Role-Playing Activities to Teach Listening Skills

Effective listening skills are a crucial component for effective communication.

Role-playing activities are an enjoyable teaching technique, allowing students to pretend to be other people, while demonstrating and practicing important lessons. You can use role-playing in your classroom to teach effective listening skills by placing students in roles which highlight specific listening elements. While passive listening is a natural skill people learn as they develop, active listening requires practice and focus to master.

1 Remove Distractions

You can use a role-playing activity to demonstrate the importance of removing distractions while students try to listen effectively. Instruct two students to sit in the front of the class and role-play an interview situation. Provide one student with a list of questions, and the other with a list of personal information she can use to answer the questions. At several points during the interview, stop the interview and ask the interviewer to solve a simple math problem on the board. Afterward, ask the interviewer a series of questions about the interviewee’s information, showing how the interviewer had trouble gathering information because of the distractions.

2 Nonverbal Clues

Role-playing activities can demonstrate the way individuals pass information nonverbally during a conversation. Write a short narrative, but place brackets around sections of the piece. Select a student to go to the front of the class and play the role of the forgetful communicator. Instruct him to read the narrative, but use only nonverbal communication to relate the bracketed information. Ask the class to call out the bracketed information once they guess the information correctly. Use this activity to teach students how to combine the nonverbal cues they see from a speaker with the verbal information from the spoken sections to fully understand the message.

3 Emotional Control

Emotions can disrupt communication and prevent listeners from receiving an accurate message, and you can demonstrate this through a class role-playing activity. Instruct a student to step out in the hall, and prepare by thinking about an emotional situation, such as winning the lottery or seeing a celebrity at school. Have the student step back into the room and role-play an excited student trying to get her message across. Use this activity to illuminate the distracting quality of emotions during communication.

4 Identify Information

Effective listening requires students to divide information between important points and unnecessary information. Instruct a student to walk to the front of the room. Give her a role to play, such as a student telling another student an event in class or describing a show on television. Instruct the student to provide a few facts and quite a bit description. Instruct your class to listen as she speaks and identify the main points of her message. Use this activity to teach kids to find the most important information in a spoken message.

Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.