Keys to Middle school success – gear up you listening skills

My many years of education has led me to believe that this might be the top skill that any child needs to develop more than any other skill.  I am going to focus on the middle school child hence the title of this blog.  Listening skills will take care of over 95% of all troubles that middle school students encounter on an every day basis.  Teens and Pre-Teens have their own ideas and start developing that sense of who they will become during these important years of development.  The skill they often lack is to be able to hear what others have to say. 

I tell all my sports teams that secret of having an amazing season versus an average season is communication.  Communication is the key to making good grades in school, having healthy relationships with teachers, parents, and other students, and being able to know what you need to do to be successful.

What is the purpose of Listening?

  1. To Gather Information.
  2. To Understand another person view of a topic.
  3. To enjoy being around others.
  4. To learn new ideas and how to do new things to enhance our lives.

The five techniques I believe will help you become a better listener, but you have to practice being a good listener.  Just like everything you would like to be good at you have to practice and be repetitive in your practice.  These are five fundamentals of Listening that will be a survival tool for middle school success:

–Maintain Eye Contact

            –Always let a person see you are attentive to them.  They will be more receptive to talk directly to you if they know they have your attention.  This is a hard skill for middle school kids to learn.  I have had many conversations where a student will not look at me while talking to them.  I don’t get upset with them, I just tell them during the conversation, “It is easier for me to talk to you too, if you are looking at me because that lets me know you are Listening to me.”  It might take some time, but students will get comfortable enough to look at teachers when that trust is built. 

–Use of Body Language

            –Huge identifier of good listening skills.  Showing someone you are paying attention to them in middle school might be knuckle bumps for a good job or high five.  Often times a smile shows you have enjoyed what someone has to say.  Negative signs of body language that shows you are not attentive are crossed arms, looking at a clock, or tapping your fingers or feet.  Give someone you undivided attention.  Often conversations go quicker, and the plot of the story or conversation is quickly delivered.

–Provide key encouragers

            –Encouragers allow a conversation to keep moving forward, because the person talking will know you are listening and will not repeat themselves.  Some key encourages are simple, “Uh-huh.”, “Me too.” Or “Go Ahead”.  This is a great way to make new friends.

–Repeat what a person says

            –Repeating what a person say allows you a moment to reflect on what the person has said and for you to register a sincere response to the conversation.  This also prevents you from interrupting their story with one of your stories.  (Often changing the subject is considered rude.)  Listen to all they have to say before you change the subject. 

–Ask questions that will fill in the blanks.

            –If you feel you need more information to fill in the blanks, Ask those questions?  The other person has shared their story or experience.  Now is the time for you to sweep in with your five listening skills and prove to everyone including yourself that you have heard everything that needs to be heard.  Example of this is in class when the teacher says, “Does anyone have any questions?”  That is the time to answer the question to fill in the blanks.  Let the teacher know you have been paying attention.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

Think about a person in your life that is a great listener.  Those people are someone you trust and have an impact on how you live your life: your preacher, your doctor, your mother, and for (middle school) your best friend. 

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