“Four ears” exercise

“Four ears” exercise (practicing active listening)


Players must be acquainted with “FOUR EARS of listening” theory – the ways people usually listen to their peers while communicating. Teacher ought to devote his time to discuss it and assure each student got his understanding. Please use this link SHAPING THOUGHTS – ACTIVE LISTENING to read about “FOUR EARS of listening”.

Purpose of use

This exercise is useful to train class members’ active listening and storytelling skills. It may be applied on purpose during informal activities, or accidentally, when conflicts take place during the class, to cool the both sides down.

How to implement

When planned, the game shall be started with instructions to students and agreement about the rules of behaviour during the game. Teacher may pick two or more persons to participate and let the others observe and share their thoughts later. Or, divide a class to smaller groups and let each group do the same exercise.  The exercise is to recognize the type of the ear (from 4) one person listens to the other with. So, one person talks (shares any story of his), another one listens, asks questions and then retells the story he heard. Basing on this action the person who was listening must reflect himself answering the following questions:

Which ear of the four mines was most attentive? Why?

What were other ears doing meanwhile?

What could help enable more ears at once?

What was disturbing me during the exercise?

These questions may be answered in groups or in front of all the class members. Questions may be written on the board or asked by other players who are nor participating in the story telling. Basing on answers, teacher may start discussion with all the class about the obstacles and opportunities of understanding of each other and the ways to improve communication in the class.

To apply the elements of this game to conflict management in classes, just ask the involved sides to name the ears they use to listen to each other. Try to switch their attention from fighting to self-observation. Do not allow other class members to interfere. Ask them to stay silent and observe. Devote time to discuss in class the meaning of active listening to understanding and clear communication.