Whole Body Listening

As music teachers, we often share with others that we teach “listening.” Laurie Zentz,  one of our SFO clinicians, shared her definition of listening which is:

Hearing+Paying Attention= Listening

I appreciate her definition as it encourages the “paying attention” component.  We, the teachers, share with children what they are supposed to be “paying attention” to.  I’m a firm believe that children need to be taught how to pay attention and how to listen.

After seeing an adorable image floating around pinterest with “Larry, the Whole Body Listener” I did some research and found that he is a character from a great children’s book!

From this website http://www.socialthinking.com/books-products/books-by-age-group/preschool?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=316&category_id=59 (sorry, the linking feature isn’t working today).

Whole Body Listening Larry at School

by Kristen Wilson and Elizabeth Sautter

Also available: Whole Body Listening at Home

This is our 2nd book in our two-part series to help our students develop a better concept of holistic listening, or Whole Body Listening. In this charming comic book, told in poem, the authors, Sautter and Wilson explore how two siblings, Leah and Luka struggle to focus their brains and bodies during the school day. Kindly, a peer mentor helps to explain to these students how they need to use their eyes, hands, feet, heart, brain, etc. to listen in group environments to not only access the information but to work as part of a group. Preschool through 2nd – 3rd grade students love the antics of our characters as they teach this important concept in a very fun manner!

What is Whole Body Listening?

Whole Body Listening is more than just “hearing” with the ears. It includes:

  • listening with the eyes (looking at the speaker)
  • listening with the mouth (closed and quiet – no talking, humming, making sounds, etc.)
  • listening with the body (facing the speaker)
  • listening with the hands (quietly at the side of the body or in the lap)
  • listening with the feet (standing still or quietly on the floor)
  • listening with the brain (thinking about what the speaker is saying)
  • and listening with the heart (caring about what the speaker is saying)

Being a good listener means much more than just hearing what is said with the ears. It is important to break down ALL of the components of listening for your child. Many children hear various statements like, “Show me good listening” or “I need you to listen”; however, we often forget to talk about what that means. When the entire family understands the components of Whole Body Listening, you can give specific instruction about which areas of listening you would like your child to improve – “Sally, I need you to listen with your feet.”

If you go to the website that is linked above, you can download a “Larry, the Whole Body Listener” poster!  What I think it so important about this is that it includes listening with the brain and the heart.  Redirecting students using direct and positive statements makes the classroom a much happier place to be.

Do you see the difference in:

Screaming: “Sally,  STOP tapping your feet all over the floor, it’s making too much noise! You’re bothering everyone around you!!”


Calmly: “Sally, I need you to listen with your feet.” or “Sally, please show me that you know how to listen with your feet.”

The whole energy and intention shifts.  It’s much more calm and respectful.  The child feels respected and the teacher doesn’t sound like a screaming maniac.

Do you use this kind of language with your students? Have you read this book? I’m going to be on the lookout for more from these authors. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s