Three students sitting in a classroom with one of the students talking.
Teaching Strategy

Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn

Educators will structure a discussion that uses journaling and group work to strengthen students’ listening skills.

Published:

At a Glance

Teaching Strategy

Language

English — US
Also available in:
French — FR

Subject

  • Advisory
  • Civics & Citizenship
  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–12

Overview

About This Teaching Strategy

In a discussion based on the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn strategy, students reflect on a topic in their journals, share their reflections in a small group, and then present their ideas to the whole class. This structured format helps students develop their discussion skills with a focus on strengthening their listening skills. This is an especially useful discussion format when your class is discussing controversial topics.

 

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Lesson Plans

Steps for Implementation

Before they share their ideas, it is important to give students the opportunity to clarify their own views. We suggest giving students five to ten minutes to write in their journals about the topic they will be discussing. After this writing time, ask students to underline or highlight the ideas they find most interesting or worthy of sharing.

Divide the class into small groups of four or five students. Once students are in their groups, they should appoint a facilitator to keep the group focused. Each student now has the opportunity to share a part of his/her journal entry with the group. During this sharing process, no one should interrupt the speaker. When it is each student's turn to share, he/she should not directly respond to a point someone else has made. Instead, the sharing should focus on the individual's own feelings and reactions.

Drawing on what they just heard, the small groups now have an open discussion. Before beginning this step, explain to students that this discussion is not about debating knowledge or arguing viewpoints. It is about listening to each other and acknowledging our diverse array of thoughts, fears, and hopes. Students should also be reminded that not everyone will necessarily be in agreement, and that the goal is to better understand one’s own viewpoint and the perspectives of others. After 10 to 15 minutes of discussion, groups should decide on two or three ideas from their conversation to share with the whole class.

Small groups present their key ideas to the larger class. You can facilitate a whole-class discussion prompted by these ideas, or you can proceed directly to personal journal reflections.

Give students the opportunity to reread the journal entry they wrote at the beginning of this activity. Then ask them to describe how their ideas have changed. Perhaps their ideas have grown stronger, or maybe they have shifted a little. It is possible that some students have completely changed their attitudes or that the conversations have left them uncertain or with new questions. Prompts you might use to structure students’ thinking include the following: What did you learn from this activity? What questions are you left with? What did you learn more from—listening or presenting your own ideas? Explain your answer.

Steps for Remote Implementation

The following questions can help you plan to use Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn for remote learning:

  1. What collaborative digital tool(s) do I want to use to facilitate this activity?
  2. How am I going to deliver instructions to students about completing the activity?
  3. How often am I going to monitor the discussion?
  4. If teaching asynchronously, what is the defined time period I want to set for completing the activity?

Students can complete this either synchronously or asynchronously.

Determine how you want to introduce your students to the activity (for example, through video or written instructions or during a synchronous meeting). You can adapt and share the Instructions for Students listed below. Share the stimulus for the discussion with students as well (for example, a text, image, or questions they can discuss).

It is important to give students the opportunity to clarify their views before they share their ideas with their groups. Ask students to spend five to ten minutes writing in their journals about the topic they will be discussing. This step can be completed asynchronously ahead of time.

Assign students to small groups. If teaching synchronously, ask students to assign the following roles within their groups for the discussion: facilitator, timekeeper, and summarizer. The facilitator will keep time and lead the discussion. The timekeeper will keep track of time. The summarizer will report out to the class.

Students can share their reflections either synchronously or asynchronously with their small groups. For synchronous sharing, have each group meet in a virtual breakout room. Each student should take a turn sharing their thoughts and feelings on the topic (for one to two minutes) with their groups. Students should not interrupt the speaker, and when it is their turn, they should not respond directly to a point someone else has made, but instead, focus on sharing their own feelings and reactions in response to the initial prompt. They can read selections from their journal entry as part of their response.


For asynchronous sharing, ask students to write or record their responses and post them in a shared document/online forum (such as Google Docs, Google Jamboard, Padlet, Flipgrid, or VoiceThread). Give students a set period of time to post their responses (one to two days), and at the end of that period of time, students should listen to or read their group members’ responses.

This step can be completed either synchronously or asynchronously. If students shared their initial responses synchronously, they can stay on the same call for this discussion. You may also ask students who shared their initial responses asynchronously to join a synchronous call with their small groups for this phase of the discussion.

Students can also engage in this discussion asynchronously during a defined time period (one to two days) with their groups. Ask them to post new written comments or voice recordings to the same document/online forum they used to share their initial responses.

Share open-ended questions with students that they can use to guide their synchronous or asynchronous discussions, such as:

  • What new ideas did you learn from reading/hearing your groupmates’ responses?

  • What questions do you want to ask the other members of your group to find out more about their views on this topic?

  • After reading/hearing the responses from the other members of your group, is there anything you want to add to your response?

Small groups can share two to three key ideas that came up during their small group discussions with the class during a synchronous class call or by submitting their ideas to a document or forum shared by the whole class. You can also omit this step and move directly from small group discussions to individual exit cards.

Ask students to re-read their initial journal entries and to describe on an exit card how their ideas have changed. Perhaps their ideas have grown stronger, or maybe they have shifted a little. It is possible that some students have completely changed their attitudes or that the conversations have left them uncertain or with new questions. Prompts you might use on an exit card include the following:

  • What went well during this activity? Was there anything challenging or unclear about the activity?
  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • What questions are you left with?
  • What did you learn more from—listening to/reading your classmates’ responses or presenting your own ideas? Explain your answer.

This step can be completed asynchronously. Students should submit their completed exit cards to the teacher.

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Facing History and Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif