This particular exercise was suggested by Dr. Susan Stillman of Six Seconds. Its usefulness is apparent and the lesson is fairly easy to execute although it requires at least 30 minutes doing a complete round.
The objective of the lesson is to have students observe the dynamics of communication. It contains elements of body language, emotional charge, word choice, tone, pace, inflection, the speaker’s perception and so on. It is a much evolved skill to listen cleanly and objectively.
Tell the class that they are going to doing a “Listening Mirrors “exercise – trying to be a Mirrors or video recording to the students speaking. They are to listen without interrupting the description from student designated as speakers and they need to observe and copy every detail of tone of voice, posture, and pace of words, word choice and emotional intensity. Then divide the class into teams of three students each by counting off: one, two, and three… and so on. In the first round, the students counted as ONE’s speak, TWOs listen, and the THREEs observe for accuracy. Then switch until each has had a turn at the different roles.
Ask the class to think about an event that made them very sad, angry or frustrated. Let the group process and visualize that moment in time for a minute or two. Then give time about 2 minutes for the Speakers to tell their story, 2 minutes for the Listeners to repeat the story, and lastly have the observers give feedback to on the accuracy of the repetition.
Because this lesson can get rather noisy you may want to send kids into corners, or the hallways to do it. Have the observers keep track of the time. Each complete set might be about 12 minutes- moving rather quickly. When the class has regrouped, have one member from each team – share out what they learned, heard or observed… Try to draw some conclusions or principles such as,
“It is important to _____” not change the words”
The tone of voice makes a difference.
An extension of this practice might be that – when a student is not explaining the story well and/or the repetition is not accurate – the observer asks a question to the speaker and or coaches the partners… to clarify the intent, meaning and intensity.