Part 4 in Communicating with Compassion Series
In this Communicating with Compassion series, I’ve been presenting ideas to help students with emotional and behavioral challenges to become better at expressing their internal states with an expanded emotional vocabulary. If you read my first post: Working with students classified as emotionally disturbed: What’s our role?, I shared my concerns for the ongoing epidemic of violence in our schools, and how speech-language pathologists should take an active part in treatment of this challenging population.
We’ve come to the second communication area critical to helping students become more compassionate communicators: listening with compassion.
This post will focus on an activity for older students; my next post will feature ideas for younger students.
When working with older students, most have spent a lot of time working on attention and active listening skills. To develop more compassionate communication, we need to take active listening a step further. Compassionate listening includes perspective taking and trying to understand how another person feels.
I’ve often told my students that you can find the most amazing stories from people; all you have to do is ask them about their lives and then listen. And that’s the point of compassionate listening: Just think what would happen if we stopped and really listened: I impress upon my students that we’re not that much different from each other, and we might see a little bit of ourselves in others. When we take the time to really listen, we see that kindness, courage and generosity are all around us, and we know that every voice matters.
This was the inspiration for this Interview Project I did with my teens. I challenged students to conduct an interview or “have a conversation” with someone in school they don’t know very well. Students started by thinking about the person they wanted to interview. What questions could they ask? What did they already know about that person? How would the person feel when the question was asked?
Many of my students are camera shy, so rather than videotaping the interview, we recorded the audio and created an animation. Again, bringing in technology created motivation and interest. To create the animations we used GoAnimate which has a fee of about $80/year. There are other free options such as PowToon.
Here’s a 3 minute video sample of the work of two high school students, Joe & Robert. These two boys were not friends prior to the interview. What you will hear is Joe talking about his seizure disorder and the countless hospitalizations he has endured. You’ll also note Robert’s active listening skills as he asks questions and make comments. But in his comments you’ll hear the shift to compassionate listening as Robert connects with Joe’s emotions and gains an understanding of his classmates difficulties.
A follow up to this story is that Joe was recently hospitalized following another seizure. These boys do not live in the same town, but Robert went out of his way to visit Joe in the hospital.
If you are interested, I have a resource targeting Active Listening skills in older student in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that has gotten great reviews! You can check it out here: Active Listening.
And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to be notified of my next post in this series — Activities to Build Listening Skills/Younger Students: Part 5 #Communicating with Compassion. Please click here if you missed Part 3: Activities to Build Emotional Vocabulary/Younger Students.
How do you target emotional vocabulary skills in older students? Please share your ideas!