Listening and hearing are not the same thing. While hearing suggests that you receive the sounds made by someone talking, listening requires that you mentally process these sounds so that they have meaning. Consequently, the listener must be actively involved in the communication process. With activities, you can teach college students how to develop and improve their listening skills.
Make a Scene
Divide the class into two groups. Have one group stand out in the hall. The group in the classroom must create a two-minute scene in which there is no talking and every person in the group has a function, such as in a group of people attending a basketball game. The scene must have a beginning, middle and end and tell some type of story. Give the performance group some time to work out what they will do, then call the first member of the group in the hall into the room and have him watch the scene. He must then tell the next member of his group what he saw and that person must tell the next person in the group what the first person told her, and so on, until everyone in the group has relayed the story. Then have the performance group do the scene again for everyone in the talking group to see how the story changed as it was told.
Build a Structure
Divide the class into teams of two. The team members must sit back-to-back around the room. One person can talk; the other person cannot. The person who can talk must construct something in front of her with a collection of building blocks provided by you. Then that person must instruct her partner how to build the exact same structure with the building blocks that he has. Limit the building time, then discuss with students why some teams were capable of accomplishing the task and others were not, focusing on listening skills.
Interview and Learn
With each student in the class paired with a partner, have the partners interview one another and report on what they have learned to the class. This activity requires that students be paired with other students whom they do not know well so that they can learn interesting facts about the other person. When the student reporting his findings to the class is finished, the student who was interviewed must point out any information that was left out or misinterpreted.
Write a list of words on the chalkboard. Have the students write a one-page story that incorporates all of the words on the chalkboard. You may want to use a theme for the words or focus the words on a holiday, for example. Erase the words on the chalkboard, but keep a copy of the list for yourself. Then call on one student to get up in front of the class and begin reading his story. The students in the class should shout “Stop!” when the reader says one of the words from the chalkboard. Use your list to make sure that the students have recalled the words correctly. The person who identifies the word then gets up and begins reading her story, with the other students stopping her when they hear a word from the chalkboard. The students should note on their paper where they left off reading and, if given the opportunity to get up and read again, pick up with their story where they left off. Make the listening activity a game by offering a prize to the first student who gets to complete his or her story.