Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

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Listening is not simply hearing.

I am sure that you have experienced many times when you “heard” something, but you did not pay attention to it and have no idea what the person said to you.

Of course, we can’t pay close attention to everything we hear each day, or we would go crazy.  We need to sort the important from the unimportant.  We need to “weed out” those bits of information that aren’t going to help us.

When you are studying, however, you can learn certain tactics to help you get into the zone so that you don’t miss the bits you really need.

You can train yourself to be a better listener.

Be Attentive

Sit up straight and look alive!  Don’t just “look” alive, but be alive.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to engage yourself in a particular topic or to listen to a speaker that does not automatically entertain, but you can train yourself to do better.

I know in today’s world that everyone wants splashes of colour, musical backgrounds, dancing ponies, and so on in order to learn; however, not only are these not necessary – they are often more distractions to learning than helpful additions.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, especially with the dancing ponies, but you get my point. Not every teacher, not every class, not every book, has to “force” you by being entertaining ad nauseam to get you to learn.  The learning is actually your job!

Oh my God!  He said it.  I have to DO something!

Yes.

Learning is up to you.

Not entirely, of course; but you are the main component.  So, here comes another horribly shocking fact.  If you don’t want to learn, you won’t.  If you find a subject boring, then that is your fault.  You need to do something about it.

Go into every class and every course with the attitude that you are going to get the most out of it.

You are going to be alive!

Make Eye Contacterik-lucatero-310633

If you are listening to a teacher, or even a student’s presentation, always try to make eye contact.  Your eyes are like a window, but they also reflect in some sense.  You probably have experienced this yourself sometimes.  You are talking to someone, and he or she keeps looking away or staring into space.  When this happens, you get the distinct feeling that they are not particularly interested in what you are saying.

What happens then?

Well, you abbreviate what you are saying, or you simply stop.  The speaker does not have any motivation or encouragement to keep going if the “listener” is not listening.

Social cues are very important.  If you are not attending to the teacher, he or she will know!  Trust me.  It doesn’t matter how large the class is either.  You might think you are “lost in the crowd,” but you are not.

Not only is it a courtesy to make eye contact and engage with the speaker, but you will learn a lot more.

Once the teacher knows you are not prepared to listen, your grade begins to fall.  The teacher might not even be conscious of this effect, but it will happen.

Not only that; but, if the classroom is filled with many non-attentive students, the teacher will not be encouraged to give as much as she or he would in front of a more positive group of actual listeners

It’s human nature!  We all need a little support to reach our best performance.

Help your teacher, and she or he will be able to help you even more!

(Note:  Don’t stare, of course – but make frequent eye contact.)

Be Open

While you listen (and make eye contact), think of possible questions rather than interrupting with your opinions (at first). You want to give the speaker – whether that is a teacher, professor, other student, etc. – a chance to present all of his or her ideas and explanations before making too many judgements.  Of course, you are always going to be thinking about what you agree with and what you don’t, and these thoughts can formulate your questions. But you want to remain open to new ideas, contradictory thoughts, opinions that you might automatically disregard under other circumstances but that could change depending on this presentation or argument.

Sit Near the Front

You will want to be able to hear the teacher / presenter.

You will have fewer heads bobbing in front of you and being distracting.  (Or entirely blocking the view.)

The instructor will notice (note above) that you have come to learn.

It will be easier to make eye contact and focus on the lecture rather than other students, movements, windows, etc.

Remember, you want to be in control.

Listen for Verbal Cues and Watch for Non-Verbal Cues

There are lots of possible verbal and non-verbal cues, but here are a few.

Repetition – If a teacher is repeating a point several times, it is likely because he or she sees this as important.  In other words, worth noting.

Slowing down – speaking very carefully.  (Don’t forget this.)

Speaking more loudly. (I’m driving this point home to you.)

Literal verbal cues such as saying, “Here is the clincher!” or “This piece is important.”

Listen for the words in the following list:

Most importantly, therefore, to summarize, as a result, on the contrary, first of all, for these reasons.

All of these (and more) are key words or phrases that should make you perk up your ears!

If your teacher is writing on the board, listen (and take notes).

If your teacher is deliberately making eye contact with several students as she or he is making a point, this is probably important.  Make sure you “zero-in” on what is being said.

If your teacher is gesturing dramatically (my grade 9 math teacher used to smash the chalk on the board whenever something very important was being delivered) – concentrate on what he or she is saying because these actions usually indicate important material.

There are always exceptions to the rule.  A teacher might become suddenly passionate about something completely unrelated to your algebra or essay writing assignment; however, if you are paying attention to these verbal and non-verbal cues, then you can sort the salient data from the chaff as you hone in on what is being said.

Avoid Classmates Who Like to Distract

It will be very difficult for you to follow all the advice given above if the classmates that are near you keep fidgeting, whispering, passing notes, texting, showing you their latest YouTube video finds or funny Facebook pictures, etc.

Get away from them during class.

Enjoy their antics, their great personalities, their humour, and their judgments and comments for the lunch hour or after school.  They could be the best friends ever outside of academics, but you need to take control when the learning is about to happen.

Remember that you have the power to take control of your learning.  Using these tips will help you become an excellent listener and get positive results.

A personal educational coach can help you or your child achieve the best results.

I would love to be your coach.Boy books

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

For more tips, check out this week’s video.

Listening Well

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Book Learning / Hands-on Learning

You can be BOTH.

Yes, I have this discussion over and over with my students.

Every so often, students challenge me to explain why they should bother learning from a book (or any text information) when they are going to be working “hands-on” anyway.

There is this pervasive idea in society that if you are a “book learner” you can’t possibly fix your own car or cook a decent meal, or even build a bookcase for your own books!

Alternatively, if you are a “hands-on” learner, you can’t learn anything from books or from writing – so why bother!

I totally disagree.

Why limit yourself.

Most true “hands-on” learners have learned a lot from books or other text information.  Many of them are very good at writing down directions or explanations as well.  Also, they continue to look for new information either in books, online blogs, or other places.  Of course, they use videos, pictures, and other available resources, but they don’t completely ignore text information.

Many “book learners” are very good at repairing things or creating with their hands.  There are many artists who are voracious book readers.  They don’t limit themselves unless they, too, have bought into the myth that one can’t cross over that invisible line.

I suggest to my students to be open to all learning experiences.  You can learn how to do something directly from a person in the field.  Then, you can look for more information to confirm or find alternative ways to approach the same task, making decisions yourself about what works best.

You might even find a combination of techniques that works better not only for yourself but also for others.

Book learners, if you have been reading about a particularly interesting topic or just come across something in a novel – like making cheese, you could access a professional in that field to try doing it yourself.

I know, I know, I hear you groaning and thinking that this is not true.  We all know bookworms who seem to have difficulty doing anything with their hands other than turning pages – or clicking a mouse.   The truth is that if you never actually try anything else than you will be clumsy and awkward (and probably embarrassed) until you’ve tried it over and over and over and over…..

Here is a related statement that is going to make you yell at me:  “Children are not that great at using electronic devices.”

Well, they aren’t automatically.  Why are they so good at video games, social media, texting, etc?  Because they are constantly practising (i.e., doing), spending hours and hours trying and retrying.  If you spent the same amount of time on any exercise or task, you would become a professional as well.

You CAN be both a book learner and a hands-on learner.  You might lean one way or another.  We all have preferences, but there is no need to limit yourself.

Jump into any learning opportunity that interests you with no fear!

A small video on the same topic:  Video

Ronald J. Johnson

www.tutoringcentral.com

 

Listening is Good Too!

Many teachers and educators spend a lot of time focusing on reading, writing, taking notes, etc.  All of these skills are admirable focus areas, but listening seems to have been lost in the mix.

Listening is a great skill to practise for both students and teachers.

As a tutor, I need to listen to my students.  I need to truly hear (not just listen) their problems and what they feel might be solutions.  NOTE:  I don’t always have to agree, but I need to be aware and genuinely listening.

Not only does listening help me understand more about the academic (and other) issues that a particular student might be facing, but it also builds a much more solid and genuine rapport with that same student.  If students believe that you are engaged and willing to acknowledge their thoughts – take them into serious consideration – they feel valued and are far more likely to listen to you!

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, students need to develop their listening skills as well.  Not everything they say is a stellar thought.  Not every story needs to be explored ad nauseam.  This, however, is simply another learning opportunity to teach students to self-regulate their comments when appropriate, weeding out the dross and getting to the essential components of what they want to say.

Often, students will tell me that they don’t understand a particular concept.  As I am explaining how to approach the task, they start talking – and often not even about the task at hand!  This is the fragmented world we seem to live in now.  It is important to get the student back on track and listening to the entire explanation.  Without focusing on the task fully and listening all the way through, he or she will be jumping into the assignment without the necessary tools.

When I redirect their attention and inform them that they must be quiet and listen to the entire explanation – first.  They usually have a sudden “A-ha!” moment.  “Now I get it!”

Surprise, surprise, when you have all the tools, things seem so much easier.

Of course, this epiphany does not necessarily mean that the student will take the time to listen fully next time, but it is a step in the right direction.

I do have students who have been with me for years, and they all have improved their listening skills – some of them to the point of being excellent listeners.  They know that their comments and questions will be received well if they have attended.

They know that I am listening.

I am writing this blog today because I am facing some listening issues with a few students.

What is the solution?  Well, we need to do some directed listening practice.  There are many ways to work on listening skills, but here is a case study as an example. (Note: No Bens were injured during this case study.  The name was chosen randomly and is not any of the real Bens that I have had over the years.)

Ben is having difficulty with a math problem from school.  I look over his work and at his textbook.

“Ben, have you read the directions and examined the examples provided?”

“No.”  (This is a very typical answer.  The other is, “Yes, but I don’t get it.”)

“Well, let’s go over the information together, Ben.  Let me hold on to your pencil for you.  I want you to listen carefully and say nothing as long as I have the pencil.  Once I return the pencil to you, you have the floor to start asking questions, suggesting solutions, or complaining about why you even need to learn math anyway.”

This “game” or physical, tactile model works well with most students.  They understand the concept easily and can manage to listen for a much longer period of time than their usual.

Now, to be fair, you have to keep your explanations and comments to a reasonable length and this will vary for different students.  You might have to stop part way through your explanation, give her/him the pencil and allow a comment or question – or ask if she/he understands so far, allowing a release valve.  If you have been listening to the student, you will know his/her limitations and requirements.

Listening is so important.  Let’s all try to practise our listening skills and help others to do the same.

Ron

Website:     www.tutoringcentral.com

YouTube channel:   Tutoring Central

 

The Time is Now!

That’s right.

There is no time like the present to get started using good study skills.

It doesn’t matter whether you are reading this in October 2016 – or later in the year or early next year, etc., etc.

The best time to start using solid strategies to help you succeed whether in school or in the workplace is right this moment.  (Yes, I tutor adults who want to reach the next level or a totally different career as well as younger students.)

A lot of people manage to “talk themselves” out of getting started.

     “Well, I’ll start next semester because it is better to start on the first day.”

                    “I might be able to start next month once I get rid of this pimple.”

                    “I’m waiting for the winter because then I don’t want to go outside that 

much anyway, so I can study more.”

And on and on and on!

So, my recommendation is to avoid this kind of chatter and start a new one that gets you going.

                    “This morning, I am going to start taking notes.”

                     “This evening, I am going to review my notes and do a few math questions.”

                     “I am going to read my next science chapter using the SQ3R method.”

If you want more help to get started, don’t be shy in hiring a tutor – like me!

www.tutoringcentral.com

If you aren’t ready for personal coaching yet, here is a link to a wee course you can do online that might help you along the way:

Become an A+ Student!

Here are the first three tips of nine that I have posted on YouTube.  Put them into action, and you will see a vast difference.