Susan Riley | December 2015

Episode 36: 4 Tips for Building Critical Listening Skills

Whether you are traveling or putting the final touches on the holiday preparations today, who couldn’t use a little music?  In today’s very special SparkChasers podcast, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for building critical listening skills with help from some of my favorite holiday songs.

Critical listening is something that ALL of us struggle with from time to time, but I have found that there are four big ideas that can help us to build capacity in this area.  Take a look at the show notes for each of the 4 steps.  And from all of us here at EducationCloset, have a Merry Christmas!


#1: Just listen first – soak it ALL in.  You can’t participate if you don’t understand the big picture.  Check out how I use this video from The Piano Guys to showcase that point.

#2: Repeat back what you’ve heard.  You know that little thing some teachers do of having their students immediately repeat back the directions they just gave?  There’s a reason for that.  So often, we think we’re listening, but really we’re interpreting what it being shared.  This spin on the classic “Baby it’s Cold Outside” will show you what I mean.

#3: Prompt and Fill In.  Just because you THINK you know what that person is going to share next, doesn’t mean you’re right.  Straight No Chaser provides us with a perfect example.

#4: Ask: How does this contribute to the bigger picture?  All of the pieces matter.  It’s so important that we can not only dissect what we’re hearing but also put it into the right context.  I LOVE how Pentatonix does that with this beautiful rendition.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan