Listen up! Pay attention! I wish I had a nickel for every time I said that in class.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey
When I started researching and exploring mindful practices, I realized that there are mindful activities that can help improve my student’s listening skills. Yay!
Since mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, mindful listening skills help develop listening for understanding.
These 4 exercises can be incorporated into public speaking or communications units or use them as ice-breakers or class starters.
I do all my activities with high school students, but they would be great for younger grades.
1. Telephone. Do you remember playing telephone as a kid? I love this game.
Have students line up next to each other. Whisper a sentence into the first student’s ear. (Since I’m an English teacher, I like to use famous quotes from literature, but you can use a tongue twister or your favorite quote.) Have the students whisper the saying in each other’s ear until you reach the last student. That student repeats the sentence they heard to the class. It’s never the same. Use this opportunity to discuss with the students about why they think the sentence changed and how. Ask them where and why the changes took place. Then set a goal of keeping the sentence the same from beginning to end. Repeat the activity a few more times to see if they can accomplish their goal. This is always fun!
2. Meditative Listening. This is so easy! You listen while you meditate. If you already incorporate a meditative practice in your classroom, this is easy to add. While students have their eyes closed, have them pick out 3-4 sounds in or outside the room. See if they can focus on exactly where the sounds are coming from. It’s amazing to see students notice they can suddenly hear the clock ticking, birds chirping, and footsteps in the hallway. This activity should last 1-2 minutes. Have a discussion about what they heard. If you don’t already have a classroom mediation practice, see my post on how to implement one here.
3. Bell or Chime Activity. I use this chime in class, but you can use a chime or bell app on your phone. Have students sit in their chairs and close their eyes. Tell them to listen to the chime and to raise their hands when the can’t hear it anymore. I hit the chime two or three times and let it ring until all the student’s hand are up. I repeat this 1 or 2 more times.
4. Listening to Understand. This is a pairs activity. Have the students find a partner. I have them decide who is going to listen and who is going to speak first. The speaker will speak to the listener for 1 minute, while the listener pays full attention and does not speak. After one minute, the listener repeats what the speaker said back to them. They then switch. After the activity, have a class discussion on how well they listened.
For more tips and hints on how to start a mindful classroom practice see my blog posts:
5 STEPS TO TEACHING MINDFULNESS IN THE HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM – FOCUS