June 20, 2019
By Meena Srinivasan

Lesson plan

Listening to What Matters

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  • Students will be able to define "nonviolent communcation."
  • Students will be able to explain the importance of listening to their needs and the needs of others in order to strengthen friendships and build community.
(10 minutes)
  • Before class, ask two student volunteers to come up to the front of the room with you and role-play miscommunication (without the rest of the class knowing). Ask them to disagree about what they would like to do during free time.
  • Afterwards, ask the class what each person may be feeling. What matters to one person? What matters to the other person? What does one person need? What does the other need?
  • Explain to students that using the strategy of listening to what matters can help us understand another person's point of view, instead of focusing on who is right and who is wrong, or what one person wants or does not want.
  • Ask the students what they think the term "nonviolent communication" means. Write their answers on the board.
  • Ask them what they think the opposite of nonviolent communication may be. (Examples: judging others, speaking with anger, etc.).
  • Write the definition of the term on the board: "Nonviolent communication(NVC) is listening to our own deeper needs and those of others, and speaking from a place of this understanding."
  • Explain to students that when we are upset, we can't always talk calmly with the other person and communicate our needs.
  • Ask the class, "What are some things we can do to calm ourselves before speaking?"
  • Brainstorm a list of strategies on the board.
  • Tell students, "One way we can communicate is to practise mindful breathing and calm down. Then, we can state what we see is happening, how we feel, our needs, and what we would like."
  • Explain that this strategy requires practise. Today we are going to be focusing on what we need, what matters to us, and what matters to others.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell the class that you will be sharing a story about a time when you did not get what you wanted. Ask the students to listen to what mattered to you and what you needed in this situation.
  • Share your story. For example, you could talk about a time when your car broke down on the way to work. You needed transportation, to be on time, and to feel secure and protected.
  • Ask the class, "What was it that I needed?" Allow them to respond.
  • Explain to students that they will be working in partners to share a story about a time when they did not get what they wanted.
  • Pair the class in partners, and ask them to decide who will go first in speaking.
  • Remind the class that the person listening should use their mindful listening ears to notice what the other person wants or needs.
  • Give each group two minutes to share their stories and one minute for the listener to share what they think their partner needs. Then, have the groups switch roles, and repeat this process.
  • Bring the class back together as a group, and ask if anyone would like to share what they noticed. Ask, "What was the need behind what your partner wanted?"
(5 minutes)
  • Explain to students that they will go back to their seats and work on a worksheet about nonviolent communication, listening for what matters, and making requests.
  • Before they return to their seats, show students how to complete the worksheet. Read through the first part of the worksheet, and complete the questions on the board as a class using your own example.
(25 minutes)
  • Ask students to return to their seats and work with partners on the worksheet. Each student should be responsible for completing their own worksheet, and tell them that you will be collecting them afterwards.

Enrichment:Students may write an example story or scenario of someone who used mindful listening and nonviolent communcation.

Support:Rather than having them work in pairs, work with a small group to complete the worksheet and provide individualized suport.

(5 minutes)
  • Observe students during the independent working time.
  • Collect handouts to check their understanding of nonviolent communication and listening to what matters.
(5 minutes)
  • After all students have completed the worksheet, ask if they have any questions.
  • Ask the class how they felt when completing this activity and the worksheet.
  • Ask some reflection questions: "Why is listening important to us? Why is listening important when we are with others, such as in a community or class? What can happen if we don’t listen to others? How can it impact others, and the community, if we don't listen? How can nonviolent communication support our community?"

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