“Good God! Are we really that bossy?” my co-teacher asked as we got ready for the group activity. But we were also glad that our students had understood that there was a physical component to listening:
- Your body must face the speaker
- Look at the speaker and
- Do not speak when you are in fact listening. (Why? Because it is 1) rude to interrupt, 2) if you talk you won’t hear what the other person has to say)
Making eye contact:
Remember, typically we look at a person’s eyes/face and then look away for a few minutes before coming back to make eye contact. It shouldn’t be for too long or for too short a period of time. Making eye contact indicates that we are interested in what the speaker is saying and that we are able to follow along.
Proximity to the speaker or conversational partner:
Cue your child to give ‘personal space’. Our students derived personal space as an arm’s length—so they were able to measure the distance when they spoke to each other. Then we gave them the variations—you can stand close to each other on the playground, or if you are sharing a secret/joke. With time we increased the variations. For example, “You can stand closer to a good friend but if it is a new kid in class, give him some space when you talk to him.”
On the other hand, teach them that walking away or standing too far away shows disinterest and/or disrespect.
Body language/facial expressions/gestures: Decipher common body language cues.
- Book illustrations are powerful tools for this—“Oh, look at her face…look at her hands. How do you think she feels right now? You think she is angry! What do you do to show you are angry? What does your friend Padma do to show she is angry?” Take it a step further—help your child make predictions based on the illustrations. “She is angry! What do you think she will do next?”
- Cartoons or advertisements with children are also great materials. Let’s face it for young children, Tom and Jerry and Donald Duck say a lot through their actions. (Mickey Mouse is too much of a milksop).
- Play Charades. Instead of the movie theme we chose as kids, select appropriate social cues. For example, does your child know that someone who looks repeatedly at his watch is trying to tell you they are late? Or that they have to leave you and move on to the next activity?
- Role play conflict situations with your child and his/her friends—narrate how you feel in that particular situation and make facial expressions to match your emotions. Next, ask the children to take turns and repeat your narration/actions.