care while reading out stories ?
- Pick stories with easy words and events for kids to understand. Some of these stories will sound silly to you, but it is kids world!
- Repeat the story in the language kid knows. You can read the original language and then repeat the same in the language kid is familiar with.
- Picture Stories help a lot. Here you can go slowly page after page. Take time in explaining the picture details, encourage them to ask questions and answer them. This has a very good impact compared to videos or TV, which you typically let kids alone to watch - if you have time to spend with kids!
- Kids pick things fast. Try to use correct Diction and Pronunciation. It is also not uncommon that parents may not know some of the right pronunciations. Take the help of narrated stories in this case. You can listen to the narration once, and then repeat it to kids. If you use narration, ensure it is correct in these aspects.
- Choose a familiar Accent of the language, let it not be too foreign.
- Interact and ask kids to predict what happens next in a story. This encourages him or her to give more attention when the story is read out. Also, encourage kids to retell the story own words.
- Use good Voice modulation, right pauses and emphasis, so kids engage well. If you use narration, ensure it has these aspects well.
To conclude, let us quote the genius.
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tale"
-- Albert Einstein