3 Best Classroom Listening Centers — Boost Your Students’ Learning Experience

Hello! I’m back with something that makes learning personal for each child. Listening centers are an essential tool for teaching just about any topic because you will have their undivided attention. If the subject matter is fun, funny or entertaining, so much the better. I am fortunate to have a listening center in my classroom. It has helped many of my students focus their attention better and enjoy the lesson, both of which enhanced their learning experience.

Best classroom listening centers

I did my research before buying the devices needed for a listening center by talking to colleagues who use them and looking at reviews online by other teachers. In this article, I review the best listening center equipment for classroom use:

  1. Sony Portable Bluetooth Digital Tuner →
  2. Soulcker Personal Compact Disc Player →
  3. DR. J Portable DVD Player with Large HD Screen →

Why a Listening Center May Benefit the Classroom

A listening center is a designated place in a classroom where students can sit and use headphones to create a private world between them and whatever they are listening to. It could be a story, music or language lesson where they hear correct pronunciations. It’s also useful for any other instructions for projects and experiments. With headphones, they are cut off from distractions and can more easily focus. In my experience, kids like the chance to go to the listening center. It breaks up the day and helps them learn better.

Listening to storybooks is great fun and may help improve reading skills, but even with the best story-teller, sitting still is difficult for some kids. That’s why I incorporated activities in the listening center. One idea is for the children to rate the book they just heard. The following video gives a good example of a book report sheet.

Why a Listening Center May Benefit the Classroom

A listening center is a designated place in a classroom where students can sit and use headphones to create a private world between them and whatever they are listening to. It could be a story, music or language lesson where they hear correct pronunciations. It’s also useful for any other instructions for projects and experiments. With headphones, they are cut off from distractions and can more easily focus. In my experience, kids like the chance to go to the listening center. It breaks up the day and helps them learn better.

Listening to storybooks is great fun and may help improve reading skills, but even with the best story-teller, sitting still is difficult for some kids. That’s why I incorporated activities in the listening center. One idea is for the children to rate the book they just heard. The following video gives a good example of a book report sheet.

Even though children are listening to the story, they have the option of following in a book for some stories. So, this activity also improves their reading skills dramatically.

Some children like to color while they are listening. A few art supplies near the listening station offers the choice for those who like it. I also recorded instructions to board games that my kids can play while they listen to the instructions.

The benefits of a listening center for learning language can’t be overstated. For some of my students, English is a second language and listening to stories that have good pronunciation helps them a lot. Even for native English speakers, a listening center works wonders for increasing vocabulary.

There is no one-size-fits-all listening center. Multiple devices can be used to deliver the material children want. Personal computers (PC) are one of the most popular because they are readily available in most classrooms and have a CD player. DVD players are another favorite tool if you happen to have one or two in your classroom. iPods are more and more common and make a great portable listening center. In the above video, the teacher explains how she made a vigorous campaign among parents and their friends for old iPhones when Apple upgraded. A boom box is another possible device for a listening center. Just make sure you have the proper connecting parts, so you don’t have to use batteries.

Here is a review of some of the best products I found:

1. Sony Portable Bluetooth Digital Tuner →

Sony Portable Bluetooth Digital TunerThis device is an AM/FM radio, CD player and has Mega Bass Reflex Stereo Sound System. It is basically an upgraded boom box. It comes with an FSM six-foot AUX cable and will connect to any MP3 digital audio player, iPhone or iPod. The boombox produces a clear and distinctive sound, which is necessary for young children and language lessons. It has a Bluetooth option, so you can connect your kids to material online.

The CD player has a bass boost button that gives a good sound with no distortion. If you take your class outdoors for an activity or lesson, this player is great.

Another feature that you may not realize is useful for the classroom is the radio. You can find many programs on the radio that are suitable for classrooms, especially for music. The Boombox Classroom has curriculum-based music lessons for grades K – five. It offers live performances including music from other cultures. I have found this extremely interesting and my kids love it.

Goodies I found:

  • Will pick up where you stopped your audiobook
  • Preset buttons to play favorites immediately
  • The radio feature is nice for music options and broadcasted programs

Best for: It is useful for a boom box-style center as it’s easy to use and gives clear sound. It’s a good listening center both for kindergarten kids and older children.

2. Soulcker Personal Compact Disc Player →

Soulcker Personal Compact Disc Player

This is a convenient little CD player that is compatible with most formats. It has an AUX connection with all other audible devices with a 3.5 mm audio input. It doesn’t have a loudspeaker and needs earphones or an outside speaker, but this isn’t a problem for a listening center. It is shock-resistant for small bumps, but it will become damaged if it gets dropped too many times from a table or shelf. It comes with earphones, but for an effective listening center, you may need at least three.

The CD player has all the standard playback features you would expect in a high-quality device, including volume control, key lock, skip forward/back, electronic skip protection, play/pause, five different sound effects, anti-shock, LCD, 3.5 mm Aux out/headphone port and four playback modes.

Your music or audiobooks are protected by the anti-shock and electric skip protection technology. It has 120 seconds anti-skip protection for MP3 CDs and 45 seconds anti-skip protection for CDs.

The device has a trendy appearance with a simple round and smooth exterior and classic black color. It appears to combine the latest fashion with a bit of retro vintage electronic device. This won’t matter to your kids. They will be happy to have their own device. The player takes about 15 – 20 seconds to read the disc, so you need to be patient. For classroom use, the kids need to be patient too.

Goodies I found:

  • Skip function forward and backward
  • Sound effects that can be used along with audiobooks
  • USB charging cable

Best for: This CD player is good for creating a wireless listening center. It’s better to use it for older children from third grade up. It’s not the best for kindergarten or first-grade age children because if they decide to jump up and dance, it could damage the device. 

3. DR. J Portable DVD Player with Large HD Screen →

DR. J Portable DVD Player with Large HD Screen

This DVD player has a rotating 15.4-inch screen that allows for easy positioning. The rotating monitor allows for everyone to have a clear picture. With most laptops, the picture is only clear from one angle. The screen is large enough for more than two kids to see comfortably. It’s great for a road trip and will keep kids in the backseat occupied for hours. In a classroom, ithe player supports all disc formats, so you can get content from anywhere, but it is for viewing as well and not just listening. It’s like a mini-theater suitable for a small group to watch a video while other activities are going on in the classroom.

The DVD player is compatible with a broad range of multimedia. It supports disc of all regions, formats including DVD, CD, DVD +/-R, DVD +/- RW, SVCD-R (RW), CD-R (RW) and VCD. It also supports file formats such as MPG, MP3, MPEG, VOB, AVI, RMVB and the maximum resolution of 720 * 576. You can play RMVB 720P and display TXT, JPG, TXT and USB, MMC and SD card up to 32G.

Also, other features include anti-shock, slow motion playback last memory and zoom functions and DVD memory.

The player has a high-quality audio jack as well as a powerful built-in stereo speaker. You can connect the included AV output cable and watch movies on a larger screen. This is great for a classroom if you want to show a video to the whole class.

This is a high-quality device that doesn’t cost a lot. The picture color is HD quality, the volume is easily controlled. The controls are easy to understand even for younger students. To remove the CD, you need to turn off the machine. It may not be good for regular use. In a classroom, it is better for special use and not every day.

Goodies I found:

  • Rechargeable seven-hour battery that can be recharged in a car or AC adapter
  • Has an audio jack which is essential for a listening center because children need to have the ability to listen privately
  • Anti-shock
  • DVD memory
  • Remote control option

Best for: This has many more uses in the classroom than just for a listening center because it includes visuals.

Other Parts of a Listening Center

Here are some other devices you may need to have a fully-functional listening center.

Headphone Splitter

A headphone splitter is also called a dual headphone adapter and an audio jack splitter. It is exactly what it sounds like. It allows two or more headphones to be connected to the same device at the same time. The splitter may have a 3.5 mm audio jack plug which will receive an adapter that has two outlets for headphones. There are several different types but the most commonly used is the Y type with up to six outlets. That means six kids can listen to the same story or lesson at the same time

AmazonBasics 5-Way Multi Headphone Audio Splitter Connector →

AmazonBasics 5-Way Multi Headphone Audio Splitter Connector

Five ports mean five children can listen to the same audio. This headphone splitter is compatible with an AUX port such as tablets, laptops, smartphones and others. It is made of ABS plastic and has a PVC cable. Each child has his or her own audio and can listen without disturbance from others.

The splitter comes in a variety of fun colors besides black, including pink, red, purple, blue, white, neon green and lime green. You can use the colors to help organize your listening center. For example, divide the children according to content. Some go to the blue adapter and some go to the red one.

This headphone splitter does not have volume control. The same volume goes to each headphone. If you need individual volume control, you need to use headphones that have their own volume control. When you insert the headphones, make sure you hear a click, which means you have a secured connection. When you unplug the headphone, don’t pull the wire thinking the splitter will release the headphone. It won’t and you could damage the cord or headphone.

Goodies I found:

  • The auxiliary cable is included
  • The size is small and easy to transport in a bag or pocket
  • Can also connect to five speakers for high volume outdoors

Best for: With the bright colors and five-student capacity, this is great for young children. The colors also help organize content, so you can have a science lesson on a white splitter and a story on a red one. The splitter is not super-durable, so the children shouldn’t yank them around. The connection may gradually become loose.

A Jackbox

A jackbox is a device that is larger than a headphone splitter. It allows for up to 10 or more jacks for connecting electronic devices. It’s sturdier than a splitter and less likely to be moved by the children.

HamiltonBuhl Jackbox →

HamiltonBuhl Jackbox

This is a box-like device that has eight positions, each with individual volume control. Eight children can listen to the same audio. You may think if eight children are listening why not just put it on speaker. The simple answer is, there is a significant difference for children to have their own world with a headset than to sit with others and get distracted or let their attention drift.

The box is made from red, heavy-gauge plastic. Each of the eight jacks is 3.5 mm and it has two source plugs, one is a quarter-inch and the other an eighth of an inch. The connection cable is four feet long.

Goodies I found:

  • Prop 65 compliant
  • Durable plastic box
  • Individual volume control

Best for: This is the perfect jack box for a classroom listening center because it has the option of up to eight children or less to listen at the same time.

Headphones

There is a huge variety of headphones from which to choose, but some are better for the classroom than others. You can get wireless headphones and true wireless, wired, over-ear, on-ear, open ear and earbuds. In a listening center, children shouldn’t need to deal with headphones. They should be easy to wear and comfortable. For the best audio quality, the over the ear type is good because it also blocks out ambient noise. The ones I use are colorful as well as functional and my kids love them.

Elecder i37 Kids Headphones →

Elecder i37 Kids Headphones

These headphones are designed for children and teens. They are foldable and adjustable to fit any head. As on-ear headphones, they block ambient sound. The headphones are 3.5 mm jack compatible for just about any device including iPads and cellphones. They come in a variety of color combinations that are also nice for elementary classrooms and they have a very strong, nylon fabric cord that will not tangle and is not easily damaged.

The high-quality 40 mm drivers give excellent sound effects. The device has volume control, but there is no volume limit. Since they are foldable, they will fit in a quart-size Ziploc bag and can be packed in a purse or backpack.

Goodies I found:

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Soft earmuff
  • Ultra-lightweight so they don’t put pressure on little ears

Best for: This is one of the best headphones for an elementary classroom that I found. It’s soft, adjustable and has individual volume control.

Bulk Classroom Headphones – 10 Pack →

Bulk Classroom Headphones - 10 Pack

This is a great deal. If you have the set-up for a listening center for up to 10 children, this is the headphone set for you. It is strong, adjustable, blocks ambient noise, is easy to clean and comfortable.The set was specifically designed for use in schools where it may get rough handling. It is an on-the-ear design, so it blocks outside sound and gives clear audio enhancing student focus. It has a 3.5 mm output and works with any device that has a 3.5 mm input.

The headphones are made with PU leather, a combination of split leather and polyurethane coating. It can be cleaned with a Clorox wipe, but a hydrogen peroxide-based wipe is better for the longevity of the material.

Goodies I found:

  • Comfortable fit for all head sizes
  • High-quality sound for the price
  • Strong enough to withstand handling by children

Best for: This headphone is suitable for any listening center from elementary through high school and not expensive if you need to buy two packs.

You can get a lot more information on different types and styles of headphones if you read my other article.

Final Thoughts

Listening centers in an elementary classroom give students a real boost in their learning experience. They have the opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation and fluent reading, increase their vocabulary and learn how to listen. It allows them to be challenged in their private world when they listen and follow along with books above their reading level.

Since I started introducing my students to audiobooks, I immediately noticed a change in their attitude towards learning to read. I hope I’ve inspired you to give a learning center and listening to storybooks a try in your classroom, so you can see the benefits for yourself.

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Comments: 2
  1. Mary K.

    Hi Emily. I regularly check in to your blog because my classroom circumstances are constrained to say the least and you offer different tech options to maximize space while giving the best experience to the children. I teach first grade in a very small classroom in an overcrowded school. I don’t really have room for a proper listening center, but I’m not ready to give up the possibility because you have shown me the enormous benefit for children. My question is can you give me your recommendation of a listening center device that serves the purpose but doesn’t require a dedicated part of the classroom?

    1. Emily (author)

      It makes my day to know you are having a better teaching experience through technology. My suggestion for a listening center in a small classroom is the DR. J Portable DVD Player with Large HD Screen. First of all, you get two devices in one, which is always a good idea for a small space. Second of all the monitor rotates, so children can stay put and the picture can be turned so everyone gets a chance to see. It has the important feature of an audio jack, so children can listen privately or in small groups. It supports discs of all types and can be controlled with a remote.

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