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close this bookCreative Training - A User's Guide (IIRR, 1998, 226 pages)
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Visual gestural communication

· One or two facilitators
· Up to 30 participants
· Facilitators should decide how long the session will be, possibly up to eight hours.


Visual Gestural Communication (VGC) is a mode of communication where people do not use voice but use gestures to understand each other. It is a nonverbal communication that helps participants learn how to use gesture without speaking and to experience the world of silence.

The session encourages participants improve their non-verbal communication skills (after Body Language, which is a pre-requisite for VGC).


You are not using your voice!



· pencils, sign pen, colored pens and papers
· handshape cards

Suggested approach

A. Basic gestures for participants' names

Ask the participants to exaggerate their own features by gesturing.



Activity should be in a quiet place without visual distractions to prevent disruption.

B. Warm-up exercises

1. Do various forms of facial expression and body movement (see Body language).

2. Ask individual participants to volunteer in leading the warm-up exercises. Use a maximum of five participants.


C. Activities


1. Ask a participant from the group to join you and copy you like a mirror. This is more complicated then the Mirror activity in Body Language. For example, use gesture sign with hands that the participant should follow.

2. Ask participants to form a pair and do the same activity.


Ball and/or sticks

Ask the participants to form a circle. Position your hands as though holding a ball and/or a stick and pass it to another participant. The participant should make the ball or stick in their own way (for example, s/he can bounce the ball in acting, then pass it to another participant of her/his choice).



Handshape of 'S'

Ask participants to form a circle. Start with sign for 'S' (see illustration) handshape and use it to punch, then the next participant on your left to think of different use of 'S' handshape (for example, to bang the table) and so on.

Now, do the same using the handshape '1' and '0'.


Create a scene/story

1. Ask participants to form a circle while one participant demonstrates a short story (of around 2-3 minutes) using gestural signs. For example, what they have been doing at home.

2. Ask participants to write down what they understand by the story.

3. Let the participants show their written explanations to the story actor to see, by the actor's expression and gesture, how close they were.

4. Ask another participant from the group to volunteer to do the same activity using their own story.

Elephant game

1. Ask participants to form a circle while you stand in the middle of the circle.

2. Point to one of the participants. The chosen participant clenches his/her fist together over the nose to make a trunk while the participants on both sides lift their hands to cup her/his ears to make them bigger. This forms the shape of the elephant's head.

3. Next, s/he points to another participant who follows the same procedure and so on. This is a warm-up exercise.

4. When participants understand how to play, the game starts again. If a participant makes a mistake, he/she leaves the game. The game becomes faster as it progresses, making it more challenging. The last person in the game wins.


The game can be varied and made more difficult by pointing at more than one person at once.


By the end of the session, the participants should be able to:

· develop an appreciation for VGC; and

· send and receive basic information and/or messages using appropriate facial expression, natural gestures, pantomime and other non-manual signals.


· Understanding how to use gesture improves participants' general communication skills.

· Enjoyable and fun!

· Helps participants communicate with people who speak a different language, such as foreigners or Deaf people.


· Participants may be too shy to perform.


What is the difference between deaf and Deaf?

deaf - audiological condition of not hearing

Deaf - particular group of deaf people who share a language and culture

Source: Padden, C. and T. Humphries. 1988. Deaf in America.


VGC was successfully tried in 1991 among 26 people at the College of Saint Benilde, Manila, Philippines and was facilitated by Deaf trainors. It is still being used effectively as part of a Deaf Awareness information campaign to promote understanding of the Deaf Culture.