Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn


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.


  1. Students Write in Journals
    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.
  2. Students Share and Listen in Small Groups
    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.
  3. Students Have an Open Discussion in Small Groups
    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.
  4. Small Groups Present
    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.
  5. Students Revisit Journals
    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.

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