Active Listening Games & Exercises for Elementary Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

What is active listening, how do students do it, and why? This lesson answers these questions and provides ways for you to increase active listening in your classroom using fun games and exercises to reach all students.

Active Listening Explained

Most students have heard the question, 'Are you listening?', at least once or twice in their lives. They can explain what listening is and tell whether they're actually doing it. But what is active listening, and why is it important?

Active listening takes the basic skill of hearing someone and knocks it up a notch. When we're actively listening, we're responding to the other person, acknowledging that we heard them, and giving verbal and nonverbal cues that we understand what they're saying. This is an important skill for students to learn, helping them not only communicate with and learn from their classmates and teachers but to build a life-long skill they'll use often.

The following games and activities allow students to practice and reinforce active listening skills in fun and engaging ways. Use one game or activity a day after your core lesson on active listening and watching your students' skills improve.

My Favorite Toss

Setting: Whole class to start; may break into smaller groups


  • Small, soft ball


  • Gather students together and review active listening material.
  • Explain to students that they will be practicing repeating what the speaker said by playing a tossing game.
  • Ask all students to think of a favorite thing, such as a food, color, or activity.
  • Have students stand in a circle and start by stating your favorite, we'll say 'pizza'.
  • Toss the ball to a student, who then repeats your favorite and states their own. 'Mr. Smith's favorite food is pizza, and my favorite food is ice cream.'
  • This second player now tosses to a third, who must state the first two players' favorite foods and then state their own.
  • See how long you can get the chain going as a challenge.

Extensions and Adaptations

  • Break students into small groups to play this game with longer sentences.
  • Connect to literature or other topics. For example, what are students' reactions to a character's choice in a story?

Body-Language Heads-Up

Setting: Whole class to small groups


  • Different body language movements written on index cards; one set for each small group


  • Play this game as a class, then break out into smaller sessions.
  • Choose two students to go first and have them come to the front of the room.
  • Give one student the set of body-language cards and set the timer for one minute.
  • The student with the cards holds one card at a time to their forehead as the other student models the action, such as folding arms and nodding.
  • The student holding the cards tries to guess what the other student's movements mean. For example, the 'folding arms' card means 'I don't want to listen to you.'
  • You'll need to okay the guesses as they will be different from the language on the actual card. Indicate by saying 'Correct!'

Extensions and Adaptations

  • Once students are fluent with the body language/meaning cards, play the game by writing cards with the meaning instead of the body movement and have students infer and act these out.

Spot the Snafu

Setting: Whole class/small groups


  • Situation cards, written on index cards; one for each small group

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