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10-15 minutes




Active listening strategy card/exit pass card (See “Supplementary resources”)


To teach students to actively listen to each other, in order to enhance social skills, help them feel valued and understood, and foster relationships

  • Review and role model the components of active listening with students.
  • Identify a script for discussion and ensure there are six roles within the script.
  • Using a roundtable strategy, in groups of six, students take turns explaining their opinions or what they know about the topic within the script.
    • S1: is the speaker
    • S2: mirrors emotions
    • S3: paraphrases
    • S4: asks clarifying questions
    • S5: summarizes the content and feelings
    • o S6: responds non-verbally
  • Students assume these roles as they discuss the assigned topic and rotate roles at different times during the year, so that each has an opportunity to practice all roles.
  • Engage in a discussion/reflection afterwards with students.
  • Have students practice the roles as often as possible as part of their regular class work.
    NOTE: Attending/focusing is an active listening strategy that is used in conjunction with all the other strategies, it ensures the listener is paying attention to the speaker.
  • Further guidance and support may be needed for students to navigate cultural nuances of communication.
Students can use an active listening strategy chart:

Active Listening Strategies Looks like
Mirroring emotions
Asking clarifying questions
Using non-verbal responses/gestures
An “exit pass” is used at the end of the activity

Exit Pass:
One active listening strategy that I use well:
One active listening strategy that I will work on:
I can practice this strategy in these situations:
  • Teacher or student directed topics could be used versus a script.
  • Students can use an active listening strategy chart.
  • An ‘exit pass’ may be used at the end of the activity.
  • A photo of their “Active listening strategies/exit pass card” could be stored on the student’s device.

Reactivity to others’ emotions is highly related to empathy and prosocial behaviour (Flournoy et al., 2016). Engaging in active listening can help students respond empathically to others’ thoughts and emotions, which fosters a safe community of concern, and compassion in the classroom (Pace et al., 2013; van Schaik & Hunnius, 2016). Additionally, Embry & Biglan (2008) explain that after watching a viewer/listener engaging in targeted behavior, improvements are seen in academic engagement, attention, recall and long-term memory, positive behavior, and social competence; while incidents of negative behavior are reduced.

Flournoy, J. C., Pfeifer, J. H., Moore, W. E., Tackman, A. M., Masten, C. L., Mazziotta, J. C., ….Dapretto, M. (2016). Neural Reactivity to Emotional Faces May Mediate the Relationship Between Childhood Empathy and Adolescent Prosocial Behavior. Child Development, 87(6), 1691-1702. doi:10.1111/cdev.12630

Pace, T. W. W., Negi, L. T., Dodson-Lavelle, B., Ozawa-de Silva, B., Reddy, S. D., Cole, S. P., . . . Raison, C. L. (2013). Engagement with Cognitively-Based Compassion Training is associated with reduced salivary C-reactive protein from before to after training in foster care program adolescents. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(2), 294-299. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.05.019

Embry, D. D., & Biglan, A. (2008). Evidence-based kernels: fundamental units of behavioral influence. Clinical child and family psychology review, 11(3), 75–113. doi:10.1007/s10567-008-0036-x