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Team work in Communications


have been given the task of working with a group of NHS employees - they have preset courses to cover 16 out of 20 hours training. In the other 4 hours which I am trying to build around the other courses, they need to do learn some basic Word functions, and improve Communications skills - as it is vital to encourage peer support to keep them motivated I would like to incorporate some group work involving Communications skills suitable for NHS employees, i.e. Care Workers, Doctors receptionists etc.

Any advise is welcome, as a pilot scheme much depends on it's success!
Kathleen Hopper

8 Responses

  1. possible exercises
    You don’t really say what you are trying to achieve. However, if it is about communicating within a team and working together towards shared solutions then the Zin Obelisk game is good. explains what this is about.

    Role plays are also another obvious type of exercise – depends on groups and their willingness to ‘play’. I’d also do something on the development of questioning and listening skills as these will be vital for the groups you mention.

    Hope this helps. Do contact me if you want to discuss further.


  2. Group Activities in Communications
    Thanks for your comments Fiona, the courses are a form of ‘study skills’ in preparation for NVQ 2 in Health and Care. We have most aspects covered, but feel that we would like to include some basic skills in Communication – preferably working as a group. I feel that working on Questioning and Listening Skills would be essential for their work. Do you have any suggestions for this please – preferably several short exercises.

  3. Picture this….

    I am sure that you have already heard of it but here goes anyway – Find or draw a couple of line drawings of interlinked shapes. One person has to describe the drawing to the others in the group. That person has their back to the others and then the others show their drawings – it is rare that anyone draws the original picture correctly and all the drawings will vary. You can vary the rules eg. the first time no one can ask any questions of the describer and then the next time they can ask questions. This exercise shows the value of communication and interactive communication as well as the use of visual aids or appropriate methods for different communication tasks. It also shows that different people hearing the same words get a different message!

    Good luck with this!


  4. Communication Team Work.

    An exercise I’ve used in the past is:

    (1) Put three simple shapes on a piece of A4 paper.

    (2) Ask for a volunteer and give them the task of describing the shapes and their position in relation to each other to the other students.

    (3) The volunteer is not allowed to show the shapes to the other students nor is he or she allowed to use any form of visual aid to describe them. They are also to sit with their back to the other students.

    (4) The other students are not allowed to ask questions.

    (5) After 5 minutes the students can compare what they have drawn with what the volunteer has described.

    At this point there is no need to explore the implications of this.

    (6) Repeat the whole exercise with a different set of shapes. This time though the volunteer faces the other students who are allowed to ask as many questions as they need. VISUAL AIDS OF ANY KIND ARE STILL NOT ALLOWED.

    Again after 5 minutes compare the shape described with the shapes drawn by the other students.

    The shapes drawn the second time round will be much more like the shapes described. As facilitator you can then explore a whole range of reasons.

    If more appropriate you can select shapes that are relevant to your students work environment. The variations are endless BUT the shapes must be simple.

    From experience I’ve found that the exercise takes anything from 25 to 45 minutes to run and can generate a great deal of discussion. The exercise isn’t original, its been around for years, I was using it almost 20 years ago to teach communication skills.

    Hope this helps.

    Alex Paterson

  5. Team Work – Communications
    Many thanks for your very helpful suggestions, it is really nice of you to take the time to answer my question.

  6. Two other exercises include role plays using open and closed ges
    Hi, Kathleen

    I, too, have used the exercise on describing shapes – it’s a good one. Other short exercises I have used include doing two short (2 or 3 minutes) role-play interviews, first using all closed questions and then using all open questions. Another exercise I’ve used is to give people a grid (2 columns) with a variety of body language gestures (described in words) in the left-hand column, and space to write their interpretation of those gestures in the right-hand column. Gestures could include: sighing, crossing arms, looking up, tapping fingers, etc., etc. Generally, there is some agreement – and some disagreement also, demonstrating that we all interpret all of the time – but don’t always interpret things in the same way. People are usually surprised at this.

  7. Communications Skills
    Cynthia – Your suggestions are excellent for my purpose, and are much appreciated.

    Many thanks!

  8. First, find yourself a large field…

    I use this one after lunch as it gets delegates outside and they usually really have fun with it. Although it is about communication, I’d see it as an enjoyable way to support the other exercises mentioned.

    1) Break delegates into groups of four (or five if preferred) and inform each group that two will be Communicators and two receivers.

    2) Inform the groups that they have twenty minutes to devise a way of communicating with each other that must be purely visual; the communicators will not be able to speak to the receivers at all once the exercise has started (Although both sub-groups can speak with each other). Also tell them that you have the title of a song and that the communicators’ task will be to successfully communicate this title to the receivers who will be some distance away.

    3) Add that the receivers will not be able to verbally check with the communicators -but they can use visual acknowledgements (thumbs up, etc.) when they have understood.

    4) After 20 minutes has elapsed, take the groups out and stand them as far away as possible. If you are in a hotel, a neighbouring field or green space is ideal, but car parks, opposite sides of roads, etc. will all provide enough distance and provide a sufficient obstacle.

    5) Give them the song title you have devised; my favourite is ‘She Stoops in the Cabbages and Peas’ which is an old Musical Hall song and adds to the ‘off-the-wall’ nature of the exercise. Choosing modern song titles tends not to work because the group may well recognise it and abandon the exercise. Give the song title – once everyone is in position – to each group of communicators and start the exercise.

    6) Time the accuracy and speed with which each group solve (or don’t) the exercise and note these for afterwards.

    7) Debrief the exercise, re-emphasising the points made on earlier exercises that morning.

    When you do the exercise you will find that most groups adopt some sort of ‘code’ to represent letters; some opt for acting out the words themselves and some devise an action for each letter.

    A variation of this is played with flashlights with delegates communicating between different rooms through windows. I prefer the outdoor variety as the fresh air does wonders for ‘after-lunch’ attention deficit syndrome!

    Like so many exercises, this was passed onto me by another trainer many years ago and it’s been a great ‘stand-by’ for lightening the mood on courses.

    Do e-mail me if there is anything about the exercise you are unclear about on


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