The National Capital Language Resource Center explains that effective listening incorporates the ability to comprehend spoken words and separate relevant from irrelevant information. Listening is an active process people use daily and teaching these skills will help students in preparation for life outside of school. These five activities are infused with fun and motivation to encourage participation.
Knock, Knock. Who's There?
In this class activity, students will be challenged to recognize the voices of classmates. What's great is that this activity only requires paper and pencil.
- Have students take out a piece of paper and pen or pencil. Ask students to number their paper to 10.
- Select three students to come to the front of the classroom. All other students should then lay their heads down on their desks with eyes closed.
- Using fingers, express to one of the selected students he is first and another selected student that he is second.
- The first selected student will then say "Knock, knock" and the second student will respond with "Who's there?"
- Send the selected students back to their seats then direct the rest of the class to open their eyes and write down the name of the student who said each phrase.
- Continue playing in this fashion until all students have been called to the front and 10 rounds have been played.
- The student with the most correct answers at the end is the winner.
For added difficulty, allow students to disguise their voices. Another fun modification might be to instruct speakers to do a celebrity impersonation when saying their phrases. Guessing students will not only have to identify the classmate speaking, but also the celebrity they are impersonating.
A great way to get kids actively listening to videos, guest presentations or classmate speeches is to incorporate a keyword counting challenge. This activity can be modified to include media by using popular songs or fun, educational cartoons.
- Choose the format for information presentation (lecture, video, etc.).
- Select three or four keywords and count how many times they appear in the presentation. Write each keyword on a few index cards.
- Hand each student a card or slip of paper with a keyword listed. Multiple students will have the same keyword.
- Instruct students to listen for this keyword and make a note of how many times they hear the word.
- At the end of the activity, ask all students with the same keyword to form a group. If they have different answers, students must attempt to persuade the entire group that their answer is correct.
- Each group must form a consensus and submit a final answer. The group(s) with the correct answer wins.
The Last Word
Multi-tasking is an essential element of effective listening. Similar to a common improvisation activity, this game challenges students to listen to classmates while also preparing a relevant statement in their head. Small or large groups can easily play 'The Last Word.'
Choose a topic such as in the jungle, prehistoric life, an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, or a new Justin Bieber song.
- Select an order by handing out numbers or base your order on the seating arrangements.
- The first player must walk to the front of the room and say one sentence that relates to the chosen topic.
- The next player must immediately walk to the front of the room and say one sentence that starts with the last word said by the player immediately before them.
- Play continues until all students have had a turn. If a student is unable to come up with an appropriate sentence within ten seconds, he is out of the game.
- Game play continues in this fashion until there is only one student left and he is the winner.
Series of Sound
Using everyday items, teachers can incorporate hidden sounds into any lesson. Students will be challenged to listen for, draw, and repeat a series of common sounds. The concept may sound simple, but students will be surprised at how much they normally tune out.
- Bring in everyday objects such as a stapler, book, paper, or something similar.
- Be sure to have a variety of items on hand to make noise with. It will be helpful to plan a series of sounds to make during the lesson. For example, a series might include banging a book on the desk, stomping your foot, clapping your hands, stapling papers, whistling, and clicking keyboard keys.
- Instruct students to listen for sounds made only by the teacher during the lesson or class period.
- Every time a student hears a new sound, she should draw a picture of the item that made the sound.
- At the end of the lesson, allow each student the opportunity to gather all items she drew and recreate the series of sounds in order.
- The student(s) with the correct series of sounds win.
A take on the game Screaming Viking, students will need to listen for directions in a chaotic environment and follow those directions. A gym or large, open space is required for playing this active game.
- All players will run around the room as they would if they were playing tag.
- When the teacher yells out one of the commands, each student must assume the correct position before the teacher counts to ten.
- The commands and actions are:
- "Ice cream" - players must push hands in front of their body as if scooping giant scoops of ice cream
- "Banana" - players start with hands together above head in a triangular shape then peel down one hand at a time
- "Cherry" - players curl up in a ball on the floor with one hand extended above their head
- "Banana Split" - three players must join together and, standing next to each other, each take a different one of the three individual roles (one scooper, one peeling banana, and one cherry)
- If a student chooses the wrong position or a group is unable to form the Banana Split, those players are out of the game.
- The last player or trio standing wins the game.
Simple Listening Activities
There are many activities that focus on different aspects of listening. These activities require little prep and can be done when you have a quick five to ten-minute break.
- Telephone: The classic game where students form a line, and each person whispers a message to the next until the last person says the message out loud. The goal is to have the first person and the last person say the exact same message, but it often gets reworded.
- Follow the Directions: This activity can be done in pairs or a large group. One person gives short, simple instructions and the other(s) must draw according to the directions they hear.
- Simon Says: Although this is typically a game for younger children, it can be adapted to older kids by incorporating more complex or silly directives. For example, "Simon says repeatedly high five your neighbor."
- Blindfold Obstacle Course: One student is blindfolded and must follow the directions of a partner to move through an obstacle course.
- Follow the Leader: Blindfold one person. Have the other students should line up. The blindfolded person should give directions and everyone else must follow them.
- Copycat Rhythm: Kids must listen to a rhythm clapped or tapped out and then repeat it perfectly. To make this game age appropriate, use complex patterns or unique instruments.
- Stand up/Sit down: Instruct students to stand up or sit down, whichever is the opposite of their current position, every time they hear a specific word, phrase, or sound during a prepared lesson or speech.
True listening involves opening the ears, mind, and heart. Most people have no problem hearing what others are saying, but listening is an acquired skill. Fun, engaging activities can help get middle school students motivated to learn what listening means.