Overview: Take 3-minutes and generate a fabulous discussion about the power of perspective, active listening, and interpersonal communication. This can easily be done virtually and connects to any content area.

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Materials Needed: 

Students and Teachers will need a piece of paper. Teacher can decide on type and if they paper should be uniform for all students. 

Recording platform such as Flipgrid or Loom where teacher record simple instructions (below) if this lesson is to be completed virtually. 

Learning Outcomes:

Students will reflect on the challenges and limitations of one-sided communication methods. 

Students will improve their ability to be thoughtful, active listeners and effective communicators 

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Express the value of two-way communication. 
  • Formulate questions that would fill in missing pieces in a one-way conversation. 


  1. The goal of the activity is for students to better understand the challenges that limited and asynchronous communication can pose in relation to virtual learning environments.
  2. Preparation: Pre-record the instructions for students to listen to: 

Note: Do NOT show students your example paper, give them any additional or more specific directions nor give them any visual cues. The purpose of the activity is for students to practice their listening and critical thinking skills as well as to reflect on how and why vague, one-sided communication is often limiting. 

Step 1: Fold your paper in half. 

Step 2: Tear off the bottom right corner of the paper. 

Step 3: Fold the paper in half again. 

Step 4: Tear off the upper right-hand corner. 

Step 5: Fold the paper again. 

Step 6: Tear off the lower left-hand corner. 

3. Inform students that the goal is for everyone to produce identical pieces of paper by following the recorded instructions. 

4. Share the pre-recorded instructions with students via your preferred educational tech platform/tool. (Consider Loom or Flipgrid) 

5. Have students post an image of/share their work on the assigned online learning platform. (Consider Flipgrid or Padlet) 

6. Once all students have shared and compared their work, then show your ‘official’ version of the paper pattern using the same platform or live for a synchronous discussion. 

7. Lead students in the discussion. 

8. Debrief the activity with the Discussion Follow-up. 


  1. What happened during this activity? 
  2. What strategies did you use to do the task? 
  3. What similarities or differences did you notice about other students’ paper patterns? 
  4. How does your paper pattern compare to the teacher’s ‘official’ paper pattern? 
  5. If you were to do this task again, what might you do differently? 
  6. How did one-sided communication (i.e. students were unable to ask questions and get feedback) impact your ability to succeed with this task?
  7. What additional strategies could speakers use to help listeners better understand instructions and tasks?
  8. What communication strategies do you use in your school and daily life to help others to understand what you mean?

Discussion Follow-up: 

  1. To even something as simple as folding paper can be interpreted in a hundred different ways.
  2. What typically happens is that the people create many different shapes out of their papers, even though they all followed the same instructions.
  3. We generally focus attention on what we want to say much more rather than on what our listeners want to or are able to hear.
  4. We assume that if we do an expressive job of describing our mental image, the listeners will end up with the same images in their mind.
  5. To do this activity well, there must be a shared and clear comprehension and vision of the goal or final product/result.
  6. In order for listeners to understand your message, it is important to use clear, effective communication.
  7. This includes using specific directions, checking in for comprehension, and if possible, even giving a visual or hand-on demonstration.

Extension in Content Area: 

Art – Use this activity as described in the instructions as reminder to be thorough when providing instructions to one another and to discuss the power of one’s perception and cultural values when interpreting the same facts. 

English Language Arts – This activity can be a lead-in to help students discuss high/low context culture and direct/indirect communication styles which can affect narrative writing and everyday communication. Students can identify communication styles in various literary pieces and discuss the impact that the communication style has on other characters. 

Family & Consumer Sciences – Provide students with an exceptionally vague recipe for a particular dish. Have students compare the final products and discuss why their final products came out so differently. 

Math – Describe a geometric figure that students should draw and/or have students fold a piece of paper according to angle measurements that you provide, yet students are not provided the tools necessary to do things exactly. Thus, the final products will look quite different and can reinforce the nature of using the appropriate tools when faced with a task. 

Science – Consider doing this same type of activity with very vague language of a science experiment that would not cause harm to anyone if the steps were not exact. The goal would be to encourage students to read carefully all the steps and ask questions throughout the experiment if there are areas that are vague or that they do not understand. 

World Language – Complete the activity in the target language. This activity can reinforce a student’s ability to understand basic instructions in the target language and will allow both students to practice the oral and aural aspects to language learning. Consider using before and after pictures from the show called “Nailed It” on Netflix as a lead-in or wrap-up to the activity for fun. (Nailed It is recorded in English, but does have some episodes in Spanish that were recorded in Mexico.) Consider having students do another version of this activity to add what they believe are the missing details to see if the class can reach a more consistent final product. (Recommended for Novice – Intermediate Low) 

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected].

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