This week’s youth work session idea is about how to help young people learn about and develop communication skills.
Whether you work in a faith-based organization or the public sector, there will always be a need to explore how young people communicate. From my own observations, it will benefit their development and relationships in a number of ways:
- They have a better understanding of themselves and their own feelings when they are more aware of how they non-verbally communicate with others
- They engage in less gossip, bullying and social exclusion of others when they are able to internalize (understand something at such a deep level it changes their behavior) how verbal communication can affect others
- They become more aware of the language and tone-of-voice that is used by them and around them helping them make better choices in both areas
- They develop better communication skills with parents, teachers, peers, youth workers and strangers
Now, on to the ideas:
Share some communication statistics through fill in the blank activities
- UCLA found that up to ____ % of communication is non-verbal
- Other research shows that ___% is verbal, ___% is voice quality and ___% is non-verbal
- 73%, 18%, 9%
- 15%, 36%, 49%
- 7%, 38%, 55%
Explore Verbal Communication through Word Choice (including profanity and cultural phrases)
- Explore online dictionaries (watch out for possible profanity) that show the difference between what one phrase means in one country to what it means in another. Print off the best ones and have your group try to guess what it means or where it comes from.
- Engage in a moral discussion or debate about the use of profanity. Split your group into two smaller groups and give each a side to defend. Give them time for research and then present. Maybe have guest judges to decide which group presented the better case.
- Play a round of ‘telephone’ or ‘Chinese whispers’. Start with a phrase at one end of the line. Each young person whispers the phrase to the next all the way through the group. The final youth to hear the phrase says it out loud. Identify how different it is from the original phrase and explore how this relates to issues like gossip or word choices.
Explore Non-verbal Communication through tone-of-voice and body language
- Have a list of phrases (Hey, you there!, What do you want?, Why are you asking? etc.) and a bowl full of emotions written on paper and folded up. Go around the group (or if its a large group have a few come up front) and give them a phrase and have them draw an emotion or feeling. They have to say the phrase with that tone-of-voice depending on the emotion on their paper. (e.g. angry, happy, tired, bored, etc.)
- Play charades with two teams. Using the same list of emotions from the previous activity, have one person come to the front of the group and act out that emotion, while the rest of the team guesses. Get through as many of the emotions as you can in the time allotted. The team gets a point for every emotion they guess correctly through the non-verbal displays.
- For social non-verbal explorations, create a freeze-frame (a frozen picture – like a watching TV and pressing the pause button in the middle of the action) of a situation. Maybe have two youth gossiping about another or have a fight about to break out. Allow each young person in the freeze frame to get in place. Then have the rest of the group explore their non-verbal cues – how do we know youth 1 is angry, sad or surprised, etc. Creating a freeze frame is a good way to get young people to ‘act out’ something without it being a role play, as many people don’t actually enjoy doing role plays (do a quick survey in your office or group – you’ll see how many really don’t like them!)
You might be in youth ministry and don’t feel like this post will benefit your faith-based youth groups. I think this is a really important lesson to have with your youth in particular, because a lot of what they learn is about the need to share their faith with others. Going over these basic communication skills will help make them more effective communicators in all areas of their lives.
For a good game that ties in with the theme of communication, play Barnyard Animals with your young people.
Question: How have you explored communication skills with a group of young people? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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