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  • Establish a simple behaviour management technique that can be initiated with the key words ‘Whole Body Listening’.
  • Teach students how to listen to maximise learning.
  • Establish foundation skills required to identify and encode facial expressions and body language.
  • Teach students how to listen so that others can ‘see’ that they are listening. This is a fundamental social skill that improves relationships.

Materials Needed:

  • White board and white board markers
  • Poster paper and coloured markers for each group
  • Ribbon and Flips Construction Sheet 1 (1 per student) (OPTIONAL) (Access from PDF Button on website if using)
  • Whole Body Listening Poster (displayed at the completion of the session and not prior)


Review and Reflect “Last week we wrote up a list of all the things we wanted to focus on. Today, I’m going to teach you something that’s related to most of the things on that list. It can instantly improve your relationships and friendships with others. It’s called Whole Body Listening.”

Draw an outline of a person (a body-map) and ask the class “How do you listen?” Draw the body part that a student has suggested onto the body map. It’s very likely that the first comment offered will be “Ears!” To that you can reply, “That’s right, you listen with your ears. But how do you listen with your ears?” After some thought, someone might say something about the sound waves travelling through your ears. Write their comment on the board, near the ear that was drawn. “Great start, but there are more. You actually listen with your whole body”.

Ask students to form groups. Each group will draw a body-map and figure out the answers to the question “How do you listen?” The sample dialogue below may be useful if the small groups are supported by a facilitator.

Sample Group Work Dialogue

Facilitator (F): ‘How do you listen?’

Student (S): ‘You listen with your mouth’

Facilitator invites the student to draw a mouth on the body-map

(F): ‘How do you listen with your mouth?’

(S): ‘By not talking when the other person is talking’ (student writes response on the body-map)

(F): ‘How else do you listen?’

(S): ‘You listen with your eyes’ (student is invited to draw eyes on the body-map)

(F): ‘How do you listen with your eyes?’ …..

After 15 minutes, re-group, display the posters in a row and discuss. Note that all of the posters look similar. Reinforce the easy way to remember all of the body parts involved in Whole Body Listening. That is, that you can start from your head and move down to your feet. This is a top down approach.

Primary Facilitator: Using your hands as a visual aid and consistent language, explain that:

You listen with your brain to think about what a person is saying.

You listen with your ears to hear what the person is saying.

You listen with your eyes so that you can see how the person is speaking.

You listen with your mouth by not talking when someone else is talking.

You listen with your head and shoulders by pointing them towards the

person that is speaking.

You listen with your heart by noticing how the person might be feeling.

You listen with your arms and hands by keeping them still.

You listen with your legs and feet by keeping them still.


Ask to see Whole Body Listening. Comment on how it actually looks different. You can actually tell when people are whole body listening.

“Why do you think it is important to whole body listen in friendship?” Discuss.

“Whole Body Listening is so important and powerful that it’s actually the easiest way in the world to improve your friendships, relationships and it boosts your learning power too.”

“Boost learning power? Science has proven that the ears and eyes are designed to work together. If you Whole Body Listen during lessons, your brain will have the best chance of taking in and remembering new information. Try it for yourself and see.”

End Message

“During the week, try Whole Body Listening when you are with your friends, when you’re talking to teachers and to family. For example, when mum is talking to you about something like chores, or anything really, Whole Body Listen and see how it goes. Don’t tell people you’re doing it. Just try it for a while and see what happens. Next week we can talk about your experience.”

Throughout the course of the program (and ideally across every day and every lesson) use the cue words ‘Whole Body Listening’ to encourage this pro-social behaviour. Display the Whole Body Listening Poster in the classroom.

Optional: Consider teaching the students how to play ‘The Crazy Nose Game’ as described within the ‘Resilience Building Group Games’ section of this manual.

Optional: Students can take out their Ribbon and Flips Construction Sheet 1 and draw a mini poster for the Whole Body Listening Flip.

* Whole Body Listening has been extended from the model presented by Winner (2003).



  • Consolidate ‘Whole Body Listening’ through practice, modelling and reinforcement.
  • Explore and understand the importance of Whole Body Listening.
  • Realise that our behaviour can impact others and be interpreted by others in different ways.
  • Begin to make appropriate inferences about what others might be thinking and feeling

Materials Needed:

  • Who’s Not Listening with What? Card Pack
  • Detective Record Sheet (one for each student) (Access from PDF Button on website)
  • All students will need a pencil and something to lean on
  • Four chairs positioned in a semi-circle at the front of the room, facing the class and a clear space in front of the chairs for another body to sit on the floor, facing the chairs (that students’ back will be facing the rest of the class)


Review and Reflect While students are sitting on the floor in front of you, point out the students that are whole body listening. For example “Sarah, that’s beautiful whole body listening” etc. If needed add “That means that your eyes are looking at me. Your head and shoulders are pointing at me…” Note: Always use the top down approach.

You might even challenge the group. “Does anyone think they can remember all the parts of Whole Body Listening, from the top down, without looking at the poster?”

“Last week I asked you to try Whole Body Listening with your teachers, family and friends. Did anyone discover anything interesting by doing that?” Discuss.

“Now it’s time for some drama with a game called ‘Who’s Not Listening With What?”

Who’s Not Listening With What?

Arrange four chairs at the front of the room, in a semi-circle, facing the class. These chairs are for four ‘listeners’. Now clear a space in front of those chairs for a ‘speaker’ (the speaker can sit on the floor facing the four listeners).

Ask for volunteers, selecting 5 excellent whole body listeners to join you. The ‘speaker’ will receive a cue card telling them what to talk about. The ‘listeners’ will receive a cue card telling them what not to listen with. For example, ‘listen with everything except your mouth’. That student would need to look at the speaker, point their head and shoulders towards the speaker, keep their hands and feet still, but talk while the ‘speaker’ is also talking. The audience are the detectives. They need to observe the body language and faces of each ‘Listening’ actor and record who they think is ‘not doing what!’

When handing out cue cards, be strategic. Start with simple cue cards and introduce the difficult cue cards if the students request (or seem capable of) a harder challenge. Difficult cards that are near impossible to correctly guess include ‘listen with everything except your heart’ and ‘listen with everything except your ears’. These cue cards are open to the actors’ interpretation. There are no right or wrong interpretations, only interesting discussions.

Say ‘ACTION’ to begin the drama. At the end of each performance, say ‘FREEZE’. Each performance should run long enough so that the audience can record who’s not doing what. Now ask the audience “who was not doing what?” and discuss. You may also consider asking the actors how they felt in each of their roles. The Listeners might report difficulties concentrating on the speaker etc. The Speaker might report feeling disrespected, annoyed etc. The detectives might also comment on the ease or difficulty guessing who was not doing what, and they might discuss strategies that they used to help them figure it out. This may lead to further discussion about particular facial movements and expressions.

This activity provides the audience and the actors with an engaging means of practicing and refining their Whole Body Listening skills, and developing their observational and encoding skills (as referenced in the S.I.P model).

End Message: Remember, people can see when you are whole body listening, and they can see when you are not. A simple way to help your friendships so that your friends feel heard and valued is to whole body listen. FYI: It’s also an easy way to show your teacher that you’re actually tuned in with your eyes and ears, giving yourself the best possible chance of learning and remembering. It will maximize your learning capability without actually working any harder.

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