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Learning Listening

This is an effective and fun way to get
people to listen. I said, this is an effective
and fun way to get people to listen .

HOW?
This activity is conducted over four rounds. Organise people to face each other in pairs and
ask them to decide who is A and who is B.

First round As and Bs are to speak to each other at the same time, without hesitation,
repetition or deviation, non-stop for 2 minutes. Agree on a topic with the class or give choices
(e.g. favourite TV programmes, hobbies, summer holidays). Each also has to listen to what
the other is saying!

Debrief, asking what people did, thought and felt. How successful were people at listening
and speaking simultaneously? How often does this occur in real life?

Second round As speak for two minutes about a new topic (e.g. family and friends or
what I’d do with £10,000), while Bs turn to stone showing no movement or response of any
kind, not even in the eyes. Debrief the feelings of being completely ignored and the times it
happens in everyday life.

Third round Bs speak this time for two minutes (e.g. what I believe about God / aliens /
politics) while As use subtle behaviours to show that they are not paying attention (e.g. glance
at watch, yawn, eyes glaze over, look over speaker’s shoulder).

Debrief, focusing especially on the feelings of not being really heard and the times in and out
of school when this happens.

Interval Ask for a volunteer to help you demonstrate active listening to the class:

∗ maintaining eye contact with the speaker.
∗ responding non-verbally as appropriate (nods, frowns, smiles …).
∗ at intervals, summing up and feeding back what has been said (this is the acid test of
listening).

They talk to you and you listen. In other words, you empty your mind of everything else and
give your total attention to the job of listening. Active listening does not involve asking
questions. Debrief, focussing on the characteristics of active listening.
Last round Pairs practise active listening with topics that are fairly serious and personal
(e.g. hopes and fears for the future). It is important at this point that both A and B get a
chance to speak and listen.

Debrief, asking about successes and difficulties, and discussing when in school it might be
important for the students and the teacher to use active listening.

APPLICATIONS

♦ Use it to start making Ground Rules with a class.
♦ In any subject - the topics chosen to talk about could be relevant to the syllabus.
♦ Essential as a foundation for Personal and Social Education and tutorial work.
♦ Most arguments are resolved by first asking students to listen to each other and feed back
to each other what they have said.
♦ At an advanced level the exercise could be conducted in a Modern Foreign Language.

WHY DO IT?
♦ Listening has a very positive impact on self-esteem.
♦ Listening is the basis of quality discussion, negotiation, conflict-resolution, peer
assessment, decision-making and the tutoring process.
♦ Listening is therefore the feature of group life most generally required for non-didactic
methods to work. Many teachers only feel confident about trying more adventurous
techniques once self-discipline (through firm Ground Rules based on listening) has been
established. Likewise, most students want to feel the protection of firm Ground Rules
before they will participate in ‘risky’ learning activities.

This exercise alone will not create a listening class. This will only happen if active listening is
consistently expected of the students and modelled by the teacher.