Active listening is crucial in Academic Controversy. Briefly introduce the topic to students by asking them to identify the characteristics of active listening. Then, with a volunteer, demonstrate poor listening (looking away, interrupting, changing the subject) and then good, active listening, modeling the skills described on Student Handout A. (PDF)
Ask students to tell you what they noticed. Lead them to be specific, e.g., “You were doodling” or “You were looking away.” Chart their responses in two lists, one for active listening and one for poor listening.
“I” messages are a key part of respectful, assertive speaking that allow us to express negative feelings without attacking or blaming. They help to facilitate constructive dialogue and problem-solving.
Here is an example of the difference between a “you” message and an “I” message:
* “You” message:
“You selfish jerk! You think the TV belongs to you. Well, it’s my turn now.”
* “I” message:
“I feel annoyed when you switch the channel without asking. I want to be able to watch my show.”
In Academic Controversy, “I” messages can help participants disagree respectfully:
* “You” message:
“That is just totally untrue and you are wrong.”
* “I” messages:
“I don’t agree with that because . . .”, “To me the evidence says . . .”, “My view is . . .”
Give each student a copy of Student Handout B. Read the handout with students, making sure they understand how an “I” message removes attacking language. Then, allow them to practice “I” messages, using scenarios such as the ones presented in Role-playing below.
Have students pair off and take turns talking and listening about a non-threatening topic: “A Place I Love to Go,” or “Something I Learned To Do.” While one person speaks, the other should listen actively. Give each person a minute or less to speak. When both members have had a chance to speak, ask students to discuss the exercise.
Have students practice constructing “I” messages in response to the following situations. For further practice, have them think of other situations and then respond with “I” messages.
* Byron’s brother Sam borrowed Byron’s favorite shirt without asking. What could Byron say to Sam using an “I” message?
* Carla saw Heather with her arm around Carla’s boyfriend Greg. What could Carla say to Heather using an “I” message? To Greg?
* Jessica heard that Anna is spreading a rumor that Jessica was one of the kids who trashed Todd’s locker. What could Jessica say to Anna using an “I” message?
* Will wants to copy Mike’s homework. Mike wants to say no, even though he let Will copy once before. What can Mike say to Will using an “I” message?
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