Hearing Versus Listening

“Hearing and listening are quite different. Hearing is a process involving nerves and muscles that reach adult efficiency by age four to five. Listening is a learned mental process that is concerned with hearing, attending, discriminating, understanding, and remembering. It can be improved with practice. Listening affects social interactions, one’s level of functioning, and perhaps one’s overall success in life.” (Weiss and Lilly-White, 1981) Early Childhood Experiences in Language Arts: Emerging Literacy, by Jeanne M. Machado, p. 137.

Research shows that “music training can be of immense benefit to language development. Music listening—such as paying attention to pitch variation and timbre—can increase a child’s ability to distinguish specific sounds within words. The awareness that comes from listening to rhythm in music can increase awareness of the rhythmic structure of language, thus helping children learn to read fluently.” The Relationship Between Music and Beginning Readers, by Susannah J. Lamb and Andrew H. Gregory, Educational Psychology, Vol. 12 Issue 1, 1993, p. 19.

Active Listening in Kindermusik Our Time TM

Active listening differs from hearing in that it is an intentional act. While we are surrounded by sounds in our everyday life, we choose whether or not to listen and process the sounds we hear. Active Listening activities are an opportunity to learn to listen intentionally. Each class of the Milk & Cookies semester includes Active Listening.

The first Active Listening activity focused on the sounds of a hammer and a saw. After the children were told what they would hear, they listened to the sounds, imitated them vocally, and finally imitated the movement that might make the sounds. Through such activities, your child begins developing skills of attentive listening, comprehension, categorizing, recalling, recognizing, characterizing, describing, identifying, and evaluating.

If your child doesn’t sit still and listen attentively during Active Listening, he is still learning just by being in the presence of the activity. Possibly, by the end of the semester, he will join the group during listening activities.

Making Listening Meaningful

In order to make listening meaningful, we must listen with expectation and purpose. Organizing listening into the following three phases can help:

  • Engage. Focus your child’s listening by presenting a puzzle or challenge—making listening interesting.
  • Describe. Encourage your child to discuss what he hears, sees, thinks, and knows.
  • Demonstrate. Provide opportunities for your child to demonstrate what she hears.

Songworks II, by Peggy D. Bennett and Douglas R. Bartholomew, p. 43.

At Home

  • Play games that promote active participation in listening. Listen to specific sounds: Home CD 1, tracks 3 & 23 or Home CD 2, tracks 19 & 23. Help your child identify them. Imitate them vocally and with props.
  • Read books to your child to practice listening skills. Read At My House. Involve your child by asking questions about the pictures. “What kind of food do they have? Does your room look like this one?”
  • Rock with your child while listening to your favorite selection. Although many people “listen” to music throughout the day, listening is often relegated to being a “background” event. Setting aside a special time for listening provides moments invaluable to the development of both emotional security and music appreciation.
  • Make listening to a lullaby a bedtime ritual. Your Home CDs have a wide variety of lullabies—try “Barn Sull” Home CD 1, track 16) or “Child Falling Asleep” (Home CD 1, track 10).
  • While going about your daily routines, ask your child, “What do you hear?” then imitate the sounds vocally.
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