Back to School Practice: Mindful Listening


This mindful listening practice asks your students to explore what they can hear around them in an intentional way. Our hearing is so sensitive. We don’t have any way to block out sound the way we can close our eyes to reduce what we see. All of the sounds around us are competing for our attention all of the time. Learning to attune our hearing to the sounds that are most important at the moment is a life skill that children are called upon to exercise from the moment they enter school.

  1. First have your students find a still and comfortable position with their bodies. It is helpful to close your eyes for this activity. If it doesn’t feel comfortable for some of your students to close their eyes, tell them to rest them on the ground right in front of them. The first thing that we are going to listen for are the sounds that are far away from us. Open your ears as wide as you can make them, and imagine stretching your hearing way out beyond the room you are sitting in, and the school that that room is in, all the way to the outdoors. Listen carefully and find the furthest away sounds that you can hear.
  2. When you start hearing sounds, don’t worry about identifying the sound, or figuring out what it making the sound. Just notice it exactly as it is. (Give the class a few minutes of silence here).
  3. Now that you have heard the farthest away sounds you can find, bring your hearing in a little bit closer, and find the sounds that are in this school. Again, don’t worry about figuring out what is making the sounds, just listen for them.
  4. Next we are going to bring our hearing even closer, to find the sounds that are in this room. Reach your hearing into each corner of the room and see what sounds you can find.
  5. After you have found all of the sounds in the room, we are going to bring our hearing to the closest place of all – our own bodies.
  6. Pull your hearing all the way to your body. Pull it out of the room and turn it to the sounds that you can find your own body making. Listen carefully. Your body might have a lot to say. After a few moments of listening to your own body, gently open your eyes. Ask the students what they heard at each layer.

The periods of silence in between each layer of sound are an important part of the activity, but they can be challenging for your students. If your class is finding this activity to long, or is struggling with the silence between layers, you can break up the practice by discussing or what they heard after each layer, instead of all together at the end of the practice. Some students love to use a drawing activity to express the sounds they heard.

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