Active Listening Lesson Plan
Effective communication requires an understanding that not everyone prefers to communicate in the same way. It also requires a person to be an active observer/listener. This lesson plan is designed to demonstrate how difficult it can be to remain focused while listening to someone without intervening or imposing our own thoughts on their experience.
20-30 minutes depending on the discussion
Group work/mini simulation
Applicable Content Areas:
Any content area where there is a need to listen to others speaking or expressing their thoughts and ideas. (i.e., English Language Arts, Science, World Language, Social Studies, and more)
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Describe the challenges of active listening.
- List at least one non-verbal characteristic that demonstrates they are listening with intention.
Divide students into groups of 3. In groups of 3, students will become either the Listener, the Speaker, or the Observer. Groups of 2 will also work if needed due to the total number of students or to save additional time. For groups of 2, students will become either the Listener or the Speaker.
1. Begin by prompting the Speaker role in each group to describe a moment in their life where they felt challenged. Feel free to adapt the prompt to be more aligned with your content area, if preferred. The goal is for the prompt to naturally illicit someone’s instinct to help but likewise not be too heavy of a topic for students.
2. Give the Speaker approximately 30-45 seconds (1 minute if you want the task to elicit more of a challenge or for older or more advanced students) to speak uninterrupted on the prompt.
3. The Listener’s job is to listen to the Speaker’s answer and nothing more. They should not speak, reply or suggest anything to the Speaker. NOTE: If students ask, Listeners are allowed to use non-verbal cues such as gestures and facial expressions during their interaction (i.e., nod their head, speak with their hands…etc.). Non-verbal cues will be addressed in the discussion of this activity.
4. If groups have an Observer, the Observer’s job is to observe both the Listener and the Speaker to see how they respond to both of their roles and enforce the Listener’s rule of no talking if necessary. The Observer is not allowed to engage with the Speaker.
5. At the end of the allotted time, have the group trade roles, so that each group member has a chance to serve in each role.
The goal of this activity is to highlight how hard it is to simply listen to someone without intervening or imposing our own thoughts on their experience. Students may find that as the Listener they naturally wanted to respond or make a suggestion, and that it was hard for them to stay silent. They may have also found themselves reverting to non-verbal responses such as eye contact or various gestures. Consider prompting students with the following questions:
- How did it feel to be the Listener? The Speaker? The Observer?
- How were you able to maintain your role(s)?
- How prevalent were non-verbal cues during your interactions?
- How did these cues contribute or detract from the interaction?
Note that depending on the context, non-verbal cues can also be received negatively by a listener, so it is important to also “read” the Speaker’s body language in listening situations. Consider implementing our Non-Verbal Communication Lesson Plan to explore this concept more deeply.
Of course, listening and responding are not mutually exclusive in real life situations. A good active listener is one who listens well, verifies their understanding of the Speaker’s experience, and offers a compassionate response that validates the Speaker’s feelings.
This lesson can easily be implemented virtually over Zoom, Facetime, or other means of real time on-line conversation. Teachers may also consider assigning this for students to complete at home with a family member and have students post about their experiences using platforms like Flipgrid or Padlet.