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Human Rights Education and Compass, a Brief Guide for Practioners > How to use COMPASS

How to use COMPASS

There are many different ways of teaching and learning about human rights. How you approach the topic will depend on whether you are working in the formal or non-formal sector, the political, social and economic conditions of your country, the ages of the young people, and also their interests and motivation to learn about human rights. It will also certainly depend on your experience with human rights issues, on your own attitude and relation with the target groups and on your "learning style".

You may be a youth worker, a trainer, schoolteacher or adult education tutor, a workshop facilitator or a member of a church discussion group, or a young person who cares about human rights. Whoever you are and wherever you are working, we trust there will be something for you in this manual. We make no assumptions about teaching or training skills or about prior knowledge of human rights.

In this section we explain what we mean by participation and co-operative and experiential learning and why we use these educational approaches. We indicate how you might use the activities in formal and informal settings and try to give some answers to commonly asked questions. In the section of tips for facilitators we describe how the activities are presented and how to choose one. There are notes on discussions and group work, and on facilitating activities including debriefing and evaluation.

COMPASS should be seen as a flexible resource. Promoting human rights is an on-going and creative process, of which you - as a user of this book - are an integral part. We hope you will take the ideas that we have presented and use and develop them to meet your own needs and those of the young people you work with. We hope you will also review what you have learned and give us feedback on your experiences, which we can incorporate into the next edition of this manual. There is a feedback form.

How to work with the manual

We strongly suggest you begin by looking briefly through the whole manual to gain an overall picture of the contents. There is no special starting point; we intend that you should pick and choose the parts that are relevant for you.

In chapter 2 you will find 49 activities at different levels for exploring global themes and human rights. These are the tools for your work with young people. Chapter 5 contains supporting material. There is background information on the global issues, definitions of human rights and information about their evolution. In addition, there are summaries of the main declarations and conventions on human rights, references and lists of further resources.

There should be enough material to enable you to begin work on HRE with young people. It is important to remember that you do not have to be an "expert" in human rights to start; having an interest in human rights is a sufficient qualification. Neither do you have to be a qualified teacher or trainer. However, you do need to understand our educational approach in order to get the most out of the activities.

The educational approaches

It's not just what you do, but the way that you do it. That's what gets results.

Before you work with the activities it is important to understand the educational approaches we have used. Human rights education is about education for change, both personal and social. It is about developing young people's competence to be active citizens who participate in their communities to promote and protect human rights. Our focus is the educational process of developing knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. In this process we:

  • start from what people already know, their opinions and experiences and from this base enable them to search for, and discover together, new ideas and experiences.
  • encourage the participation of young people to contribute to discussions and to learn from each other as much as possible.
  • encourage people to translate their learning into simple but effective actions that demonstrate their rejection of injustice, inequality and violations of human rights.

The knowledge, skills and attitudes of someone who is literate in human rights are described here. These competencies, especially the skills and values of communication, critical thinking, advocacy, tolerance and respect cannot be taught; they have to be learned through experience. This is why the activities in this book promote co-operation, participation and learning through experience. We aim to encourage young people to think, feel and act; to engage their heads, hearts and hands. Knowing about human rights is important, but not enough. It is necessary that young people have a far deeper understanding about how human rights evolve out of people's needs and why they have to be protected. For instance, young people with no direct experience of racial discrimination may think that the issue is of no concern to them. From a human rights perspective this position is not acceptable; people everywhere have a responsibility to protect the human rights of others.

It does not matter whether you are discussing the right to life or freedom of expression; human rights are about democratic values, respect and tolerance. These are skills and attitudes which can only be learned effectively in an environment - and through a process - that promotes these values. This needs to be emphasised.

Co-operative learning

Co-operation is working together to accomplish shared goals. In co-operative learning people work together to seek outcomes that are beneficial both to themselves and to all members of the group.

Co-operative learning promotes higher achievement and greater productivity; more caring, supportive, and committed relationships; and greater psychological health, social competence, and self-esteem. This is in contrast to what happens when learning is structured in a competitive way. Competitive learning promotes self-interest, disrespect for others and arrogance in the winners who work against others to achieve a goal that only one or a few can attain, while the losers often become demotivated and lose self-respect.

The essential components of co-operation are positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, individual and group accountability and interpersonal skills. The most effective way of promoting co-operative learning is through structured group work.


Participation in HRE means that young people make the decisions about what and how they are going to learn about human rights. Through participation young people develop various competencies

including those of decision-making, listening, empathy with and respect for others, and taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions. The teacher's or trainer's role is that of a facilitator, that is to "help" or "facilitate" young people's participation in the learning process. In schools there may be timetabling and curriculum constraints that determine how nearly the ideal of participation can be achieved, and the activities will need to be adapted accordingly.

The activities in this manual demand participation. You have to be active and engaged; you cannot sit back and be a passive observer. In this respect the methodology used in this manual owes much to the work of Augusto Boal and other pioneers in non-formal awareness raising.

Possibly the single, most important task in human rights education is to find the spaces in which young people can become active participants and influence the form and outcome of the activities. By definition, human rights education cannot be imposed; it is really up to each facilitator, educator, teacher, trainer or leader to find the moment to create the spaces and opportunities for participation.

Experiential learning

Human rights education in common with, for example, education for development, peace education and education for citizenship uses a methodology of experiential learning based on a learning cycle with five phases:
Phase 1

(activity, "doing")
Phase 5
Applying (using what they have learnt, changing old behaviours
Phase 2
Reporting (sharing reactions and observations about what happened)
Phase 4
Generalising (discussing patterns and how what people have learnt relates to the "real world")
Phase 3
Reflecting (discussing patterns and dynamics in order to gain insights into the experience)

In phase 5 people explore practical actions that might address the issue in question. It is crucial that people find real opportunities for involvement. This is not only a logical outcome of the learning process but a significant means of reinforcing new knowledge, skills and attitudes which form the basis for the next round of the cycle.

Activities as tools for experiential learning

When you use the activities in the book you should bear the above learning cycle in mind.

The activities demand participation and involvement so that the people doing them gain an experience through which they learn not only with their heads but also with their hearts and hands. These sorts of activities are sometimes called "games" because they are fun and people play them with enthusiasm. You should remember, however, that the activities or games are not "just for fun", but they are purposeful means to achieve educational aims.

You don't just "do" an activity (phase 1 of the learning cycle). It is essential to follow through with debriefing and evaluation to enable people to reflect on what happened (phase 2), to evaluate their experience (phases 3 & 4) and to go on to decide what to do next (phase 5). In this way they come round to phase 1 of the next cycle in the learning process.

In a school setting, activities can help break down artificial barriers between subjects and provide ways of extending links between subject and interest areas to promote a more holistic approach to an issue. In a non-formal educational setting, activities can awaken interest in issues and, because they promote learning in a non-didactic way, they are often intrinsically more acceptable to young people.

Activities help people to:

  • be motivated to learn because they are fun
  • develop their knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. Games provide a safe environment in which to do this because they allow people to experiment with new behaviour and to make errors without incurring the costs of similar mistakes in real life.
  • change. Activities are one way of conveying the message that everyone can choose to change themselves or their relationships with others.
  • get involved. Activities encourage the participation of the less expressive and less dominant group members.
  • take responsibility. Because participants contribute their own experiences and skills, each group uses the game at its own level and in its own way.
  • encourage self-reliance and improve self-confidence. Activities provide a structure that can be used to reduce dependency on the leader as the one who 'knows it all'. The participants are forced to accept some responsibility for making their part of the activities work.
  • feel solidarity with others. Activities encourage cohesiveness in the group and a sense of group identity and solidarity.

Activities offer a framework and structure to group experiences which will allow you to work within the limits of your own and the young peoples' experience and competencies. When carefully facilitated, activities are an effective method of learning within a task-orientated setting.


In this manual we use the word "facilitators" for the people who prepare, present and co-ordinate the activities. A facilitator is someone who helps people discover how much knowledge they already have, who encourages them to learn more and helps them explore their own potential. Facilitation means creating an environment in which people learn, experiment, explore and grow. It is a process of sharing, of giving and taking. It is not a question of one person, who is "an expert", giving knowledge and skills to others. Everyone must grow through the sharing experience, participants and facilitators alike.

Opportunities to be a facilitator for young people and to work in an atmosphere of equality and mutuality differ across Europe, both between countries and within them. In the formal education sector we find differences in the aims and philosophy of education, techniques of classroom management and curricula. It is not common for pupils and students to decide what they want to learn within the framework of a broad curriculum nor for teachers to have a facilitating role, although there are exceptions. In the non-formal sector there are equally large variations not only in the aims and philosophies of the different organisations but also in the activities and opportunities they offer. These differences are evident both between countries and also within countries.

We all work within the educational and social norms of our own societies. It is easy to overlook or forget the fact of our own ethnocentrism and, as a result, to take the way we interact with young people for granted and normal. You may find it helpful to reflect on your own style and practice in order to develop your facilitation skills.

Thinking, learning and teaching/training styles

We are all individuals and think and learn in different ways. We all use a mixture of styles but each of has a preferred way of mentally representing the world around us (thinking style) and a preferred learning style. As facilitators we should be aware of this and use a variety of methodologies to excite the talents and interests of young people.

It must be stressed that the following are preferred styles; we all use all of the styles but each of us has a preferred style. For more information, see the references to David Kolb's work at the end of the chapter.

Which of the following is your preferred style?

Summary of thinking styles

  • Visual people tend to mentally represent the world in pictures. They may use phrases like "I see what you mean".
  • Auditory people tend to remember more of what they hear and may use phrases like "That sounds like an interesting idea".
  • Kinaesthetic people tend to remember things through feelings, both physical and emotional. They may use terms like "I love that idea, lets go for it".

Summary of learning styles

  • Activists learn best from activities where there are new experiences, problems and opportunities from which to learn. They can engross themselves in games, teamwork tasks and role-playing exercises. They enjoy the challenge of being thrown in at the deep end. Activists react against passive learning, solitary work such as reading, writing and thinking on their own, and against the demands of attention to detail.
  • Reflectors learn best when they are allowed to think over an activity. They enjoy carrying out detailed research, reviewing what has happened and what they have learned. They react against being forced into the limelight, being given insufficient data on which to base a conclusion and having to take short cuts or carry out a superficial job.
  • Theorists learn best from activities where what they are learning about is part of a system, model, concept or theory. They like being in structured situations with a clear purpose and dealing with interesting ideas and concepts. They do not necessarily always like having to participate in situations emphasising emotions and feelings.
  • Pragmatists learn best from activities where there is an obvious link between the subject matter and a real problem, and when they are able to implement what they have learned. They react against learning that seems distant from reality, learning that is "all theory and general principles", and the feeling that people are going round in circles without getting anywhere fast enough.

Teaching/training styles

Different people have different styles and approaches to teaching and taining.. Your approach as facilitator will depend on your own values, beliefs and assumptions, your personality, past experience of training and being trained, and how confident you feel both working with young people and handling human rights issues.
Theory X. Teachers/Trainers who think people:
are basically lazy & don't want to learn, are irresponsible
must be coerced
need discipline
need to be led
Theory Y. Teachers/Trainers who think people:
want to learn & will direct themselves
are creative
want to be consulted
want responsibility
trainer is in charge plans flexibly
talks at people
discipline/structure is imposed
trainees instructed, told by the expert
trainer gives answers to problems, others' views or solutions to problems are right or wrong

trainer seeks participation, plans inflexibly
trainer leads with consent
discipline/structure is by agreement
people responsible for their own learning
people encouraged to hold theiown views and to seek their own solutions to problems.

These are obviously two extremes of training style at either end of a continuum. It should be noted that it is the theory Y assumptions that are appropriate to HRE. The aims of HRE are to develop values of respect, equality, co-operation and democracy. These values can only be promoted through a process which is itself inherently based on these values.

Think back on your own experiences. What was it like to be taught by these two extreme types of teachers?

Using COMPASS in formal and non-formal education

The educational approach and the types of activities described in this manual may seem easier to apply in the non-formal sector than in the formal sector. The curriculum in the non-formal sector tends to be more open and focuses more on the personal and social development of young people. Also the starting point of the work is the interests of the young people. It allows for greater participation and flexibility and for young people to get involved with human rights issues in a practical way.

In a non-formal educational setting your starting point could be a question about something that is happening in your area or something that someone has seen on television. If you want to take the lead and stimulate people's interest in human rights, suggest showing a film or video. An excellent guide to useful films is "Europe on Screen: Cinema and the teaching of history" by Dominique Chancel (Council of Europe, January 2001). You can also put up posters or use pictures to stimulate spontaneous discussion, or have a music evening playing songs that call for people's freedom. You could then suggest going on to use one of the activities that explores general human rights, such as "Where do you stand?" or "Act it out".

The curriculum in the formal sector is often bounded by an agreed set of knowledge, which pupils and students have to acquire and be tested on. Personal and social development, while recognised as important, is not always the main focus in the way that acquiring knowledge as a preparation for future work or further study is. This does not preclude most of the activities in this manual being adapted to fit into any curriculum subject in different classroom settings in schools and colleges throughout Europe. In fact, many have been designed with a classroom setting in mind.

For further descriptions of involving young people in participatory activities, you can look at "Section 3" of DOmino and the educational approach outlined in the Education Pack.

Problem solving and conflict resolution as a basis for HRE

Human rights issues are often controversial because different people have different value systems and therefore see rights and responsibilities in different ways. These differences, which manifest themselves as conflicts of opinion, are the basis of our educational work.

Two important aims of HRE are first, to equip young people with the skills of appreciating - but not necessarily agreeing with - different points of view about an issue, and second, to help them develop skills of finding mutually agreeable solutions to problems.

This manual and its activities are based on an understanding that conflicts of opinion can be used constructively for the learning process, provided that the facilitator feels confident in addressing possible conflicts in a group. As in many non-formal educational activities, the purpose is not so much that everyone agrees with a given result but rather that the participants can also learn from that process (e.g. listening to each other, expressing themselves, respecting differences of opinion, etc.).

For example, the activity, "Play the Game" specifically works with developing conflict resolution skills.

Common questions about Human Rights Education

The following answers are short, but we hope they will answer some of the questions asked by people who are beginning to incorporate HRE into their work.

Don't young people need to learn about responsibility, rather than rights?

Answer: This manual places emphasis on both rights and responsibilities. The activities are designed to show that the relationship between an individual's rights and other people's rights is not always clear cut, and that everyone has a responsibility to respect the rights of others.

What if the participants ask a question I can't answer?

Answer: No one should expect anyone to know all the answers to everything! It is perfectly acceptable to say that you don't know some particular facts and then involve the participants in finding the answers. You should always consider reflecting the question back to the group by asking: what do you think about this?

It is also important for everyone to remember that the answers to questions on human rights are rarely simple. Complex moral questions cannot be answered with "yes" or "no". From the educational viewpoint, raising the question is as important as finding an answer. By introducing complex issues and allowing young people to think about them, we equip young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to deal with such questions later in life.

What do we do if we don't have a photocopier or enough materials?

Answer: Many of the activities in this manual are designed so that they don't need expensive materials or a photocopier. However, for some activities you may have to copy role cards or fact sheets for group work by hand and make multiple copies using carbon paper. You will have to be creative and find your own solutions.

Won't parents, school heads and community leaders oppose the teaching of human rights as political indoctrination which will incite rebellious behaviour?

Answer: Human rights education develops citizens who are able to participate in society and in the development of their country. It is important to distinguish between the development of participation competencies and party politics. Human rights education through discussion and participation encourages young people to develop critical and enquiring minds and to behave rationally. In this respect, human rights education is also related to civic and political education and it also allows young people to make the connections between human rights, social issues, education and policies. As a result, it may happen that young people do engage in local or national political parties - as a result of their right to political participation and freedom of thought, association and expression. But that should remain their own choice.

Isn't it the government's responsibility to ensure that people have the opportunity to learn about human rights?

Answer: Member countries of the United Nations have an obligation to promote human rights education in all forms of learning. That is in formal, non-formal and informal education. Despite this, many governments have done very little towards the promotion of human rights education and the incorporation of human rights in the curricula. Individual educators and non-governmental organisations can do a lot to encourage the development of human rights education through their own or collaborative efforts in schools and other educational programmes, and also by lobbying and putting pressure on their governments to fulfil their obligations in this regard.

What if there are no human rights violations in my country?

Human rights education is not only about violations. It is first of all about understanding human rights as a universal asset common to all human beings and about realising the need to protect them. In addition to this, no country can claim that there are no violations of rights. One easy way to address reality is to look at the immediate social environment or community. Who is excluded? Who lives in extreme poverty? Which children do not enjoy their rights? Another way is to look at the role of your own country in the violation or promotion of human rights in other countries (e.g. the environment and the right to development, the arms trade, global poverty, etc.).

Tips for users

This manual and its activities can be used at school in a classroom or in extra-curricular activities, in a training course or a seminar, at a summer camp or in a work camp or in a youth club or with a youth group. They can also be used even if you work mostly with adults.

How to choose an activity

You should choose an activity that is at the right level for you and your group and that will fit into the time you have. Read the activity through carefully at least twice and try to imagine how the group may react and some of the things they will say. Make sure you have all the materials you will need. Check that there will be enough space, especially if the participants will be breaking up for small-group work.

Again we emphasise that the instructions for each activity are only guidelines and you should use the material in the way that suits your own needs. Indeed, it is not possible to write activities that will exactly suit every situation across Europe. We expect you to adapt the activities. For example, you might take the basic idea from one activity and use a method from another.

Each activity is presented in a standard format. Icons and headings are used to make it easy to get an overview of the whole.

Key to symbols and headings used to present the activities

Level of complexity Levels 1-4 indicate the general level of competencies required to participate and/or the amount of preparation involved.
Themes The global themes that are addressed in the activity (e.g. poverty, environment, peace and violence, gender equality).
Overview Gives brief information about the type of activity and the issues addressed.
Related rights Rights addressed in the activity (e.g. the right to life or freedom of expression).
Group size How many people you need to do the activity.
Time The estimated time in minutes needed to complete the whole activity including the discussion. If the group size was "any", then the time is estimated for a group of 15 people.
Objectives The objectives relate to the learning objectives of HRE in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
Materials List of equipment needed to run the activity.
Preparation List of things the facilitator needs to do before starting.
Instructions List of instructions for how to run the activity.
Debriefing and Evaluation Suggested questions to help the facilitator conduct the debriefing evaluation and evaluate the activity (phase 2-4 of the learning cycle).
Tips for facilitators Guidance notes. Things to be aware of. Where to get extra information.
Variations Ideas for how to adapt the activity for use in a different situations.
Suggestions for follow-up Ideas for what to do next. Links to other activities.
Ideas for action Suggestions for the next steps to take action
Key dates Commemorative dates related to human rights.
Further information Extra background information relevant to the activity.
Handouts Role cards, action pages, background reading material, discussion cards, etc.


The activities are coded from level 1-4 to indicate the general level of competencies required to participate in experiential activities and the amount of preparation involved. In general, the two variables go together; level 1 activities need very little preparation while those at level 4 activities need much more.

Level 1. These are short, simple activities mostly useful as starters. Energisers and icebreakers fall into this category. Nonetheless, these activities are of value in the way that they make people interact and communicate with each other.

Level 2. These are simple activities designed to stimulate interest in an issue. They do not require prior knowledge of human rights issues or developed personal or group work skills. Many of the activities at this level are designed to help people develop communication and group work skills while at the same time stimulating their interest in human rights.

Level 3. These are longer activities designed to develop deeper understanding and insights into an issue. They demand higher levels of competency in discussion or group work skills.

Level 4. These activities are longer, require good group work and discussion skills, concentration and co-operation from the participants and also take longer preparation. They are also more embracing in that they provide a wider and deeper understanding of the issues.

The global links

The activities in the manual are designed to encourage exploration of human rights and the links between rights and several global themes. Thus three "themes" are indicated in the description of each activity. The sixteen global themes are:


1. General human rights

2. Children

3. Citizenship

4. Democracy

5. Discrimination and Xenophobia


7. Enviromnent

8. Gender equality

9. Globalisation

10. Health

11. Human security

12. Media

13. Peace and Violence

14. Poverty

15. Social Rights

16. Sport

Tips for facilitation

In the manual, we use the term facilitators to describe the role of the people (trainer, teachers, youth workers, peer educators, young volunteers - or whoever) who are co-ordinating the work and running the activities. This terminology helps to emphasise that HRE requires a democratic and participative approach.

"Section 8" of DOmino presents a range of generic activities - from SWOT Analysis to personal action and evaluation - which you might find useful in the planning of activities.

We assume that you are facilitating groups of young people, for example in a classroom, in a youth club, a training course a youth camp or at a seminar.

Group work

Group work happens when people work together, combine their different skills and talents and build on each other's strengths to complete a task. Group work:

  • encourages responsibility. When people feel they own what they are doing, they are usually committed to the outcome and take care to ensure a good result.
  • develops communication skills. People need to listen, to understand what others say, to be responsive to their ideas and to be able to put their own thoughts forward.
  • develops co-operation. People soon learn that when they are working towards a common goal they do better if they co-operate than if they compete with each other.
  • involves consensual decision-making skills. People quickly learn that the best way to make decisions is to look at all the information available and to try to find a solution that satisfies everybody. Someone who feels left out of the decision-making process may disrupt the group's work and not honour decisions which are made by the rest of the group.

Group work techniques

In Chapter 2 of the manual there are references to techniques such as "brainstorming" or "role-play". The following notes explain these terms and give some general guidelines about how to use them.

Note that successful group work must be task-orientated. There must be a clear question that needs answering or a clearly stated problem that requires solutions.


Brainstorming is a way to introduce a new subject, encourage creativity and to generate a lot of ideas very quickly. It can be used for solving a specific problem or answering a question.


  • Decide on the issue that you want to brainstorm and formulate it into a question that has many possible answers.
  • Write the question where everyone can see it.
  • Ask people to contribute their ideas and write down the ideas where everyone can see them, for instance, on a flipchart. These should be single words or short phrases.
  • Stop the brainstorming when ideas are running out and then
  • Go through the suggestions, asking for comments.

Note these points:

  • Write down EVERY new suggestion. Often, the most creative suggestions are the most useful and interesting!
  • No one should make any comments or judge what is written down until the end, or repeat ideas which have already been said.
  • Encourage everyone to contribute.
  • Only give your own ideas if it is necessary to encourage the group.
  • If a suggestion is unclear, ask for clarification.

Wall writing

This is a form of brainstorming. Participants write their ideas on small pieces of paper (e.g. "Post-its") and paste them on a wall. The advantages of this method are that people can sit and think quietly for themselves before they are influenced by the others' ideas, and the pieces of paper can be repositioned to aid clustering of ideas.


Discussions are a good way for the facilitator and the participants to discover what their attitudes to issues are. This is very important in HRE because, as well as knowing the facts, participants also need to explore and analyse issues for themselves. The news, posters and case studies are useful tools for stimulating discussion. Start people off by asking "what do you think about...?".

Buzz groups

This is a useful method if no ideas are forthcoming in a whole-group discussion. Ask people to discuss the topic in pairs for one or two minutes and then to share their ideas with the rest of the group. You will soon find the atmosphere "buzzing" with conversations and people "buzzing" with ideas!

Small-group work

Small-group work is in contrast to whole-group work. It is a method that encourages everyone to participate and helps develop co-operative teamwork. The size of a small group will depend on practical things like how many people there are all together and how much space you have. A small group may be 2 or 3 people, but they work best with 6-8. Small-group work can last for fifteen minutes, an hour or a day depending on the task in hand.

It is rarely productive to tell people simply to "discuss the issue". Whatever the topic, it is essential that the work is clearly defined and that people are focused on working towards a goal that requires them to feedback to the whole group. For example, assign a task in the form of a problem that needs solving or a question that requires answering.

Ladder ranking      

most important  
least important  


This is a useful method to use when you want to provide specific information or to stimulate a focused discussion in small groups.

You need to prepare one set of statement cards for each small group. There should be 9 cards per set. Prepare 9 short, simple statements related to the topic you wish people to discuss and write one statement on each card.

The groups have to discuss the statements and then rank them in order of importance. This can either be done as a ladder or as a diamond. In ladder ranking the most important statement is placed at the top, the next most important under it and so on to the least important statement at the bottom.

Diamond ranking
most important
least important

In diamond ranking people negotiate what the most important statement is, then the two second-most important, then the 3 statements of moderate importance and so on as shown in the diagram. Because issues are rarely clear cut, diamond ranking is often a more appropriate method. It is less contrived and therefore more acceptable to participants. It also gives better opportunities for consensus building. A variation of the ranking method is to write 8 statements and to leave one card blank for the participants to write for themselves.


A role-play is a short drama acted out by the participants. Although people draw on their own life experiences to role-play the situation, it is mostly improvised. It aims to bring to life circumstances or events which are unfamiliar to the participants. Role-plays can improve understanding of a situation and encourage empathy towards those who are involved in it.

  • Role-plays differ from simulations in that although the latter may also consist of short dramas they are usually scripted and do not involve the same degree of improvisation.
  • The value of role-plays is that they imitate real life. They may raise questions to which there is no simple answer, for example about the right or wrong behaviour of a character. To gain greater insights, a useful technique is to ask people to reverse roles.

Role-plays need to be used with sensitivity. Firstly, it is essential that people have time at the end to come out of role. Secondly, everyone needs to respect the feelings of individuals and the social structure of the group. For example, a role-play about disabled people should take into account the fact that some participants may suffer from disabilities themselves (maybe not visible) or may have relatives or close friends who are disabled. They should not feel hurt, be forced to be exposed or marginalised. If that happens, take it seriously (apologise, re-address the issue as an example, etc.). Also, be very aware of stereotyping. Role-plays draw out what participants think about other people through their "ability" to play or imitate them. This is also what makes these activities great fun! It may be useful to always address the issue in the debriefing by asking, "do you think that the people you played are really like that?". It is always educational to make people aware of the need for constant, critical reviewing of information. You can therefore also ask participants where they got the information on which they based the development of the character.


Simulations can be thought of as extended role-plays that involve everybody. They enable people to experience challenging situations but in a safe atmosphere. Simulations often demand a level of emotional involvement, which makes them very powerful tools. People learn not only with their heads and hands but also with their hearts.

Debriefing is especially important after a simulation. Players should discuss their feelings, why they chose to take the actions that they did, any injustices they perceived, and how acceptable they found any resolution that was achieved. They should be helped to draw parallels between what they have experienced and actual situations in the world.

Pictures: photographs, cartoons, drawing, collage

"A picture says a thousand words". Visual images are powerful tools both for providing information and for stimulating interest. Remember also that drawing is an important means of self-expression and communication, not only for those whose preferred thinking style is visual but also for those who are not strong in expressing themselves verbally. Ideas for activities using pictures and drawings are given with the "Picture games".

Tips for building up a picture collection

  • Pictures are such a versatile tool that it is a good idea for facilitators to build up their own stock. Images can be collected from innumerable sources, for instance, newspapers, magazines, posters, travel brochures, postcards and greetings cards.
  • Trim the pictures, mount them on card and cover them with transparent, sticky-backed plastic (sold for covering books) to make them durable and easy and pleasant to handle. The collection will look more like a set if the cards are all made to one size. A4 is ideal, but A5 is a good, practical compromise.
  • It can be a good idea to write a reference number on the back of each picture and to record the source, original title or other useful information elsewhere. Thus, people will have only the image to respond to and will not be distracted by other clues.
  • When choosing pictures, look for variety. Be aware of gender, race, ability and disability, age, nationality and culture including sub-cultures. Try to get a selection of images from North, South, East and West, different natural and social environments and cultures. Also bear in mind the impact that individual pictures have because of their size and colour. This effect can distort people's perception of a picture, so try to trim your collection so you have a reasonably homogeneous set.

Films, videos and radio plays

Films, videos and radio plays are powerful tools for HRE and popular with young people. A discussion after watching a film should make a good starting point for further work. Things to talk about are people's initial reaction to the film, how true to "real life" it was, whether the characters were portrayed realistically, or whether they were trying to promote one particular political or moral point of view.

Newspapers, radio, television, Internet

The media are an infallible source of good discussion material. It is always interesting to discuss the content and the way it is presented and to analyse bias and stereotypes.

Taking pictures and making films

The technology of camcorders and disposable cameras now makes making films and taking pictures much more accessible for everyone. Young people's pictures and films vividly show their points of view and attitudes and make excellent display material. Video letters are a proven way to break down barriers and prejudices. They enable people who would not otherwise meet face to face to "talk" and to share insights into how they live and what is important to them.

General tips on running activities


If at all possible, always co-facilitate together with someone else. There are practical advantages in that there will then be two people to share the responsibility of helping with small-group work or dealing with individual needs. When two people run a session, it is easier to alter the pace and rhythm to keep things interesting and the participants on their toes. Two facilitators can support each other if things do not go as planned and it is also more rewarding to conduct a review with someone else than to do it alone. Better even than working with two facilitators is to develop your activities in a team, possibly involving some young people in the preparation.

Managing time

Plan carefully and not try to cram too much into the time available. If the activity is taking longer than you anticipated, try to shorten it so that you have plenty of time for discussion (see notes on the learning cycle). On the other hand, if you have lots of time in hand, do not try to drag the discussion out, have a break or do a quick energiser activity for fun.

Create a non-threatening environment

People must feel free to explore and discover, and to interact and share with each other. Be genuine, friendly, encouraging and humorous. Do not use jargon or language that participants do not understand.

Set ground rules

It is important that everyone in the group understands the ground rules for participatory, experiential activities. For example, everyone should take their share of the responsibility for the session, that everyone should have a chance to be listened to, to speak and to participate. No one should feel under pressure to say anything they do not feel comfortable with. These ground rules may be discussed and agreed when you first start working with a class or group.

Give clear instructions

Always make sure everyone has understood the instructions and knows what they have to do. The simplest way is to invite questions, and to write down what is most important. Do not be afraid of questions; they are very useful and give you (and the rest of the group) the opportunity to clarify things. No questions sometimes means a sign of general confusion ("but I am afraid to ask because everyone else seems to understand").

Facilitating discussions

Discussion is central to the HRE process. Pay special attention to ensure everyone in the group can participate if they wish to. Use words, expressions and language common to the group and explain words with which they are unfamiliar.

Invite participants to offer their opinions. Ensure that there is a balance of global and local aspects so that people see the issue as directly relevant to their own lives.

Debriefing and evaluation

Give the participants plenty of time to complete the activity and if necessary come out of

role before discussing what happened and what they learned. Spend time at the end of each activity talking over what people learnt and how they see it relating to their own lives, their community and the wider world. Without reflection, people do not learn much from their experiences.

We suggest that you try to go through the debriefing and evaluation process in sequence by asking the participants questions that relate to:

  • what happened during the activity and how they felt
  • what they learned about themselves
  • what they learned about the issues addressed in the activity
  • how they can move forward and use what they have learned


It is important to review the work and the learning periodically. This may be at the end of the day at a seminar or at the end of a series of two or three lessons or meetings. You may find that the group finds reviewing boring especially if there has already been a lot of discussion. Remember that reviewing doesn't have to be through discussion; you can also use other techniques including body language, drawings, sculpting, etc.

Co-facilitators should find time to relax and wind down and review how things went for them. Talk about:

  • How the activity went from your point of view: preparation, timing, etc.
  • What the participants learnt and if they met the learning objectives
  • What the outcomes are: what the group will do now as a result of doing the activity
  • What you yourselves learnt about the issues and about facilitating

When things don't go the way you expected them to

Activities rarely go exactly the way you expect them to, or the way they are presented and described in this manual! That is both the reward and the challenge of working with participatory activities. You have to be responsive to what is happening and to think on your feet.


It may be that everyone is very involved and that you are running out of time. You should consult with the participants on whether to stop immediately, in 5 minutes or how else to resolve the problem.

Flagging energy

Sometimes, especially with longer sessions, it may be necessary for you to use an energiser or to suggest a short break.

Difficult discussions

Sometimes discussions get "stuck". You will have to identify the cause. It could be many things, for example, because the topic has been exhausted or that it is too emotional. You will have to decide whether to prompt with a question, change tack or move on. You should never feel that you have to provide the answers to participants' questions or problems. The group itself must find its own answers through listening to each other and sharing. They may, of course, ask your opinion or advice, but the group must make their own decisions.


Feedback is a comment on something someone has said or done. It may be positive or critical in a negative sense. Giving and receiving feedback is a skill and you will need to help the group members learn how to do it. Too often, feedback is received as destructive criticism even though this was not the intention of the speaker. The key words with regard to feedback are "respect" and "arguments".

When giving feedback, it is important to respect the other person, to focus on what they said or did and to give reasons for your point of view. It is better to say, "I disagree strongly with what you have just said because...." rather than "How can you be so stupid, don't you see that....?". Giving negative feedback comes readily to many people, which can be painful.

It is your role as facilitator to find ways of ensuring that people give feedback in a supportive way. For example by:

  • ensuring that people start giving the feedback with a positive statement
  • respecting the other person and not make any derogatory remarks
  • focusing on the behaviour, not on the person
  • giving a reason for what they are saying
  • taking responsibility for what they say by using "I - messages"

Receiving feedback is hard, especially when there is disagreement. Your role is to help people learn from their experiences and to help them feel supported and not put down. Encourage people to listen carefully to the feedback without immediately defending themselves or their position. It is especially important that people understand exactly what the person giving the feedback means and that they take time to evaluate what has been said before accepting or rejecting it.

Resistance from the participants

Being involved in participatory activities is very demanding and while you will be using a variety of techniques, for instance, discussion, drawing, role-play or music, it is inevitable that not all activities will suit all participants all of the time. If a participant is confident and able to explain why they do not like a particular activity then you will be able to accommodate his or her needs through dialogue and negotiation.

By 'resistance', we mean behaviour that is purposefully disruptive. All facilitators experience resistance from participants at one time or another. Resistance can take several forms. An insecure young person may disturb by scraping his or her chair, humming or talking with their neighbour. More subtle ways of disrupting the session are by asking irrelevant questions or making a joke out of everything. Another "game" resisters play is "undermine the facilitator". Here they may say, "You don't understand, it's a long time since you were young", or "anything but more discussions, why can't we just do activities?" A third type of "game" is to try to avoid the learning. For example people say, "yes but....".

Obviously, it is best if you can avoid resistance. For example,

  • Be aware of each person in the group and any sensitive emotions which might be triggered by a particular activity or by a particular part in a role-play or simulation.
  • Make sure everyone knows that they are at no time under any pressure to say or reveal anything about themselves that they do not feel comfortable with.
  • Allow participants time to warm up before any activity and to wind down afterwards.
  • Remember to allow enough time for debriefing and discussion so everyone feels that their opinion and participation is valued.

You will have to decide yourself on the best way to handle a difficult situation but bear in mind that usually the best way to solve the problem is to bring it out into the open and to get the group as a whole to find a solution. Do not get into long discussions or arguments with a single group member. This can cause resentment and frustration among the other participants and cause them to lose interest.

Managing conflict within the group

Conflicts may happen in groups. This is normal and your role is to help participants deal with them. Conflicts may develop if participants feel insecure dealing with questions related to emotions and values, if they have insufficient competencies in group work or if they have completely different approaches to the issue or different values. Try to stay cool and do not become involved in conflicts with individuals.

  • Remember that conflict can be helpful and creative if managed properly.
  • Take enough time for the debriefing and discussion. If necessary make more time.
  • Help to clarify people's positions, opinions and interests.
  • Ease tensions in the group. For example, ask everyone to sit down or to talk for three minutes in small subgroups or say something to put the situation into perspective.
  • Encourage everybody to listen actively to each other.
  • Stress what unites people rather than what separates them.
  • Search for consensus. Get people to look at their common interests rather than trying to compromise and move from their stated positions.
  • Look for solutions which may resolve the problem without "recreating" the conflict.
  • Offer to talk to those involved privately at another time.

If more serious and deeper conflicts arise, it may be better to postpone seeking a solution and look for another more appropriate opportunity to resolve the problem. In the meantime, you could consider how to address the conflict from another angle, for example, by playing a short game such as "Fist and Palm". By postponing the resolution of the conflict you leave time for those involved to reflect on the situation and to come up with new approaches or solutions.

Conflicts that arise in the group and ways of resolving them can be used to develop understanding and insights into the causes and difficulties of conflicts in the wider world. The reverse is also true; discussion of international conflicts can give insights into local conflicts.

Further information on dealing with conflict can be found in the activity "Play the game!".

Some methods and techniques for supporting effective learning groups

We have described group work and its role in experiential learning. Here we describe a few general activities at level 1 that specifically promote group-work skills. These activities make good ice-breakers and energisers and, in conjunction with other activities in the manual, are good methods for introducing human rights issues. It is often a good idea if you, the facilitator, also join in with the ice-breakers.

Taking responsibility, communication and co-operation are key skills for good group work.


Get into line

This activity is very simple, yet has all the characteristics and procedures for helping people learn to take responsibility within the group. It makes a good ice-breaker.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: Any Time: 15 minutes +


  1. Tell the group to line up in order of height, the shortest person at the front and the tallest at the back. They should not talk but may communicate using sounds, sign language and body language.
  2. When they are in line, check that the order is correct.
  3. Repeat the exercise getting people to line up according to other criteria that make the game fun but not threatening, for instance, age, the month of their birthday (January to December), shoe size, etc.

Debriefing and evaluation

Try to help the group analyse how they worked together and what makes good group work. Suggested questions are:

  • What problems did you have getting organised?
  • What slowed the group down?
  • Was a leader needed? Did anyone serve as a leader? How were they chosen?
  • What responsibility did each group member have in solving the problem?
  • How could the group solve the problem faster next time?

Go on, I'm listening

This activity focuses on listening skills, but it also helps develop logical thinking and confidence in expressing an opinion.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: Any Time: 35 minutes


  1. Brainstorm with the whole group what makes a good listener.
  2. Ask people to get into threes: one person to be the speaker, one to be the listener and one the watchdog.
  3. Tell the speakers that they have 5 minutes to tell the listener their personal view on an issue that interests them (for example, the death penalty for crimes against humanity, limits of free speech or any other topic that requires description, analysis and an opinion).
  4. The listener has to listen and make sure that they understand what the issue is about, why the speaker is interested in it and what their point of view is.
  5. The watchdog observes the listener's active listening skills. They should not participate in the discussion but observe the discussion carefully, withholding any suggestions for improvement until time is called.
  6. After 5 minutes, call time and ask the watchdogs to give feedback. Swap round until everyone has had a chance to be speaker, listener and watchdog.

Debriefing and evaluation

Discuss the activity. Some useful questions may be:

  • Did the speakers successfully convey their ideas and feelings about the topic? Did they find it helpful to speak to someone who was using active listening skills?
  • How was it to be a listener? Was it difficult to listen and not interrupt in order to make a comment or add their own opinion?

Tips for facilitators

The group may initially come up with some of the following points. Hopefully by the end of the activity, they will be able to list them all - and some more.

A good listener:

  • shows respect, maintains eye contact with the speaker and doesn't fidget.
  • signals that they are attentive and listening by nodding occasionally or saying "go on, I'm listening".
  • does not interrupt.
  • does not rush to fill silences but gives the speaker time to think and resume talking.
  • does not take the focus of the conversation away from the speaker by commenting or disagreeing.
  • uses open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to continue speaking or to elaborate.
  • summarises or restates the speaker's remarks from time to time to show that they have understood.
  • responds to the feelings that may lie behind the speaker's words, and shows that they understand how the speaker feels.

The People Machine

This is a non-verbal exercise to show how group members can respond to each other and link their individual contributions into an integrated working unit.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 6 or more Time: 15 minutes


  1. Ask people to stand in a circle.
  2. Tell them that they have to construct one huge mechanical machine together, using only their own bodies.
  3. Ask one person to start. S/he chooses a simple repetitive movement, such as moving one arm up and down rhythmically. At the same time they make a distinctive sound, for instance, a long whistle.
  4. Ask a second person to come up and stand close to, or just touch the first. They choose their own action and noise. For example, they may bob up and down and make a "chkk ...chkk" sound, keeping in time and rhythm with the first person.
  5. Call for more volunteers, one at a time, to join in. They can join on to any existing part of the machine. They add their own movement and sound.
  6. At the end the entire group should be interconnected and moving in many inter-related ways and making many different sounds.
  7. When everyone is involved and the machine is running smoothly you can "conduct" everyone to make the machine go louder or softer, faster or slower.

Debriefing and evaluation

You may like to ask the group:

  • What similarities can they see between 'the machine' and an effective learning group?
  • What skills did they need? Responsibility? Listening and responding skills? Co-operation? What else?

Fist and palm

This game is useful for developing co-operation.
Complexity: Level 2 Group size: 8+ Time: 40 minutes


  1. Write the score sheet on a flipchart.
  2. Ask people to get into pairs; one is A, the other B.
  3. They both put their hands behind their backs and together count 1, 2, 3.
  4. On the count of 3, they must simultaneously bring their hand to the front and show either a fist or a palm.
  5. Tell the pairs to keep the score.
  6. Play 10 rounds.
  7. At the end, list on a flipchart both the individual and combined scores of each pair.

Debriefing and evaluation

Questions to ask can include:

  • Who got the highest score out of all the pairs? How did you play to win?
  • Who has the lowest score? How do you feel? What happened?
  • Did any pairs make any agreements about how to co-operate? If so, did anyone break the agreement? Why? How did your partner feel?
  • Compare the combined scores in those groups where people competed and where they co-operated. Were there any advantages in co-operating? If so, what? (Total score? Feeling good? Still friends?)

Methods and techniques for developing discussion skills

Discussions are also an opportunity to practice listening, speaking in turn and other group skills which are important for respecting other people's rights. To allow everyone to participate, it is important that the group is of a manageable size. If your group is very large - say for example more than 15 or 20 people - it might be better to break up into smaller groups for the discussion. To encourage interaction and participation, it is preferable to seat participants in a circle or semi-circle where they can see one another. General guidelines that should be discussed and agreed by the group may include:

  • Only one person should talk at a time.
  • Judgmental comments or any form of ridicule are discouraged.
  • Each person should talk from their own perspective and experience and not generalise on behalf of others; that is, use "I" statements.
  • Remember that there is likely to be more than one 'right' answer.
  • Agree to maintain confidentiality when talking about sensitive issues.
  • Everyone has the right to be silent and not take part in discussion on a particular issue, if they so wish.

You may find the following strategies helpful:



This is effective with groups that have difficulty in listening.


The group sits in a circle. An old microphone from a tape recorder (or a similarly shaped object) is passed around the circle. Only the person holding the microphone is allowed to speak; the others are to listen to, and look at, the speaker. When the speaker is finished, the microphone is passed to the next person who wishes to speak.


The dilemma game

This is useful for encouraging people to express their opinion, listen to others and to change their opinion in the light of new understanding. It can be varied in different ways.


  • Prepare 3 or 4 controversial statements relating to the issue you are working with, for example, "there should be no limits to freedom of speech".
  • raw a line along the floor with chalk or tape.
  • Explain that to the right of the line represents agreement with a statement; to the left represents disagreement. The distance from the line represents the strength of agreement or disagreement; the further from the line, the greater the agreement or disagreement. The walls of the room are the limit! Standing on the line shows that that person has no opinion.
  • Read out the first statement.
  • Tell participants to stand at a point on either side of the line that represents their opinion about the statement.
  • Now invite people to explain why they are standing where they are.
  • Let everyone who wishes to, speak. Then ask if anyone wishes to change position.
  • When all who wish to move have done so, ask them their reasons for moving.
  • Ask another question.

Methods and techniques for developing collective decision-making skills

Making collective decisions by consensus is a lengthy process and requires people to have good communication skills, be sensitive to the needs of others and to show imagination and trust and to be patient. Only then can people explore issues honestly, express opinions without fear of censure or ridicule and feel free to change their minds as a result of reasonable argument.

The object of working for consensus is to make people aware of the range of opinions in the group and to consider all those opinions thoughtfully so that decisions are made based on mutually agreed common interests. Consensus decision-making is not easy to facilitate.

Decision-making processes can end up in several different ways:

  • One side persuades the other. This, of course, is what most people think they are
  • doing when they take a majority vote, but it may well be that some important point of view has been overlooked. When consensus is achieved through persuasion, it means that virtually all in the group agree that the arguments in favour of one point of view are compelling and overwhelming, and they forsake their previous positions and support that point of view.
  • One side gives in. Sometimes people decide that it is not worth the energy and decide to abandon their position. The point of view of dissenters is essential to creative decision-making; often a single person holds key information that can be decisive. People should be able to change their minds freely as new information becomes available. When working for consensus, people should be free to explore a number of positions and should not feel they are deserting their party if they change their minds.
  • Both sides find a new alternative. Disagreement can sometimes be overcome if people stop trying to defend the positions they have taken and attempt to find a different solution that will satisfy both sides. Frequently neither group has to give up anything and both groups come out feeling that they have "won".
  • The group redefines the issue. A sincere search for consensus frequently leads people to realise that their conflict is caused by semantic difficulties or by a misperception of the other party's position. Sometimes both sides realise that they have overstated their positions and, as they strive for consensus, they moderate their stands and find a way of viewing the issue that both can support.
  • Each side gives in a little. Sometimes when people look at what they have in common they can come to an agreement that meets most of the needs of both sides rather than all the needs of one side and none of the other's.
  • Both sides agree to have a break. Sometimes all involved agree that they do not yet have enough information to make a prudent decision, or that they are too upset to arrive at a workable solution. They may choose to postpone the issue until they can return with the knowledge and attitudes required to make a rational decision.


This activity makes a good ice-breaker and energiser. It involves co-operation and decision making.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 10-20 Time: 10 minutes


Tell everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle with their arms stretched out in front of them.

  • They should now reach out and grab hands across the circle, so that each person holds hands with two other people. No one may hold the hand of someone immediately beside them. (The result is what looks like a big knot of hands!)
  • Now tell people to untangle the knot without letting go of the hands.
  • Note: They will have to climb under and over each other's arms. It takes a little patience, but the surprising result will be one or two big circles.

Debriefing and evaluation

  • You can ask the group how they worked together to untangle the knot.
  • Was it a democratic process?
  • How many ways were there of coming to a solution?
  • Did everyone make suggestions or did one person assume leadership and direct the unravelling?

Points down

This is an energetic game that involves co-operation and group decision making. Also a good ice-breaker and energiser.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 6-25 Time: 15 minutes


  1. Explain to the group that in this game there are nine "points" of the body that can touch the floor: 2 feet, 2hands, 2 elbows, 2 knees and 1 forehead.
  2. Tell people to spread out in the middle of the room. Call out a number between 1 and 9 and tell each player that they must touch the floor with that number of points. Repeat twice more.
  3. Tell people to find a partner. Call out a number between 2 and 18. The pairs have to work together to put the correct number of points down. Repeat twice more.
  4. Repeat the rounds with people working in groups of 4, then 8, and then 16 until everyone is working together.

Tips for the facilitator

You can allow people to talk or to communicate only with sign language.

When four people play together, the number could be as low as 2 if two people each stand on one leg while carrying the other two!

When four people play, the lowest practical number is probably 4. (The highest number will be 4 multiplied by 9 = 36).

In each round the highest number called may not be more than 9 times the number of people in the group!


Pairs to 4s

This activity involves a process of discussion and negotiation.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 4+ Time: 45 minutes


  1. Ask the group to get into pairs to complete a task that involves the need to discuss and make a decision, for instance, to agree on a date for a group outing, or a definition of human rights or to agree the 3 most important human rights.
  2. Allow 10 minutes for this stage.
  3. Then tell the pairs to get into fours and repeat the process.
  4. Note: If you are using this exercise to make a collective decision about a practical matter, for example about the group trip, then you should continue the exercise and do rounds with groups of 8 and then 16 until everyone is in one big group and a consensus has been reached that best meets the needs of everyone. If you are using this method to discuss the definition of human rights, get into plenary after the groups of 4 have finished discussing. This avoids the exercise getting repetitive and boring.

Debriefing and evaluation

Suggested questions for discussing the nature of the decision-making process are:

  • The method takes a long time. Was the outcome worth it?
  • Does everyone feel consulted and involved in the decision-making process (even if in the end the outcome was not their preferred choice)?
  • Were there any minority needs that could not be accommodated? (For example, with the date of the trip).

Activities for reviewing

During training or any teaching programme, it is important to review periodically. The following activities can be used at any time. They are fun ways to help people learn from their experiences. They include drawing, sculpting, and story-telling methods.


End game

This can be a very a quick way of getting feedback. The more rounds you do the more feedback you get.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: Any Time: 3 or 4 minutes per round


  1. Tell people to sit in a circle.
  2. Remind them briefly about what they have been doing.
  3. Choose one of the pairs of statements below.
  4. Go round the circle, ask each person in turn to complete their statement. No comments or discussion are allowed.
  5. Do further rounds if you have time or if you want to get further feedback.

Examples of statements:

  • The best thing about the activity was.... And the worst was....
  • The most interesting thing was..... The most boring thing was...
  • What I resented most is... What I appreciated most is...
  • The funniest thing... The most serious thing...
  • I would have liked more of ... and less of...
  • The thing I enjoyed doing most ... the thing that I least liked doing...
  • I felt most confident doing .... I felt least confident doing ...

High and low

This method is very quick and uses body language.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: Any Time: 50 minutes


Think of 3 or 4 questions to ask, for example, "Did you enjoy the activity?" or "Did you learn anything new?"


  1. Read out the first question.
  2. Tell the group to consider their response and then to show with their whole bodies how they feel. If they strongly agree with the statement they should reach up as high as they can and may even stand on tiptoe! People who strongly disagree should crouch down low or even lie on the floor. People can also find their own in-between positions to indicate their level of response.
  3. Ask people to relax and read out the second question.

Points of view

This activity combines movement with the option of discussion.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 10+ Time: 10 minutes


3 or 4 questions, for example, "Did you enjoy the activity?" "Did you learn anything new?"


  1. Name the four walls of the hall 'yes', 'no', 'I don't know' and 'I want to say something', to represent four different points of view.
  2. Ask the first question about the activity and tell people to go to the wall that represents their response.
  3. Let those who want to say something have their say. Only people at the fourth 'I want to say something' wall may speak.

Weather report

This uses a "story-telling" method. It can be used at the end of an activity as a review.

Alternatively, it works well part way through a long project to enable people to look back and then to look forward.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: 6+ Time: 45 minutes


Paper and pencils optional


  1. Give people 5 -10 minutes to think about the day/training/project/work you are involved in and get them to ask themselves: "Am I enjoying it so far? What am I getting out of it and is it going to be successful?"
  2. Then ask them one at a time to describe how they feel in terms of a weather report.

Tips for facilitators

If people need an illustration of what you mean you could say, "My day started dull and overcast... then I had to put up my umbrella to keep me from the downpour.... but many of you helped me hold up the umbrella... showers are also forecast for tomorrow, but next week I foresee it will be bright and sunny". This could mean that you started off not too sure, then things got really bad and you were glad of people's support, you are not too sure about immediate plans but you think you will get there in the end.

The timing given is for a group of 10-12 people. Bigger groups need more time.


  1. People could draw their weather forecast instead of speaking it.
  2. You can use this basic idea to review your project as though you were doing a commentary on a football or cricket match, or any other event that is relevant.

Hit the headlines

The idea is for the group to produce a mock-up of the front page of a tabloid newspaper. The headlines summarise the group's thoughts and feelings about what they have been doing.
Complexity: Level 2 Group size: 8+ Time: 45 minutes


You will need an A3 size sheet of paper and some felt-tip pens for each small



  1. Tell the participants to get into small groups of three or four.
  2. Tell them to discuss what they have been doing and what they have got out of the project or activity, and to brainstorm the highlights and the disasters.
  3. Each small group should agree together on 5 or 6 "stories". They should write a headline for each story together with a few sentences to give the flavour of the story if they wish. They should not write the whole story. A "photograph" is optional but a good idea.
  • Display the pages.
  • Presentation and discussion is optional.


This activity involves drawing and creativity.
Complexity: Level 1 Group size: Any Time: 40 minutes


Papers and coloured pens


  1. It is the end of a workshop or seminar. Ask people to draw themselves going home with a rucksack on their back. The rucksack contains all the items that they would like to carry home them.
  2. They should consider everything that they have learnt and want to keep. Things may include items such as books or pictures, feelings, people, ideas, new ways of seeing the world, strengths they have gained from overcoming a difficulty, or values.
  3. They can also show things lying on the ground - things that they want to leave behind. These might be things like bad habits, old ideas, difficult moments, bad food, no sleep - whatever!

References and further reading

Bond, Tim, Games for social and life skills, Hutchinson, 1986, ISBN 0 09 162541 6

Bradbury, Andrew, Develop your NLP skills, Kogan Page, 1997, ISBN 0-7494-3260-8

Brandes, Donna, Gamester's handbook Hutchinson Education, 1982, ISBN 0-09-15900-9

Boud, David, Cohen, Ruth, Walker, David, Using experience for learning, The Society for Research

into Higher Education and Open University Press, 1993, ISBN0-335-19095-2

Claude, Richard Pierre, Methodologies for Human Rights Education,

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