A Puzzling Tale: The Bother with Building

story by Cheryl Bullow , illustrated by Niña Nill

Learning intention

I am learning to participate in group discussion, using listening strategies such as repeating back key points so that I can develop my skills of being an active group member.

Success criteria

  • I can identify good and bad listening techniques.
  • I can reflect on why it is important to listen during discussions.
  • I can develop criteria for listening strategies.
  • I can use these when discussing a topic with a group.

Before reading A Puzzling Tale: The Brother with Building, inform students that you will be examining approaches to the skill of listening. Tell students they will be aiming to identify what to do and not do when working with others. Display the following script and invite two students to read the script aloud to the rest of the class.


Sandy: I’m unsure whether to sign up for gymnastics or not.

Zayd: Can you pass my ball?

Sandy: Sure, so on the one hand…

Zayd: Not that ball, the basketball.

Sandy: Oh, OK, sure. So, I like gymnastics usually, it’s just that this class is on a Monday, and I usually do my homework on Mondays.

Zayd: Have you seen me bounce my ball? I’ve been practising…

Sandy: Oh, yes, you’re getting so good. So, I was thinking…

Zayd: Watch, watch now! Check out this hoop!

Sandy: Oh right, well done. What shall I do about gymnastics?

Zayd: What? Since when did you mention anything about gymnastics? What’s going on?

Discuss the following:

  • What did Zayd that showed he wasn’t listening to Sandy? (He interrupted her, he didn’t respond to her questions, he hadn’t realised Sandy was talking about gymnastics at all)
  • How do you think this made Sandy feel? (Hurt, unheard)
  • What did Sandy do that showed she was listening? (She responded to what Zayd said)
  • What advice would you give to Zayd? (Listen to what the other person is saying, try to avoid interrupting)
  • Why is it important to listen to the ideas of others? (Because everyone has something to contribute to class discussions)

Introduce students to active listening. Tell them that active listening allows people to feel that their ideas are valued and that they are contributing to the group. Outline strategies such as:

  • Eye contact
  • Nodding
  • Repeating back what the other person said

More on listening strategies appropriate for Stage 3 can be found on the page Interacting Description from the National Literacy Learning Progression.

Inform students that they will be compiling a list of good listening skills. Use the observations made from the role-play to compile a class list of good listening skills. For example:

  • Stop what you are doing and pay attention to what the other person is saying
  • Listen without interrupting
  • Repeat back what the other person says to check you have understood
  • Ask clarifying questions where necessary.

Read A Puzzling Tale: The Brother with Building. Discuss the problem Yuki encounters (she needs to move her building materials to the island, but she doesn’t have a boat). Tell students that they will be discussing in groups possible solutions to Yuki’s problem. Inform students that they should ensure they listen to the ideas of every member of their group before discussing the merits of each idea. Tell students that once they decide on an idea, they should prepare a brief presentation about how they think Yuki should solve the problem. Display the following list of elements that students should include in their presentations:

  • A summary of the ideas their group shared
  • Which ideas they discounted and why
  • The idea they have selected and their reasons for this
  • Which of the listening strategies they used
  • Any that they found challenging
  • How the listening strategies assisted with their group discussion.

Inform students that they should use the list of listening strategies when working with their group. Allow time for students to discuss their ideas before sharing their presentations.

Assessment of learning:

Instruct students to complete the following sentence stems as part of a self-reflection:

With my group we used the following listening strategies________

These assisted with group work because_________

In future, when working in groups I will_________

Effective Feedback from the NSW Department of Education has more information on the types of feedback.