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4 Great Ways to Build Listening Comprehension

What Is Listening Comprehension?

Listening comprehension is the precursor to reading comprehension, so it’s an important skill to develop. Listening comprehension isn’t just hearing what is said—it is the ability to understand the words and relate to them in some way.

For example, when you hear a story read aloud, good listening comprehension skills enable you to understand the story, remember it, discuss it, and even retell it in your own words. You use these same comprehension skills when you read.

How Listening Comprehension Develops

Listening comprehension begins at a young age as babies interact with people around them. It develops as they are read to, as they engage in conversation with their parents, and as they play games.

Listening comprehension continues to be important even after a child learns to read. In grade school, reading comprehension generally lags behind listening comprehension, so the best way for a child to develop higher levels of comprehension is through non-print sources (read-alouds, discussions, movies, and so on).

In the All About Reading program, we intentionally develop listening comprehension through story discussions, vocabulary development, and read-alouds. In this way, kids grow in their knowledge of the world, absorb language structure, and make connections between old and new information.

4 Fantastic Ways to Develop Listening Comprehension

In addition to the activities built into All About Reading, you can help your child develop listening comprehension skills by engaging in the activities below on a regular basis.

Mashed Potatoes -  a listening comprehension game

Play Fun Games

Play listening skills games such as Mashed Potatoes. This silly game will provide your child with important listening practice and plenty of giggles, too!

The conversation method download

Talk to Your Child

If your child doesn’t understand what words mean, comprehension isn’t possible. The Conversational Method for Teaching Vocabulary is simply talking with your child and expanding upon vocabulary words that he has not yet learned.

12 Reasons Why Teachers Love All About Reading and All About Spelling

Make Reading Aloud Interactive

Read lots of picture books aloud to your child. But don’t just read! You can help your child’s listening skills by turning reading into an interactive activity.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Briefly explain unfamiliar words and situations to help your child build comprehension.
  • Invite your child to make predictions. “What do you think will happen next?”
  • Encourage your child to retell the story (or an exciting part of the story) to family members. Meal times are often a good time for retelling stories.
  • Need book suggestions? Download our extensive list.

12 Reasons Why Teachers Love All About Reading and All About Spelling

Listen to Audio Books Together

Listening to audio books is another great “reading aloud” activity that provides ample opportunities for building listening skills. As you listen to a story together, react to the story, laugh at the funny parts, and express surprise or fear at the appropriate moments.

The Bottom Line on Building Listening Comprehension

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you help your child develop listening comprehension.

  • Listening comprehension is vitally important because it is a necessary skill for reading comprehension.
  • Listening comprehension begins at a young age as babies interact with people around them and continues in older children throughout the school years.
  • You can develop listening comprehension with oral language activities such as listening games, movies, vocabulary-rich conversation, interactive read-aloud time, and audio books.

Strong listening skills are reinforced in a number of ways throughout the All About Reading program. The program is multisensory, motivating, and complete, with everything you need to raise a strong reader. And if you ever need a helping hand, we’re here for you!

Have you discovered a great way to reinforce listening skills? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Jessica

says:

These are great ideas. My son loves audio books. We also use children’s podcasts for listening.

Tessa

says:

I’ve just stumbled upon your site and it is so wonderful!! Ha k you for all of the info you have!! So much for me to read!

Kim

says:

I am thankful for the reminder to read aloud to my children!

Karla

says:

My boys love audio books!! Need to get more for the summer.

Shawna

says:

AAR has been great for our family. Level 3 is about to begin !

Jenny Challand

says:

Thank you so much for calling attention to this part of reading. I feel like I’m constantly telling other moms that reading isn’t just the reading of the words, but also the understanding of it. I appreciate having a great article to link to. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenny,
You are welcome. Reading is so much more than just reading individual words. Thank you for helping share this information.

Krystle

says:

This was such a timely post for me. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Krystle,
I’m happy this was timely for you! Please let me know if you have any questions or anything I can help you with.

Mary

says:

Interesting article, thanks for the helpful tips!

Jessica

says:

We struggle with this one. Glad to have some tips!

Lily

says:

We’ve been LOVING the last 2 years of Pre-K! AAR is the best!

Karen H

says:

Thank you good ideas

Jennifer Cummings

says:

Thanks for all the info

Gale

says:

Thanks for the article! My son really struggles with this.

Jennifer

says:

We love audio books!

Rachel

says:

Helpful info, thanks!

Tara

says:

I would love to give this a try.

Susanne Cox

says:

This is why I LOVE AAR!!! You guys just get it! I’m so impressed with the techniques and progression within the program! My kids love reading because of AAR! Thank you! Good encouragement to continue read aloud this summer!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love that your kids love reading, Susanne!

Kelly

says:

This might help my son. Thanks

Amy

says:

Very helpful!

Tamara

says:

I definitely agree that reading comprehension is a vital reading skill. I don’t know how many kids I have heard limp through reading aloud and then say they hate reading, but it is obvious that they have been taught the mechanics of reading, but not how to comprehend what they are reading. Without comprehension they could just as well be sounding out gibberish for all the difference it makes.

Amy Ezell

says:

What a great resource for helping my struggling readers! Thank you so much! I wish I had found you sooner!!!

Heidi

says:

This is great material. Often times we just give information to children without actually confirming they understand. Reading is more than just knowing the words, its understanding the words and what is written. I am so excited to help my children grow in their education.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great points, Heidi! The ultimate goal of reading is to interact with the content on a deep level of understanding.

Kris Fulk

says:

Thanks for sharing these ideas! We often talk more in depth about the picture books we read. I love hearing how her little mind works!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kris,
I know what you mean! One of the things I love about preschoolers and other young students is that everything is new for them and I get to experience things for the first time again through their eyes. It’s so much fun to hear their thoughts on things. 😊

Holly

says:

My boys struggle with auditory processing so we will add these activities to our schedule.

KL Tok

says:

The game looks fun. My child loves imaginary games at this stage, can’t wait to try this.

Rachel

says:

Thanks for the great tips!

Meg

says:

It’s always fun to read with your kids! I spend a lot of time helping my son with a speech difficulty to hear the correct pronounciation, and repeat it. I make up games and try to sprinkle the practice throughout our regular daily interactions.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Meg,
Teaching and practicing through games and fun activities is the best way! Keep up the great work!

Lynell Kuhn

says:

I can’t wait to start All About Reading!

Jenny JH

says:

Thank you for sharing fun games like Mashed Potatoes!

Carolyn

says:

I would love to try this curriculum with my kids.

Andrea

says:

Love this curriculum for my son with dyslexia, dysnomia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and executive functioning disabilities!!

Terri Moore

says:

I always started reading to my kids when they were babies, starting with easy books with bright clear pictures. As they grew into toddlers, they would happily sit quietly in my lap while we read instead of squirming around.I home-schooled my kids and now my daughter is going to home-school hers and would love to have to this wonderful program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Terri,
Reading aloud to the littlest ones and continuing to do it as they grow is an excellent way to build amazing listening comprehension skills!

Elizabeth

says:

This has some great ideas!

Kim

says:

Looks like a wonderful program!

Lorraine

says:

These are great tips. I am new to homeschooling and can’t wait to apply them. Thank you so much!

melinda

says:

My son and I read together each day and I have recently started to incorporate suggestions like the ones above. Thanks for all of the great information you share.

Kim

says:

I love the idea of audio books. I just started getting into them myself so I could definitely play some for her! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kim. Audiobooks are a great way to enjoy literature!

CHRISTA HANNASCH

says:

This looks like such a great program!

Zorah

says:

Very insightful! Would love to implement these tips to make my child more engaged and a better listener!

April

says:

Great suggestions!

Nicole Skeene

says:

When I was a classroom teacher we did a fabulous unit on Peter Pan. We had the Reading teacher read the first page of the chapter out loud (and the students were enthralled). Then students sat back to back and finished the next page individually. If they had a question they could turn and whisper to their partner. At the end we would re-cap together. We had a lot of success with this method.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nicole,
What an interesting way to work on reading and comprehension! I especially like how it made reading more of a social activity as they could quietly ask questions of their partners. Thanks for sharing this.

Stephanie

says:

What a great resource for parents with struggling readers

Sarah

says:

Reading comprehension is at the core of reading! It is difficult for anyone to learn when they haven’t comprehended what it is they have read. These are wonderful suggestions on how to build listening and comprehension skills that children of all ages can benefit from.

Ashlie

says:

Great suggestions! Thanks!

Andrea

says:

We are looking for ways to improve listening skills and comprehension for our oldest. Will be looking into this program as we move into first grade. Thank you!

Lucia

says:

Thank you for your interesting article. My dyslexic 9 year old son enjoys listening to picture books along with his 2 younger brothers and comprehends them very well. Whenever I tried to read a simple chapter book like Pippi Longstocking, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz he can’t tell me what It is about or what happened. He usually tells me just one random sentence that he remembers.He is not enjoying the read aloud. I would like to ask you what is your opinion about this and any suggestions about how to help him.Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is a great question, Lucia!

The books you list are all higher level chapter books with more complex sentence structure and few pictures. It is quite a jump from picture books to Alice in Wonderland! Instead, consider trying lower level chapter books, more “beginner” chapter books. Here are some books reviews that would be great titles to try: Gooney Bird Greene, A to Z Mysteries, Ralph S. Mouse, and Encyclopedia Brown. Additional ideas that I found to be great first chapter book read alouds for my children are My Father’s Dragon and The Boxcar Children.

Once your son has enjoyed a number of these and other chapter books at similar levels, try Wizard of Oz again. The original Alice in Wonderland and the original translation of The Adventures of Pinocchio are fairly difficult books and may need to wait for a long while. And it may be just personal preference, but I never enjoyed Pippi Longstocking myself.

What does your son do when you read aloud to him? Some children listen better when their hands are busy. If he mostly just sits quietly, take a look at our blog post Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can’t Sit Still for ideas.

Also, instead of asking your son to tell you what happened in what you read, ask him what part he liked and then have a conversation from there. Why did he like that part? Was it funny? Exciting? What happened next? Tell him what part you liked and asked him if he liked that too. Why or why not? The question, “What happened?” can be intimating when you think back over all the things that can take place in a chapter of a chapter book. Focusing instead of favorite parts (or least favorite parts) and then thinking of “what happened next?” or “what happened before?” doesn’t feel so big and isn’t so hard to answer.

I hope this helps. Transitioning from listing to picture books to chapter books can be difficult for some children, but keep trying until you find the books that keep his attention and then move forward from there. Please let me know how it goes or if you have more questions.

Kaylyn

says:

Will have to try the game. Read aloud are a favorite. Thanks for sharing.

Jessica

says:

Great suggestion. Thank you!

Crystal

says:

We love listening to Audiobooks, great suggestion!

Paula

says:

Thanks for the free mashed potatoes game! Would love to win the level of my choice

Mrs T

says:

Love the articles like these! I learn so much and am better prepared to teach my kids!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so happy this article was helpful for you!

Charlene Frizzell

says:

We Love AAR!

Lisa

says:

Very informative!

Kira McCoy

says:

This is some really great advice. I feel like I never really mastered listening comprehension in public school and am learning it as I go with my children.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kira,
Listening well is definitely a skill that needs to be practiced in order to master it, but the great news is that it’s never too late to practice it! Enjoy learning listening comprehension with your children.

Aletha

says:

Very helpful post!! We recently started using All About Reading and love it!

I love this! As a family, we listen to audio books and radio dramas in the car- instead of hand held devices and Movies. This looks like a great program. Thanks for sharing.

All About Reading and All About Spelling are some of the best homeschool materials that I have seen.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Kathie! 😊

Christine

says:

I knew movies were good for something! Sometimes, I use them more than I would wish, but I have noticed that my children have developed quite a vocabulary from the movies they have watched. I’d rather read aloud to them all day, but I’m glad that when I put in a movie, they are developing their listening comprehension.

Rachael Kuhaneck

says:

Looks like a great program!!

Nidhi Chauhan

says:

These are all great tips. I am bookmarking this article. Thank you!

Amy

says:

Great ideas! Thank you for this helpful blog!

Jennifer

says:

Would love to try it out!

Lucie

says:

So excited

Lucie

says:

Thank you as always for great info!

Monica Ellwanger

says:

Great info!

Laura L

says:

My kids really love audio books!

Natacha Levesque

says:

Thank you so much for those steps!

Frances Brotherton

says:

Great info! We do most of these things, but it was good to hear a few that we can work on to improve this skill.

Carissa Weimer

says:

We love the All About Reading program

Jessica T

says:

This is wonderful information! I will be using this as a reference in the future.

Lauren Amundson

says:

That’s really interesting. The tips are great!

Patty Maciel

says:

Thanks :)

Debra ShannonPatel

says:

I cant wait to use these tips with my struggling reader

Tamara

says:

I love All About Spelling and am excited to use All About Reading!

We love audio books. And we have been really enjoying the all about reading and all about spelling levels one

Debbie

says:

I love your Mashed Potato game! Can’t wait to try it out with my students.

Lisa

says:

These are great tips! Thank you!

Ashley Carroll

says:

Great tips

Kristy Jensen

says:

I definitely have a child who doesn’t listen well. These are some great tips.

Ellen

says:

We love games and audiobooks around here. Thanks for the ideas!

Alisha

says:

I have 4 kids and we’ll be starting our homeschool adventure soon! All About Reading is on my wishlist, especially for my almost-5-year-old! Looking into All About Spelling, too!

Sacha

says:

Definitely do it. I wished I had known about this curriculum with my first child. Doing it with my younger 3 and I feel guilty about how much I feel my oldest missed out on 😢

Amber Johnson

says:

Thank you for the tips!

Kimberly

says:

As a homeschooling mother of two, who have already graduated now, I appreciate Site’s like yours. I only wish they had been around when I had been homeschooling my children. I’m now helping my brother with his son.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kimberly. And how wonderful that you can use your homeschooling expertise to help your brother and nephew!

Katrina Angele

says:

The game mashed potatoes sounds fun.

Erin

says:

This is very informative. Thank you!

Lindsey Johnson

says:

Great advice!

Lorie

says:

I love all About Reading and All About Spelling

Jenny Wright

says:

Thank you.

Aloha:) My son is going ointo 4th gr. The school here on Kauai has not had a solid reading program for him. His listening comp is comprimised due to his borderline ADHD. This yr his class (special needs) was chaotic, new teacher. He is on the austism spectrum & everything is this class was totally changed around. It has been an extremely hard yr for all of us as I have had to fight to get my son properly educated. I want to help him as much as possible. I was looking at a coputer based program for ASD children. Although your program w/ multi sensory sounds interesting & awesome. Would this program be a possibility you think?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cynthia,
Yes! All About Reading and All About Spelling work wonderfully for children on the spectrum and those with ADHD. Our blog post Teaching Reading and Spelling to Autistic Children has more information about this.

I am sorry to hear that you have had such a difficult school year. Please let me know if you have questions or if I can help you in any way.

Renee Sortore

says:

Great reminder! We need to do more audio books in our homeschool classroom!

Emmy Daniels

says:

Love it!

Amy

says:

Thank you for the good tips!

Allie

says:

Thanks for the tips

Shayla

says:

Very cool!!

Lisa

says:

This is a great tip!! I might need to start doing more of these in my homeschool!!

Kristen

says:

I think I will have to try some audio books with my girls!!

Jessica

says:

Great tips!

Melissa H

says:

My kids enjoy audio books from the library! They’re great for quiet time before bed or even road trips!

Beth

says:

We love listening to audio books

Jennifer Shaffer

says:

A lot of good information! I’ll need to implement the ones we’re not already using and download your book list. I hope we will be able to use this program in the near future. Thank you for the insights!

Christi

says:

I’ve heard good things about this program. I hope I can start using it with my kids soon.

Christa

says:

Really interesting. I’ll have to try these with my new reader

Natalie

says:

All the little games you come up with are very helpful! My child learns a lot when we do them.

Samantha F.

says:

Audio Books are always a big hit in our house. It saves my voice from reading and my kids absorb so much information. We also love them for long drives.

Gi Jewett

says:

Thank so much for everything you do for my kids

Keri Yother

says:

Love this blog!

Beth

says:

Good information!

Christie

says:

Will try these.

A. Banks

says:

Will try these.

Wendy Clark

says:

Now this is one area we don’t have trouble with. My kid can hear something one time and remember it forever! Unless, its chores or something :) These are great tips though.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wendy,
This made me laugh, as I so know what you mean! 😀

Heather

says:

We just started doing more audio books because I have 5 at home and it seems impossible to find a story that they are all interested in. It has made a world of difference and I finally have at least a couple interested in reading!! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
Audiobook books are a great way to grow interest in reading!

Rebecca

says:

New homeschoolers here are excited to try AAR. My oldest has auditory processing disorder & we’re always looking for fun ways to increase reading/listening comprehension.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rebecca,
Listening comprehension is especially important for those with auditory processing disorder! Have lots and lots of fun with listening to books.

Erin Hoskins

says:

I was just introduced to audiobooks. My son is very receptive this idea!

Serena

says:

I never thought about audio books.

Roxy

says:

We love audio books and read alouds. We visit the library often and read aloud during meals and snacks. My boys also listen to audio books during quiet time and before bed.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Your children are getting so much great listening comprehension opportunities, Roxy! 😊

Heather

says:

I am starting to have my children retell short passages that we read aloud as a way to build reading comprehension.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
Retelling is a great way to begin building comprehension! Take a look at our How to Teach Reading Comprehension blog post too, as it includes ideas on how to go beyond surface comprehension about what happened and get to deeper understanding as well.

Made

says:

Wow how interesting

Chelsi Conklin

says:

This looks wonderful!

angela peppers

says:

i am so excited to try some of these strategies i had not thought of before. thnk you for your awesome program

Timea

says:

thanks for the tips

Amy

says:

Good ideas!

Donald

says:

Always interesting and helpful.

Sherryll Co

says:

I would like to know if there are any grade 1 level audio books you can recommend.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherryll,
Great question. Most books, even children’s books, are being produced as audiobooks today. Start with the books, or the authors, your child enjoys when you read aloud. Does he still prefer picture books? We have tons of Great Picture Book Reviews here. Or, is your child ready to listen to some easier chapter books. We have a number of Great Chapter Book Reviews as well. Gooney Bird Greene would be a great one to begin with!

See what your local library has. Most libraries now subscribe to digital media options that allow you to download audiobooks using your library card. My library has all sorts of children’s audiobooks, including Dr. Seuss, Goodnight Moon, Make Way for Ducklings, and many more.

Amanda J. Farnsworth

says:

Cool tips.

Liz

says:

This is a great reminder how important read alouds are for all ages. If I start running out of time during the day that is usually the first thing I drop. Thank you for the reminder and ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I understand, Liz. There is so much to cover in a day and sometimes something has to give. But listening to books of a wide range of genres and types is so important for comprehension development. If you can’t get to reading aloud every day it’s okay. Just aim to get to it more often than not.

Robin Holder

says:

This seems like an amazing program!! I have two grandchildren I will be homeschooling in the fall … it would be a God-send to be able to use this program!

Jessica

says:

Love this! Thanks for sharing

Erin H

says:

I can’t wait to try All About Reading with my daughter!

Erica

says:

Thanks for the great tips!

Caryn

says:

Wonderful article! It’s amazing how comprehension ability is linked to so many activities. Thanks for the reminder and info about “interactive read-aloud” time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Caryn. I agree it is amazing how many things require good comprehension!

Annie Graham

says:

I’m going to try these with my six-year-old!

Jacquelyn

says:

Great tips, thank you!

Nancy B.

says:

Great tips!

Diann Ruesch

says:

Great ideas for building comprehension.

Ashleigh Fluharty

says:

This really helps me with our daughter who is now learning how to read. I really needed this.

Heather

says:

Thanks for the list. Great Article.

J. Segerson

says:

This reminds me that I need to get some new audio books for the car!

Nicole

says:

Great, I will be using these ideas!

Liz

says:

Great article! Thank you so much for sharing!

Rachel 'Slotterbeck' Swick

says:

Thank you for the great ideas! My kids are big fans of audio books especially in the car.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rachel,
Yes! In our family, every car ride of an hour or longer demands a great audiobook.

Kristin

says:

Awesome! We love audio books!

Rebecca H

says:

I absolutely love your book lists!! My daughter is head-over-heels in love with AAR. We’re on level 3 and she has loved every single level. The quality of the lesson plans, engaging stories & simple activities makes AAR worth every cent!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Rebecca! I love that your daughter is loving All About Reading!

Carol

says:

Thank you for the info. I have learned so much from your articles. Thank you.

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