Verbal Communication

Objectives

  • To improve verbal communication skills

Materials

ISLAND PARADISE?

  • Clay
  • Paper
  • Pens

WIDGET ASSEMBLY

  • A large roll of craft/butcher paper
  • An additional empty roll
  • Tape
  • Large collection of assorted LEGOs
  • Blocks
  • Small containers
  • A medium-sized table
  • Partitions (optional)

NEWSPAPER DOG

  • Stack of newspaper
  • Masking tape

WACKY SPEECH

  • Index cards or paper (1 per participant)
  • Pens

GROUP SCULPTURES

  • None

Prepare Before

Varies by activity.


Experience

Choose 1 (or more!) of the following activities:

 

ISLAND PARADISE?* (1-2 HOURS)

*Requires at least 16 people

Divide into groups of about eight, creating at least two but preferably three or more groups. Give each group a football size lump of potter clay with the task of creating an island that all would inhabit. Proceed through the exercise as follows:

The first part of the exercise will be done silently. In this portion, each member of the group will silently construct their idea of the island on paper, complete with geographical features and shelter for themselves. Allow about 10 minutes.

Have the group members talk amongst themselves and determine a concept for a community island. Elements to discuss include how their island will operate, such as health care, education, commerce, defense, food production, transportation, and governing structure. Though all of these cannot be modeled in clay, discussion can still occur and be facilitated by advisors. Allow about 40 minutes.

Once group islands have been established, then inform the groups that other islands exist (the other groups) and that if they want, they can interact with them. The groups have to figure out how interactions will occur – attack, commerce, trade rules? Allow about 20 minutes.

Debrief: Facilitate an assessment of the activity and issues that arose. Allow up to 20 minutes or as much time as is available or needed. Topics to direct conversation include:

  • Leadership – did someone take charge in each group?
  • Decision making – did any systematic decision-making process occur? Was it effective?
  • Communication – what methods were used within groups and between groups?
  • Planning – what was good planning and what was not?
  • Morality and Integrity – did these issues arise? If so, how and what was the outcome?
  • Culture – did islands create their own culture? If so, what was it? When allowed to interact with other islands, did an island’s original culture change? If so, how?

 

WIDGET ASSEMBLY (1 HOUR)

The goal of this activity is to appreciate the challenges of articulating one’s vision and goals to others. A widget assembly line is used to convey this idea. Before the group arrives, set up the roll of craft paper on one end of a medium sized table and affix the end of the paper to the empty roll on the other end. Affix in such a way that the paper can be rolled from the full roll to the empty one. This will become the assembly line.

Divide into groups of five to seven people. Prior to briefing the group on the activity, have one person designated as the leader or manager. This person will receive the actual briefing from the facilitator regarding the specifics of the activity and what widget the assembly line must make. This is the only person who is aware of the entire scope of the task. Ideally, he or she does not see the layout of the assembly line, but does receive an explicit schematic and a list of the component LEGOs and blocks available. This individual is provided with a sample of the widget to make and must organize the group and convey to them what needs to be accomplished. A box at the end of the assembly line and a partition would be useful so that the leader/manager can see only the end product and make adjustments from there. They cannot go onto the assembly line and show the rest of the group how they want the final product to look; they can only affect change verbally. Once the leader/manager has given instructions to the group, the facilitator will turn on the assembly line by beginning to roll the paper from the full roll to the empty roll.

The widgets need to be complicated, and details of organization and sequencing should be left to whomever is designated as the leader/manager. A number of aspects will need to be considered, which can drive discussion at the end of the activity. Given the final product, the manager must decide how it should be constructed on the assembly line and inform the builders what components are needed, along with other organization issues. Have multiple widgets available for construction so that all members in the group have an opportunity to be the leader/manager. Time the task to see how long it takes the group to successfully complete a widget or to make a specified number of correct widgets.

Depending on site capabilities, another way of doing this activity is to have the assembly line and builders in one room and the leader/manager able to view the proceeding through a window. Based on observation, the manager can then relay messages to the group on how to fix any issues. This may be an easier task for the group to start with and then proceed to the format where the leader/manager is completely blind to the assembly line. This can depict the evolution of trust and confidence that the leader/manager has in the group as they begin to understand his/her way of conveying information.

Many adaptations and extensions are possible with this activity, so be creative as the group begins to master the basics of working together and effectively conveying their widget vision.

Debrief: Ensure that time is left at the end so the group can discuss what worked and what didn’t regarding how the leader/manager conveyed information. Also have them reflect on whether the task became easier after several iterations and why this may or may not be so.

 

NEWSPAPER DOG (10 MINUTES)

Break participants into groups of five, and give each group a stack of newspaper and a roll of masking tape. Each group must create a dog out of the newspaper and tape in five minutes. Afterwards, ask each group:

  • What was your group dynamic like?
  • Was there a dominant leadership style within the group?
  • What are your strengths as a group?
  • What does each of you bring or contribute to the group?

 

WACKY SPEECH (20 MINUTES)

In a circle, have each participant write down something they expect from adults, then pass their paper or index card to the person on their left. Below what is already written on the paper they have received, have participants write their favorite animal or song, and again, pass the paper to the left. Next, have participants write what they would wish for if they had one wish. Pass the paper one more time. Now each participant should have a piece of paper with three things on it. One at a time, have participants create an argument or “case” from the statements on their card or paper. The argument must meet two criteria: It must be expressed with real concern or passion, and it must ask for the group to do or think about something specific that includes all three items. Encourage participants to be as creative and silly as possible. Their argument does not need to make sense!

 

GROUP SCULPTURES (15 MINUTES)

Have participants walk freely in the center of the room until the facilitator says stop. Participants must quickly make groups of three or four. Each small group then has three minutes to select an object and devise a plan to create the object using the bodies of all group members. For example: Participants can make a telephone by having two people on their knees with their hands out as the numbers, another person as the receiver; the final member can “make a call.” Each group has a chance to show their object to the other teams, and everyone tries to guess what they are. Repeat the process for two or three rounds as time allows. Alternatives: Participants stay in the same group while the facilitator names specific categories (e.g., common household items, appliances, something you would find at an amusement park, a type of food).

Debrief: What were the different approaches taken by different groups to decide which object to create? How did you decide what role each group member would take? Did the decision-making process change from round to round?