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Activity 2 – Source:


Human Rights




Active Listening


Amnesty International


Aim: This listening activity helps students to improve their listening skills and to think about what makes "good" and "bad" listening.

Learning points:

- Listening is an important skill for respecting each others' right to an opinion. (See Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Part Five of this manual).

- We can improve our listening skills by practice.

What you need: The boxes "What helps us to listen?" and "What prevents us from listening?" from pages 107 and 108.

Time: About 30 minutes


How to do it:

  • Form the class into pairs.

  • Explain that, in a moment, one person in each pair will have to speak without stopping while the other person listens as carefully as they can. The speaker can speak about anything they want to. For example, themselves, their family, an interesting experience....

  • Allow a moment for the pairs to decide who will talk and who will listen.

  • Give the signal for the speakers to begin speaking.

  • Allow the speakers a minute or two of uninterrupted speech. Then, before they begin to run out of things to say, clap your hands and ask them to stop.

  • Ask the listeners to repeat back to their partner the last two sentences which that person said. This request is usually a big surprise - few people will be able to remember the two sentences perfectly!

  • The pairs exchange roles, the listener now speaks and the speaker listens.

  • After a couple of minutes, stop the speakers again. It is likely that the listeners this time will have been listening more carefully - so ask them to repeat the last THREE sentences which their partner said!

  • Use the questions below to draw out the learning points.

Other Information:


  • Could you remember the sentences?

  • Was it easier to remember them the second time? Why?

  • What did you do to help you to listen? Did you do anything special with your body? Or with your face? What about your mind?

  • What prevented you from listening?

  • Now show the class the information in the boxes "What helps us to listen?" and "What prevent us from listening?" from pages 107 and 108. Is there anything in these boxes that they did not think of? Why?

  • Listening is an important skill for respecting and protecting human rights. It is especially important for Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also for all of the other Articles. Why is this so? What do we gain from listening to each other? Have you ever been in a situation where no-one would listen to you? How do we feel when our opinion is ignored? Do you agree with the idea that we can improve our listening skills by practice?


  • If you wish, you can continue the game, maybe swopping partners or increasing the number of sentences which the listener must remember each time.

  • It can be fun to repeat the game, making it harder every time, over several days or weeks, so that the students can see their listening improve.

What prevents us from listening?

  • On-off Listening

  • People think faster than they talk. This means that when you listen to someone, you have a lot of spare time for thinking. Often, we use this time to think about lunch, or what we did last night, instead of thinking about what the other person is saying!

  • Prejudice Listening

  • In every part of the world, there are words or phrases that cause people to stop listening. Words like "capitalist", "communist", "fundamentalist". When people hear these words, they stop listening and start to plan their defence, or a counter-attack.

  • Closed Mind Listening

  • Sometimes, we decide quickly that the person (or the subject) is boring, wrong, or not relevant, or that we know what they are going to say. Then we stop listening.

  • Distracted Listening

  • Noise, lights, temperature, other things in the room, or what you ate for breakfast can all prevent us from listening to what people are saying. However, with practice, we can still listen well in these circumstances.

What helps us to listen?

We listen with our bodies as well as with our minds...

  • face the speaker
  • have good eye contact
  • have an open posture (don't fold your arms, turn your back......)
  • lean towards the speaker
  • relax

Listen to what is being said...

  • listen for the central theme, not just the "facts"
  • keep an open mind
  • think ahead
  • analyze and evaluate
  • don't interrupt

Listen to how it is being said...

  • non-verbal signs (for example face expressions, body posture)
  • tone of voice
  • Listening is important because...
  • It shows people that you value their experience and what they say
  • It encourages people to talk honestly and freely
  • It can help you to identify areas where people agree or disagree, and helps you to think of solutions to these disagreements