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Mystery of the Senses—Hearing

Classroom Activity

To experiment with what people hear when conversations are taking place simultaneously.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Voices in the Crowd" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  1. As seen in this episode, animals are attuned to sounds that signal safety or danger. Similarly, humans will focus on familiar voices and language over other sounds. For example, a person will almost always hear her own name above other noise.

  2. Organize students into groups of four, and assign three to read and one to listen. Copy and distribute the "Voices in the Crowd" student handout to each group. When the readings are finished and students have documented their answers, compare the results from each group. Ask the listeners as well as the students who weren't listeners why they think listeners heard specific texts.

Activity Answer

The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate that although people can focus most of their attention on a single speaker, some of the words or phrases from other conversations may distract their attention. In particular, familiar words will often distract a listener to another conversation. For example, listeners may hear favorite food items from the menu being read. Other students may hear the newspaper article because they are familiar with the Florida Everglades or environmental issues. Other students may hear "The Lion and the Mouse" because they have heard the fable before this activity. Listeners will probably find that looking at the speaker helps them focus their attention. Readers may find that they are distracted when they pause between sentences, or that they accidentally repeat words from the other readings.

Teacher's Guide
Mystery of the Senses—Hearing

Video is not required for this activity