Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn (Remote Learning)


The instructions that follow guide you in using the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn teaching strategy to facilitate online small-group discussions in remote learning environments. Students reflect on a topic in their journals, share their reflections in a small group, and then submit an exit card to the teacher. Students can complete this either synchronously or asynchronously. The structured format helps students develop their discussion skills with a focus on strengthening their listening skills. This is an especially useful format when your class is discussing controversial topics.

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?


  1. Prepare Students
    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).

  2. Students Write in Journals
    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.

  3. Assign Groups
    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.

  4. Students Share in Small Groups
    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.

  5. Students Have an Open Discussion in Small Groups
    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?
  6. Small Groups Share Main Ideas (Optional)
    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.

  7. Students Complete 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.


If you are teaching in a face-to-face setting, view our original Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn teaching strategy.

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