Out on a Limb Teacher's Guide
Communication Skills
Objectives Students will practice and model good listening skills, become aware of the effects of cultural and other biases that affect communication.
Time Frame 30 minutes
Background Information

Listening is a process where a listener hears and understands the essential facts and feelings of the speaker. It is likely that poor communication between people is either the cause of a conflict or makes the conflict even worse. To help understand the cause of a conflict and the many ways it can be resolved, the people with the problem must listen to each other. People in conflict use the three listening skills below to express their own opinions while also understanding the opinion and feelings of others:

1. Body Language – using your body to show your are listening

  • Eye contact
  • Lean into the speaker
  • Ignore outside distractions

2. Talking About What I Heard You Say – summarizing what someone says in neutral language. Summarizing helps to make sure you understand what was said. It also helps the speaker because it gives them an opportunity to hear the interpretation of what they said, and therefore a chance to add to their statement. When summarizing, you restate the main idea of the statement and leave out the angry or accusatory words. For example:

  • Statement: "You are so stupid! I hate it when you play with me because you hit too hard! I'm going to play with Kara."
  • Summary: "You want to play with Cara because you don't like when I play rough with you."

3. Asking Questions – there are two types of questions you can ask to get more information:

a. Closed Questions – can only be answered with a "yes" or a "no". Closed questions are generally ineffective because they do not allow the speaker to explain her thoughts and feelings. For example:

  • "Were you angry when she said those things about you?"
  • "Did you do that?"

b. Open-Ended Questions – cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions allow the speaker to express himself and do not lead him to an answer. For example:

  • "How did you feel about that?"
  • "What happened next?"
  • "What could you try to do to fix this?"How much do students know?

Effective communication skills are a vital part of conflict resolution education. Before starting the exercises, ask students to think about how they communicate in different situations. You might ask:

  • What are some things you do when you don't want to listen to someone?
  • What makes it hard to listen to other people?
  • Why is it sometimes hard to talk to people you have problems with?
  • What are some things you do to show someone you are listening to what they have to say?
Web Activity Pages to be developed
Additional Exercises

Body Language

1. Bad Body Language - To learn more about body language, ask for a volunteer that is willing to talk about something s/he loves to do to have fun. As the volunteer thinks of an example, set up the exercise by telling the youth that they will evaluate your listening skills. Tell the group to identify both good and bad body language you use. Have the volunteer begin to tell you about his/her enjoyable activity. Practice poor body language by making some of the following mistakes:

  • poor eye contact
  • pay attention to distractions (shuffle paper, arrange things on your desk)
  • turn your back on the volunteer
  • look at your watch
  • roll your eyes

Allow two minutes. Process the activity by asking the group to tell you how effective a communicator you were. Ask the group to talk about your body language. List both bad and good body language on newsprint or on a chalkboard. Ask the volunteer how s/he felt talking to you. Ask the group:

  • Did you think I was listening to the volunteer?
  • Why or why not?

Explain that when we use poor body language, we stop people from wanting to talk to us because the speaker doesn't feel you are listening to them and know how they are feeling.

2. Body Language Practice –Tell the children that they will have a chance to practice effective body language. Have the participants find a partner and sit facing that partner. Ask one member of the pair to be "Person A", and the other member to be "Person B". Instruct Person A as follows: "You have one minute to tell Person B about your favorite book, song, movie or television show." Instruct Person B as follows: "Your job is to listen to Person A, but you may not speak." Allow one minute for Person A to speak. Call time and ask:

  • Person B, was it difficult to listen without interrupting?
  • Person B, did you want to question your partner?
  • Person A, what did your partner do that made you think he or she was listening to what you had to say?

Have the pairs reverse roles, and ask Person B to talk for one minute about the same topic while Person A provides listens without talking. Call time and ask the same questions as before.

"Talking About What I Heard You Say"

Tell the children that they will have a chance to practice the listening skill "Talking About What I Heard You Say." Have the children form small groups. Distribute the "Talking About What I Heard You Say" worksheet. Give each group two of the following statements and have them develop a summary of each statement as a group. Have one person from each group read their original statement and the summary developed by the group. As each group presents their summaries, check to make sure that they have used neutral language, included feelings of the speaker, and captured the basic facts of the statement. Below are suggested summaries for the statements on the "Talking About What I Heard You Say" worksheet.

Example One

  • Statement: "My sister is so annoying. She always comes in my room and touches my things without asking even though I tell her not to do that. Every time she touches my stuff I should just grab one of her CD's and break it!"

  • Summary: " You are angry because you think your sister goes into your room without asking you. You are also upset because of the way she treats the things you have in your room."

Example Two

  • Statement: Bryan has such a big mouth! He's like a little baby because he has to cry to all his friends and tell them things about me that I wanted to be kept secret. He should just mind his business and shut his stupid mouth!

  • Summary: "You are really upset about things being said about you to Bryan's friends. You him to keep things you tell him secret because you don't want everyone knowing about them."

Example Three

  • Statement: "When we play basketball she hogs the ball. She thinks that she is the best and that the rest of us can't play. She is so conceited and greedy."

  • Summary: "You don't enjoy playing basketball with her because you don't play as a team. You want her to include you in the game more."

Example Four

  • Statement: "I was angry at you because you didn't return the video games that I loaned to you. I told you I wanted them back in a week and you kept them for almost two weeks now. So I took the CD player that you left at my house and I'm going to keep it until you give me the games.

  • Summary: "You think that I kept your games for longer than a week. You're mad and took my CD player because you wanted to have something of mine to hold on to until I returned your games."

Conflict Resolution Styles | Communication Skills | Listening | Perceptions | Steps to Think and Share

[introduction] [activities] [worksheets] [resources] [go to website]

go to website resources worksheets activities introduction