Back to Back Listening is one of my favourite “in development” Liberating Structures. It’s not part of the original set of 33 but it’s an activity that really works – both in person and virtually. You’ll find the write-up of Back to Back Listening on the in development page of the Liberating Structures website, but the steps there are written for in person facilitation. I’ve modified the instructions and steps to be able to facilitate this activity virtually in meetings and learning events and I include them here for you.

To prepare to lead this activity, choose a meaningful song that is approximately 2-3 minutes long. One I have used several times is Comptine d’un autre été, l’après-midi from the soundtrack to the movie Amélie.

Insert these steps (written for Zoom particularly) into your lesson plan [link to template]:

1. Explain the activity to the group. Invite everyone to turn off their video and remove all distractions as much as possible. Ask them to keep audio on so they can hear. Tell everyone, “As the music plays, pay attention to your experience of it. What do you notice about it? Feel free to close your eyes, it may help you drop into the music.” Post a brief version of these instructions in the chat.

2. Play the song or show the video, muting your own audio and turning off video as the facilitator. (Hint for sharing audio in Zoom: Share Screen and choose to share computer audio only via the Advanced tab)

3. When the music concludes, create breakout rooms for a random selection of pairs. Before you open the rooms, post instructions in the chat similar to this: “Describe your experience of the music to each other. What did you hear? What did you experience?”

4. Give the pairs 4 minutes to discuss in their breakout rooms. Send a broadcast message halfway through this time if you want to remind them to switch to the other person. Close the rooms.

5. When pairs are back in the main room, let everyone know that you are going to play the same piece of music again. Invite them to, this time, listen to it based on their partner’s description of their experience. Ask them to listen to the song as if through their partner’s ears.

6. When the music concludes, let the group know that you’re going to put them back into the same breakout room pairing. Post these instructions in the chat before you Open All Rooms: “Debrief in pairs. What was the experience like the second time through? What happened?” Give them another 4 minutes.

7. Bring the pairs back from breakout rooms and debrief. What did they notice? Make connections between people’s thoughts and actions and your purpose for including this structure in your session.

Variation: You could show a video instead of a song. Maybe a performance art piece or something equally thought provoking?

Have you facilitated Back to Back Listening? Any other tips to share or steps I missed? I’d love to hear.

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