Whole body listening

After reading some great tips from the Neurodivergent Teacher and Mrs Speechie P on Facebook about ‘Designing neurodiversity affirming rules and expectations at school’, it got me thinking about one key classroom rule I see all the time.

Whole body listening.

When we hear the phrase ‘whole body listening’, it can refer to asking students to conform to a set of expectations that are often set by teachers or administrators. These include:

  • making eye contact with the person talking to you
  • having ‘quiet’ hands
  • still feet
  • body facing in the direction of the person talking
  • ears listening

But as we know, all children learn differently. So it could be assumed that they also all listen differently too.

In a podcast episode by Sue Larkey, she reports that often, eye contact is reported as ‘painful’ by students who are neurodiverse. So why are we as adults still insisting that their students follow a rule that is causing pain?

What to do instead

Whole body listening can still be a rule in your classroom, but it must be noted that this will look different to everyone! Try asking students to fill in the following document with their own strategies that they use when they need to listen to instructions. This returns the responsibility to the students, gives them a sense of agency in their learning while also being mindful of students who are neurodiverse.

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