The joy of listening

Sai Praveen Maddirala

As part of my job, I engage with Anganwadi children in the age group of 2 and 5 years. In that process I have realized that a careful observation of their behavioural patterns is crucial to understanding children and that this in turn can help refine my pedagogy.

One of my observations has been that most classes have at least some children who often disturb and interrupt the class, who don’t pay attention to what the teacher is saying. So I have directed my efforts into teaching them how to listen by learning to listen myself. The moment you enter the Anganwadi, you are greeted by the voices of children and this is the first opportunity for you to learn to listen. Children come to you excited telling you about a new shirt they are wearing or new anklets they bought. This gives you an opportunity to converse with them and to listen.

If they see that you are listening to them, the children get more excited and share more experiences with you. When I listen, I have learnt to listen to not just the words but also to the emotions in their voices. Moreover, while listening it is essential that we maintain eye contact with the children. Between the ages of 2 and 6 children become active narrators and they expect acknowledgement from the listener. The acknowledgement can be in the form of maintaining eye contact, or nodding the head or adding to the child’s words. Such visible acknowledgement builds an affectionate bond between the child and the listener.

When the children saw me listening to them with keen interest, they started listening to me as well. I could now tell them ‘why they shouldn’t interrupt others when they are engaged in any activity’. They now began to wait for their turn to respond when conversing with someone or during play. This was a gradual development among the children where they saw value in the words of the speaker.

Listening is being open to others’ imagination. Young children have wild imaginations. When you listen to a child, you are providing opportunities for language development in them where they use words to share their imaginations as well as nurturing their thinking which stimulates their cognitive development.

Listening to them also gave me the opportunity to know the children and understand how well or not they have internalized concepts from my earlier teaching practices. So now I prepare lesson plans accordingly. I create enough opportunities for the children to evaluate their understanding and I modify the pedagogy into a mode of interaction with adequate questions and teaching learning material that helps them construct knowledge with hands-on experiences.

• PNAS. (2002). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The author is a Campus Associate at Azim Premji Foundation, Sangareddy. He can be reached at

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