10 Interesting Activities to Boost Your Listening Skills

We often see disputes taking place everywhere. From public debates on television or radio to household disputes at home. We also see and hear about people making grave mistakes that often lead to unfortunate consequences. If you ask wise people for a preventive measure to these disputes and mistakes, they will all suggest to do one thing – Listen.

More often than not, problems crop up due to a communication gap between the two parties. And it is quite obvious that neither of them listened to what the other had to say. Hence, the problem occurred!

selective listening exercise

Listening, in any field, is the finest virtue of all; particularly in classrooms and workplaces. So, we have compiled a list of 10 activities that will not only help you to listen better, but also help you to bond with others and have a lot of fun in the process.

A Game Of Telephone (USA) / Chinese Whispers

This game has been the life of parties since the mid-20th century. Very few people know about its utility as an exercise to improve one’s listening. It is a perfect example of how words get distorted when passed on from person to person.

The game is played by a group of people and should be supervised by a moderator. The first person thinks of a message and tells the moderator who notes it down. Then the first person whispers the message to the second person and so on till the last person receives the message and reads it out aloud. To make it a fruitful exercise, the participants should write the message down after they hear it and then read it as a whisper to the next person. This will show where the message got distorted.

This game shows that messages will get distorted in some way or the other when it is passed on in large groups. Even one misheard word can change the meaning of the sentence completely. The aim of this exercise is to listen more carefully and with more concentration to avoid distortions.

Group Storytelling

This game is a bit childish but is in no way less helpful. The magnitude of listening and memory skills it helps to develop is phenomenal.

The game is begun by the moderator who gives a simple sentence that has a wide scope of continuation like, “Pinocchio was born on a cold, stormy night.” Then, the next participant has to add his/her contribution to the building up of the story. The moderator notes all the parts down but does not disclose any deviation or contradiction in the storyline until the end. After everyone has added their contributions, the moderator reads the complete story out aloud and pauses on the deviations in the storyline.

This helps the person, who made this deviation, understand that he/she has made an error in listening carefully or has misinterpreted crucial information. Therefore, in this way, people get to learn how to listen more attentively to receive the data correctly and then to retain the data for later recall. It is a simple but enjoyable exercise with possibly hilarious additions to the story.

Paraphrasing: Interpreting Information

This is a simple exercise that either small or large groups can take part in. The moderator reads out a short passage or story. The participants have to listen very attentively to the moderator.

After the moderator finishes reading the passage, participants get 5 or 10 minutes to write down a summary of how they interpret the passage.

As we all know, each person has their own thought process. So, each participant will have their own paraphrase version. Also, it will be easy to identify the error in listening when the paraphrase shows words that have no relevance to the passage. The supervisors can then inform participants where they went wrong and how to listen to keywords on which the premise of the whole passage is based.

Listening Selectively

Most people listen to only what they want to listen, leaving out important words in the process. To rectify this habit, a game of selective listening is recommended highly.

In this game, a moderator is appointed who chooses a list of words that are similar in theme. The number of words chosen should be more than 15-20 and should have one or two words that are repeated twice or more times. For example: assignment, dissertation, list, thesis, student, teacher, list, pen, pencil, assignment, etc. These words are mainly related to college and study. Then, the moderator calls out each word one by one, but the participants are not allowed to note the words down. After the list is completed, they are asked to list down the words that they heard. Most people will write down the words that were repeated, but some may also write down words that are connected with the theme of the original word list but were not there in the list. They will write words like essay, university, school, professor, etc.

This habit not only makes them poor listeners, but also renders them to be poor speakers as they will say things that weren’t even told to them. They only assume that what they are saying has been told to them because of a similar theme. In reality, they lack listening skills and have a ‘jumping to conclusions’ attitude.

Describe The Picture

In this game, participants are grouped into pairs and made to sit back to back. One of them is given a picture which contains simple shapes and objects at different angles and of different sizes. The other is given a blank paper, a board and a pencil to draw what his/her partner describes.

The moderator has to make sure that they do not see each other and that neither of them peeks into each other’s picture. The pair with the picture that is most similar to the described one wins the game.

The aim of this exercise is not to see who can draw the best; it is to see who can most attentively listen to the description being given and then implement it. That is why the described picture only contains simple shapes and objects that anyone can draw like squares, triangles, stick figures, etc. Therefore, not only are listening skills sharpened, but also implementation technique gets a boost as well.

Raise/Lower Hands

This game focuses on particular sounds. It involves the reading of a passage which will have words that have a similar sound. For example, froze, dose, remote, denote, etc. have the ‘o’ sound.

Participants will be instructed to listen carefully for words that will have this ‘o’ sound, and when they do, they will have to raise their hands and then lower their hands once they hear the next ‘o’ sounding word. A small group will be ideal for this exercise to efficiently keep an eye on each participant’s reaction time. The reader should make sure that the passage is read very slowly to give participants enough time to raise/lower their hands. Deliberate stopping or unusual pausing on the words should be avoided.

This game is very helpful in improving the listener’s attentiveness and his/her reaction time too.

Hidden Keyword/Phrase

In this game, participants are again paired up and given certain keywords or phrases. They have to script a dialogue between them, somehow incorporating the keyword or phrase in the dialogue. They will get only 5-10 minutes to do so. Then they have to read out their dialogue in front of the remaining people. The remaining participants have to listen carefully to pick out the keyword or phrase, which seems to be placed in the dialogue with extra care and thought.

If any of the participants succeed in finding the hidden phrase, they win due to their listening and reasoning ability. Otherwise, the pair who wrote the dialogue wins due to their creativity in writing a dialogue that didn’t seem out of place.

In either case, the skill of listening to others improves. The writers listened to each other and understood perfectly. The participants listened to the writers attentively and caught an unusual phrase.

Obstacle Course

This game is sure to be enjoyable for the participants. Again, it will be better if they are divided into pairs.

It involves setting up of obstacles like bean bags, pillows, polystyrene boxes, mattresses, rolled up bed sheets, etc. in a spacious room, in any manner that you like. One person is blindfolded and has to cross the room while evading the obstacles. That person will be verbally assisted by the partner. The blindfolded person has to rely on the partner’s directional assistance and their own sense of listening and navigation. Make sure the obstacles are made of such material that the blindfolded person doesn’t get hurt. The team that displaces the least obstacles wins the game.

This exercise heightens listening skills of the blindfolded person. They also have no choice but to trust their partner for directions. Therefore, this game improves two key skills for working in a team – listening and trust.

Follow My Words, Not My Actions!

This game can be used to tell people that they should stop copying actions and concentrate more on the words of the speaker. We so often encounter this scenario in a workplace when a superior instructs a subordinate to do something while they do something quite the opposite. The subordinate thinks that this must be the norm and copies the superior. The game of ‘following words and not actions’ drives home the point of following instructions as given.

Example of how to play the game –

The supervisor will also do the same thing that he instructs his subordinates.

  • “Follow my words, please. Raise your hand.”
  • “Kindly follow my words and touch your toes.”
  • “Do remember to follow my words and touch your hair.”

While saying this, the supervisor will touch his chest and not forehead. On seeing him/her do that, some people will also touch their chests. Out of them, some will realize the mistake and then touch their hair a bit later. Then the supervisor can ask them why they did not follow his words when he/she had asked them to do so three times.

This game tests and improves attention paying skills along with listening skills.

Listening Comprehension

This exercise is fairly simple. To make it more enjoyable, the supervisor can play a song or an audio clip of popular movie dialogues. Then, the participants will be asked a few questions based on the lyrics of the song or the words of the dialogue

The participants have to rely on their listening skill as well as memory to answer these questions. Here too, different people will have different perceptions towards the lyrics or dialogues. So, to make the exercise more interesting, participants can be randomly picked and asked about other participants’ already stated views.

This will test their listening and memory skills on a higher level.

Listening skills are extremely important for effective communication. The above mentioned activities are enjoyable ways of improving these skills to instill a sense of empathetic listening. This will surely help people who acquire this skill to be successful communicators, making them successful citizens too in the process. So, let the games begin!

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