There may be many reasons why some people talk a lot but rarely listen. Apparently, they enjoy the sound of their own voice. The hidden reason can be that that’s how they (were taught to) see communication. Talk. Talk. Wait for your turn to talk. Talk.

Active listening is probably the most needed skill in today’s age of alternative facts. We’ll never wind up understanding each other if we don’t listen.

In the microcosm of the classroom, this skill helps to build authentic communication and create a learning rich environment. In an ideal world, it is enough to ask learners to ‘talk to your partner and discuss …’ and listening will follow. In the real world, try and get your kids to listen to what their peers have to say. They will hear but will they listen?

Essentially, active listening starts with one’s genuine interest and curiosity in other people and their ideas.

Here’s a game that helps build a skill of active listening by getting learners to think of what others might say. It can be used as an individual activity (e.g. a get-to-know-you activity, a warmer, etc.) or complement a drill turning it into a genuinely communicative exercise.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

How to play: 

The game is best played in small groups of 4-5 players in each. One of the players reads out the card with the question. Each player uses their ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer cards to give their personal ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response to the question and puts the answer card face down on the desk. Ask players to guess and write down how many players they think would answer ‘Yes’ (or ‘No’) to the question. See how everyone answered. Players score 1 penny for an accurate prediction about other players’s responses (i.e. how many they thought would answer ‘Yes’). The first player who scores 5 pennies wins the game.

Level-up. You can make the game a bit more challenging by asking learners to guess the answers of each player. Each correct answer awards 1 penny.  The first player who scores 10 pennies wins the game.

* If you use this game as a drill exercise, get learners to ask each player the question before they reveal their answers. When the player reveals the card, the player gives a full answer to the question.  

Materials needed:

  1. A set of blank cards or a set of question cards.

You can either use cards made by your learners. Hand out blank cards to your learners and ask them to write down a couple of yes-no questions they’d like to ask the other players.

Or prepare your own set of questions in advance. These funny Facebook questions below might work really well for a get-to-know-you activity.

Have you ever…

Kissed any one of your Facebook friends?
Slept in until 5 PM?

Fallen asleep at work/school?
Eaten something you thought you never would?
Drank something you knew you shouldn’t?
Eaten something you didn’t know what it was?
Held a snake?
Been suspended from school?
Sang karaoke?
Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t?
Caught a snowflake on your tongue?
Kissed in the rain?
Sang in the shower?
Sat on a rooftop?
Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes?
Broken a bone?
Shaved your head?
Played a prank on someone?
Been in a band?
Tripped on mushrooms?
Climbed a mountain?
Run until you couldn’t run another step?
Forgotten your own birthday?
Found £5 or more in public?

Won something you wanted?
Been published?
Hit the bulls eye with a bow and arrow?
Walked barefoot in a stream?
Lost your cool in public?
Received a massage of more than one hour?
Meditated for more than 15 minutes?
Played football at a major stadium?

Been on TV?

Painted a picture?

For Yes/No answer cards, either give two blank cards to each player to fill them in with Yes or No, respectively, or use any colour or UNO cards (e.g. green for ‘Yes’, red for ‘No’).

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Check these activities to teach your learners how to show interest while listening FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.

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Image: Andy Eick, Creative Commons, Flickr.com

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