•  Listening and Speaking

    Listening, speaking, and viewing have been a part of your child's language development since infancy—starting with the cooing and ahhing of friends and relatives and moving to song tapes, television, and videos. School experiences will help formalize the development of these important communication skills.

    Just as they read and write, children speak, listen, and view for a variety of purposes (and ones that they don't always get to choose). Responding appropriately to these different purposes for communication is what children learn in school.


    Is there a parent alive who hasn't had to repeat the words, "Did you hear what I said"? A common problem for children this age is following verbal directions. Keep in mind that hearing is different from listening. First the ears need to do their job, then the brain is in charge of follow-through.

    Think about a typical direction you expect your child to follow—for example, getting ready for bed. It sounds like a single step, but how many is it really? Stop what you are doing, clean up, find your pajamas, brush your teeth, pick out clothes for tomorrow, and so on. For a greater chance of successful follow-through, try breaking up directions into only two or three steps at a time.

    Ask your child, "Do you listen to an important phone message the same way that you listen to a joke?" Explain that he or she needs to adjust the level of attention, depending upon the importance of the message. Consider that your child may need to take phone messages for you in your absence. One way to ensure that you get the complete message is to instruct the child to always ask for certain information when taking a message. Having a model to follow makes the job easier for children to do well.

    These are typical listening activities for these grades:

    • listening carefully to oral reading, discussion, and spoken messages
    • responding appropriately to questions, directions, or text read out loud


    Ask your child, "Do you speak to your friends the same way that you speak when you give an oral book report?" Explain that he or she needs to modify the speed of speaking for different audiences.

    Here are important speaking skills for this age:

    • reading orally with good fluency (expression, accuracy, phrasing)
    • giving precise directions or accurate information (such as a book report)
    • presenting convincing ideas ("But Dad, I need to stay up late tonight!")


    Ask your child, "Do you watch television commercials the same way that you pay attention to movies?" The point you are trying to make, of course, is that a viewer—everyone—needs to adjust the level of attention depending on what he or she is watching. It's also true that what people "see" when viewing the same program varies. A fun activity to do with your child is to watch a program together and then take turns describing it. What did you both see? The results could be quite interesting!

    Your child needs to be able to do these two things:

    • view programs in a variety of categories (news, documentaries, movies, magazine styles)
    • evaluate and comment on what he or she sees

    Remember the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Print and non-print media each have their own kind of effect on people. Sometimes you can plan on a certain kind of effect, and sometimes you can't or don't anticipate the effect. Schools help children begin to understand how different modes of communication work and what the advantages and disadvantages are of various types of media. With this instruction (which can be reinforced by you), your child can start learning how to make both critical judgments about the quality of media and educated choices about how to use these media.