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Listening Week in Lower School

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
The Lower School elevates their listening skills to learn, understand and connect. 
Games like telephone, musical chairs and Simon Says are methods used to teach students about listening. During Listening Week in early October, Tiny Torreys to fourth graders focused on the importance of listening and elevating their listening skills through play, reflection, literature and real-world connections. 

Starting with the basics, students learned that listening is a verb—an action that requires curiosity, motivation and effort. Active listening is an important component of dignity education and is reflected in the Lower School Torrey Traits, which includes respect, caring and citizenship. 

“My hope was that by the end of the week, each child had grown their listening muscles,” explained Head of Lower School Briony Chown. “And they were responsive when others spoke and understood the value and importance of listening with their hearts and minds. We want all Lower School students to be avid listeners of each others’ ideas, to know that they matter, their words and thoughts matter, and that they are cared about.”

Each class watched a series of videos. In one video, students from each grade level expressed their feelings when people listened to them (and when they don’t). As a class, students thought of times when listening was difficult for them and then brainstormed solutions. Faculty and staff were featured in another video, where they answered the same questions and shared similar feelings. 

“The children LOVED this week of listening,” shares third-grade educator Lisa Bennet. “Students learned so much from each other. They resonated with the videos by seeing friends, classmates, siblings and their teachers speak directly about how they feel when people listen to what they say or don’t listen. It sends a strong message.”

Students learned that whole-body listening happens when they use their: 
  • Eyes to look at the person speaking
  • Brains to think about what is being said
  • Hearts to care about what is being said
  • Quiet mouths not to talk, hum or make other noises 

The students also learned that sometimes they might need to wiggle or move a little bit to actively listen. They are encouraged to use a fidget tool or other strategy to help them focus on the speaker without distracting those around them.

In the Lower School assembly, students were introduced to the concept of using their voices to advocate for what they believe in. A variety of activists were discussed during the Friday assembly, including Greta Thunberg and Cesar Chavez.

“Sound comes in through our ears, but it’s what our brain does with it that counts,” Ms. Chown explains. “Activism is standing up for what you believe in. Using an activist voice to speak out when things aren’t just or when others are not being heard or respected can help change the world. It was through their words and actions that these activists made sure other people listened and made a change in the world.” 

Ms. Bennet’s class pleads with her to play their favorite games again—Simon Says, Sound Hunt, One Word Story and Three Question Interview. To play Sound Hunt, students identify the sounds they hear and write them down in their journals. This encourages active listening and takes place inside the classroom and outside on the playground and maze. They’re not listening for a specific sound in this game; they learn to become aware of their surroundings. After all of their notes were complete, the third graders took it a step further and turned them into poems. 

What Do I Hear?
By Gabrielle Cecilia Matusiak ’32

I enter the classroom and what do I hear?
I hear the fan blowing, whistling to me right in my ear.
I go out for recess and what do I hear?
Why, I hear the swing snapping and kids laughing right to my ear. 
We head to our laptops and what do I hear?
I hear the water bottles screeching, fingers clicking across keys right in my ear.
We must write an essay and what do I hear?
I hear all the pencils moving across papers and it's very clear.
We go to ECC or to the kindergarten lot and what do I hear?
I hear Ms. Severe calling my name to go to my car.
I think, ‘‘I'll listen tomorrow and who knows what I’ll hear!’’ 
But that's one more story to tell when I'm near and when I’m here.

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