Descriptions of Attention and Listening Levels

The acquisition of listening and attention skills follows a recognised developmental sequence.



Level 1

  • Characterised by extreme distractibility
  • Attention flits from one object, person or event to another
  • Any new event, such as someone walking by, will immediately distract
  • Interested in people and voices, more than objects
  • Reacts to foreground and background noises
  • Locates sound by turning

Level 2

  • Concentrates on a concrete task of his own choosing
  • Will not tolerate any intervention by an adult, whether verbal or visual
  • May appear obstinate or ‘wilful’, but in fact his attention is single channelled
  • Must ignore all other stimuli, in order to concentrate upon what he is doing
  • Beginning to listen to sounds and be interested in action songs and rhymes
  • Begins to respond to simple instructions when accompanied by gesture/pointing
  • Interested in large objects as well as faces

Level 3

  • Pupil cannot attend to auditory and visual stimuli from different sources
  • Cannot listen to an adult’s directions while he is playing
  • Can shift his attention to the speaker and back to the game, with adult’s help
  • Responds to and recognises everyday familiar sounds (auditory discrimination)
  • Localises sounds and voices (auditory location)
  • Listens for their own name and responds to simple instructions
  • Can select the most important sounds to attend to at any particular time

Level 4

  • Can spontaneously alternate full attention between speaker and task
  • An increase in the amount of auditory or verbal information that can be retained (auditory memory)
  • Identifies and interprets a wide range of environmental sounds (auditory discrimination)
  • An emerging concept of individual speech sounds (auditory discrimination and phonological awareness)

Level 5

  • Attention is now two channelled
  • He understands verbal instructions related to the task, without interrupting his activity to look at the speaker
  • Concentration span may still be short, but he can be taught in a group
  • Can attend to and interpret information for longer and more efficiently (auditory attention span)
  • Refined discrimination skills; beginning to identify individual sounds or syllables within a word (phonological awareness)
  • Can listen to a short story, in a group setting, for extended periods of time

Level 6

  • Auditory, visual and manipulatory channels are fully integrated
  • Attention is well established and sustained

Reference: Cook, J. and Williams, D. (1985) Working with Children’s Language. Winslow Press

Did you find what you were looking for?

Please give us your name, email address and any comments you have.

Last updated: 19 July 2012

Bookmark with:

What are these?