Rationale: Effective communication consists of both speaking and listening. Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It is an important first step to defuse the situation and seek solutions to problems. This lesson gives students the opportunity to identify what active listening is and why it is important in managing conflicts.


  • To examine and practice active listening skills.
  • To explore the role of active listening in managing conflicts.

Materials: Core Principles of Active Listening Handout (Download PDF - Requires free Adobe Reader)

Time: 45 minutes


What you See (non-verbal)

What you Hear (verbal)

  • Eye contact; focusing on the other person
  • Leaning forward a little or nodding
  • Sitting still
  • Letting the other person finish what he or she is saying without interruption
  • Interested silence; giving a person time to respond
  • Restating what someone says
  • Reflecting what someone is feeling
  • Asking open-ended questions like, “What happened? How did you feel about that?”
  1. Ask students for situations that require listening. Examples: getting directions, helping a person, learning about someone, listening to music for entertainment, etc….
  2. Ask two pairs of students to demonstrate for the class both poor and good listening skills. Tell students to observe you in the conversation.

    Scenario 1: Demonstrating poor listening skills
    Ask one student to talk about what he/she did over the weekend. When the one student starts to speak, the other student will start exhibiting poor listening skills (look at your watch, interrupt, avoid eye contact, look bored or impatient, tap your foot or fidget).

    Scenario 2: Demonstrating good listening skills
    Ask one student to talk about what he/she did over the weekend. When the one student starts to speak, the other student will start exhibiting good listening skills (nod, smile, show concern, or encouragement).

  3. At the end of the conversation, ask the student how he or she felt while they were talking.
  4. Ask the class what listening skills, good or bad, that they observed.
  5. Explain to the class that good listening requires active participation. Ask students for examples of how to be a good listener. Write these on the board, separating the verbal and non-verbal skills. You may want to use a t-chart (see below). After you have generated two lists, you may want to review the handout Core Principles of Active Listening or It’s Easier for Others to Talk When I….

    Active listening Skills

  6. Do the demonstration again this time using the active listening skills the class has suggested. Have the student talk about their favorite holiday. Ask the class which skills they observed in the demonstration.
    • Divide the class into pairs. Have each student speak for two minutes on the following topics (or on other topics which you think are relevant). Instruct students to use active listening skills when they are not speaking. After two minutes have the partners switch roles.
    • Share with your partner an experience when you thought someone made assumptions about you.
    • Share with your partner a time you made an assumption about someone and you were proven wrong.
    • Share with your partner a conflict you successfully resolved.
    • Share with your partner the qualities of a ally. 
  7. Lead a class discussion using some or all of the following questions:
    • How did you know that your partner was listening to you?
    • What did it feel like to really be listened to without being interrupted?
    • What made this activity challenging for you?
    • How can active listening help you resolve conflicts?

Adapted from Exercise 4.2.1, Creating a Culture of Peace in the English Language Classroom by Alison Milofsky (United States Institute of Peace). 

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