Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Opening the Door to Nonviolence.
Part 1: Workshop 2

Workshop 2

Skills for Active Listening

What we will be doing today: We are practising ourselves in various kinds of communication: non-verbal and verbal communication; the difference between I-statements and you-statements; in clear articulation of one's own needs and in so called active listening.


The face of feelings. Everyone in the circle picks one feeling to express on their face: how I look when I am angry, how I look when I am disappointed, what I do when I am bored, when I am impatient, insulted, proud of myself, excited, etc. The children guess which feeling is being displayed.

Booklets.Each child is given two booklets. One is to write down whatever they find important or exciting. they should do it right after the session or even during the workshop. These booklets should be collected after the conclusion of the whole programme by the group leader (till then they can be kept in the school). The second booklet is the child's personal diary that will accompany him/her throughout the whole programme. It stays in their possession.

Explain that in the next few sessions we are going to work on recognizing one's own feelings and needs, and focus on expressing them clearly through I-statements. We shall learn the importance of active listening. First we will try to see why it is so important to be a good listener. We will start with non-verbal communication.

5 minutes


Blind walking. In the course of this game no one should talk. The students divide up into pairs. While one student keeps their eyes closed, the other leads him/her around the room so as not to bump into anybody, or to cause them to step on a mine field. The mine fields can be represented by pieces of the newspaper on the floor. It is important to switch roles at a given signal.

Feedback discussion: How did you feel as the one being led around (blind walking)? How did you feel as the guide? Which was more difficult for you? Why? How did you communicate if you were not able to talk? How did you receive the messages sent by the one who was guiding you? Were you a good listener? Was it important to listen to the body language (touch) of the one who was leading you around? What does listening mean here? (Teacher's note: listening means to completely direct and focus oneself on another person.)

10 minutes

Poor listeners. The pupils sit on the floor in a circle, and a volunteer leaves the room while the others agree on how they will behave as bad "listeners." They will, each as he/she chooses, clearly show their lack of interest in and inattentiveness to the "speaker": they will look in the other direction, scratch themselves, clean their nails, look at their watch, cough. The speaker after entering and sitting down in the middle of the circle, will pick the most interesting film he/she has seen recently and begin to talk about it. We interrupt the role playing after a short time; all the listeners thank the speaker by applauding him or her.

Question for the listeners: How do you think he/she felt while talking, and you were not listening: If you had been the speaker, how would you have reacted?

Question for the speaker: How did you feel? What did you feel like doing when no one listened to you? How could you tell that some-body was not listening?

10 minutes

Rules of active listening. The pupils divide into two groups and sit down in two concentric circles: the pairs sit facing each others and given a signal, those in the outer circle begin a talking on one of the topics below. Those in the inner circle just listen, they don't speak. Then using the same topic those in the inner circle speak and those in the outer circle just listen. The listeners should not interrupt, should not say ("And why did you..."), should not give advice "You could have" or "You should have"), and should not even men-tion their own experience ("So did I").

The topic of conversation may have a personal character: the pupils can talk about joyful or sad experience, about a friendship or a successfully completed task, etc. They speak in I-statements telling how they felt when such and such happened (2 topics at the most).

    Examples of conversation topics
  • The most humorous event that has ever occurred to me
  • My angriest moment
  • Imagine you are a mighty queen/king
  • What would you do for your school peers or people of your native town?
  • What would be my favourite birthday present?

Then everyone moves one place to the left, so they are now talking with a different partner. There are some new rules for the second topic. A partner should repeat what he/she has heard before telling us his/her story. It should be started with the sentence: "If I under-stood correctly you said . . ." In other words, the partner should paraphrase, i.e. repeat in his/her own words (the main facts and feelings) of what he/she has heard. First of all, it helps the listener to confirm whether his/her thoughts wandered off and helps the speaker to see his/her problem more clearly. ("If I understood correctly you said you had been kept out of their group, they didn't talk to you about their plans anymore and you felt angry and hurt?") After that the pair exchanges roles.

Feedback discussion: Which was more enjoyable, to listen or to talk? How did you know your partner was listening to you? What was the most interesting subject to talk about? Were you satisfied with your partner's paraphrasing of your story?

The majority of people would rather talk than listen. Moreover, while someone is talking they are thinking what they might say when the speaker stops. Or they interrupt him/her in the middle of the sentence.
That kind of behaviour is experienced as humiliating or as a personal attack. It can lead to severe misunderstanding. If we do not hear what is important we can act inappropriately. Parents often do not listen to their children. On the other hand, children do not have the habit of listening to one another. It is important to listen and it is necessary to know how to do it. What do those who know how to listen do?
Above all, let's see what they do NOT do!

15 minutes

Think about all the things you DIDN'T do as a listener. Count everything that you could have done but did not do during the exercise in active listening. The children divide up into three groups and write down on a big piece of paper all their answers, and then compare them. For example: WE DID NOT interrupt, jump in, blurt out a word, attack, ridicule, fake that we were listening, etc. On the basis of this we can conclude what makes a good listener (see the board drawn below):

15 minutes

Movement and sound of the group. Pupils make four groups. Every group agrees on a movement and sound that they will use to present themselves. And they decide on their group conductor. The sound and the movement should be produced at the conductor's signal.

10 minutes

Approvals. Pupils make groups of four and discuss within their group what kind of approval they like and what kind they do not like. Every group writes down at least four examples of both acceptable and unacceptable approvals. Then they read these examples to others. (For example: "You are a mummy's girl." "He is really something." "What a clever girl you are.")

Other pupils can make comments. Do they all agree that these approvals are embarrassing? Let them discuss what they dislike in these approvals. Why do we like some approvals and not others?

Let everybody write down on approval he/she would like to get on a piece of paper, roll it up and put it in the box (unsigned, of course).

20 minutes

Let's dance. Everyone dances and when the music stops pupils get into groups of three with those nearest to them and form a statue together.

5 minutes

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Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Opening the Door to Nonviolence.