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close this bookLife Skills for Young Ugandans - Primary Teachers' Training Manual (UNICEF, 190 p.)
close this folderSection Two: Methodologies and Training Session Activities
close this folderPART A - General Activities
View the document2.0 PARTICIPATORY METHODS


2.1 Brainstorming
2.2 Questionnaires
2.3 Ranking
2.4 Case Studies
2.5 Role Plays
2.6 Drawing
2.7 Discussion
2.8 Buzz Group
2.9 Tableaux
2.10 Story Telling
2.11 Processing
2.12 Utilising the Creative Abilities of the Participants/Students


Since the aim of this initiative is to elicit, examine and develop life skills of the students, it is essential that participatory methods are used. They have several advantages:

· The more the students are engaged, the more they are able to develop their life skills. You cannot develop critical thinking by listening to lectures on the subject. Similarly you cannot develop the psychosocial skills without trying them out with others and practising them.

· Participatory approaches open up the syllabus in new ways because they start with the assumption that students already know many things. Thus, by eliciting what they know through different activities, the tutor is able to build on the knowledge they already have.



Brainstorming is a way of obtaining as many views as possible in a short space of time. Participants, in groups, or in a whole class are encouraged to give as many ideas as they can think of on a particular subject.

This can be done anonymously using cards, or on pieces of paper, or by students calling out their ideas which are all written on the board. In this first stage, all ideas are accepted and no challenges are allowed.

After all the ideas have been exhausted, the tutor can ask the groups to prioritise, or choose the most important 3 or 4 or 5 ideas. This is a good activity when introducing a new topic.


1. Draw a large ship on newsprint with lines beneath it to depict water. Label the drawing RelationSHIP.

2. Ask students to give ideas on what keeps a relationship afloat. Once all the ideas have been collected, each group will draw their own ship on a sheet of paper and choose the five most important things required to keep the boat afloat. These can be written round the water line of the ship.

3. Students brainstorm again on what leads to the sinking of relationships. They then prioritise the five most damaging aspects that can be drawn as rocks near the ship.

4. Groups stick their ships on the wall. Students move around looking at the different ships.

5. Class discussion on why priorities differ. Other processing questions might include:

(i) What do you notice about the positive things listed for the different relationships?

(ii) What do you notice about the negative things?

(iii) When you were working in your small groups, how similar or different were the responses of men from women? Why do you think this is so?

(iv) Which qualities do you think are the most difficult to find in a relationship?




These are different from normal research questionnaires since their aim is not to collect data but to give the students an opportunity to assess their own attitudes, feelings and emotions about a particular issue. Thus the questionnaires try to make provocative statements which will lead the students to confront truthfully what they think.


1. Give out the questionnaire to all students to fill in individually. If there are no duplicating facilities, write the questionnaire on the chalkboard and ask students to copy and fill in.


For each of the following statements write A (if you agree) D (if you disagree) or ?
(If you don’t know).

(i) Girls wearing short skirts are asking to be raped.

(ii) It is OK for a man to have more than one woman as long as he practises safe sex and provides for his children.

(iii) A wife is more likely to get AIDS than a prostitute.

(iv) Parents should talk to their children about AIDS.

(v) It is more important to send a boy to school than a girl.

(vi) To have sex with a girl before she reaches the age of 18 is defilement.

(vii) Women are more faithful than men.

(viii) Raising a child by yourself makes more sense than marrying a man you don’t love.


2. After filling in the questionnaires, students form groups and discuss their answers.

3. After reaching as much consensus as possible, groups present their answers to plenary.


· Because such questionnaires are very sensitive, the facilitator should be careful about how s/he introduces it and ensures that the ground rules for discussion are followed. The discussion, for example, should allow for tolerance of other peoples’ viewpoints.

· The facilitator does not have to go round finding out what each person believes. An atmosphere of confidentiality encourages participants to be honest in their answers.

· Some of the items in the questionnaire can also be connected to issues of knowledge e.g. the tutor can take advantage of this to provide the essential knowledge where necessary.


1. Give the following questionnaire to the students in groups.


· What would you do if:

(i) You won 20 million shillings in a lottery and you have to spend it quickly?
(ii) You have a free day with no responsibilities at all?

· What would you change if you could only change one thing:

(i) in your community?
(ii) in the world?

2. Students discuss in groups and present to plenary.


· These sort of open-ended questionnaires with no right or wrong, firm or fixed answers can enable students to discuss certain life issues and reach their own decisions from the choices available.



Ranking is another way of encouraging students to assess their own values and attitudes. They have to decide which aspects are more or less important to them and give reasons for their decisions.

This will allow them the opportunity to clarify their own values and attitudes.


1. Divide the students into groups and ask them to rank the following in order of importance.


(i) Popularity
(ii) Academic success
(iii) A good salary
(iv) To own land
(v) Marriage and a family
(vi) To enjoy life

2. Groups present their ranking to the plenary for further discussion.



Case studies can be true or imaginary descriptions of a situation, or a character. They can be used:

· To provoke thought and discussion on various issues
· To give the tutor a chance to assess how much the students know about a particular topic.


1. Divide the class into groups and distribute the case study.

Atieno comes from a poor family in Kampala. She went to school up to P7 after which she returned home to help her mother with her petty trading. When she was 16, a primary school teacher met her selling groundnuts on the street. He liked her and proposed marriage to her. He was quite young and handsome.

2. Ask the groups to answer the following questions.

(i) List the arguments for and against Atieno getting married.
(ii) If you were Atieno, what would you do? Why?

3. Groups report to plenary.


· It is vital that the case study does not give the answer, but rather provokes debate. If, for example, the case study showed Atieno getting married and dying in childbirth, there is no discussion, only a message.

· While this case study is directed at students’ attitudes to marriage and relationships, it can also be used by the tutor to find out the students’ knowledge on the law (defilement below the age of 18), the dangers of getting pregnant before the age of 18 and children’s rights.


Comparative case studies such as the one in the Unit on “Our Health” at the beginning of Section Four.


The case study could be in the form of a letter.

Dear Auntie,

We have started a health club in our school. We participate in child to child activities and try to advise people to keep their surroundings clean. The only problem is the local marwa bar which is always very dirty. It is owned by the LC1 and his wife is the main brewer. She just laughs when I try and explain to her.

What should I do in this situation as children often play in the dirt? Kato.

1. If you were the auntie, how would you reply to this letter?
2. Do you think that similar situations exists in your school/home area?
3. What do you think can be done to improve the situation?



Role plays are not dramas with fixed characters and dialogue. They are rather presentations of situations which the students can act out in order to explore situations, feelings towards situations and different strategies to cope with situations. They are very useful in providing students with a chance to react to simulated situations and test how effective or valid their reactions might be.


1. Explain the role play to the class.

Sara is a P7 girl preparing for the exams. When she goes to do her homework with her friend Mary, Mary’s brother, Michael who is S3 is always very keen to help her with her mathematics. One day, Sara finds herself alone with Michael. Michael reveals that he is interested in Sara.

2. Ask the class to divide into pairs and act out what they think would happen between Michael and Sara. Tell them to think about how each of them feels, what are their options, who is more at risk, what should they do.

3. Students discuss and act in pairs.

4. Ask for volunteers to act out in front of the class.

5. Students discuss on both the methods used by Michael to convince (or force) Sara and Sara’s different methods for coping with the situation.


· The situation could be linked to a lesson on STDs/HIV/AIDS to provide the knowledge element.


A ‘rolling role play’

1. Explain to the students that they are going to do a role play in several stages so that they can act out how they would behave at each stage.

2. Give stage one of the role play.

You live in with your mother, your stepfather and your two brothers and one sister. One day you are left in the house on your own. Your stepfather calls you into his room. What would you do?

3. Ask for one student to act the stepfather and another the girl.

4. After they act the scene, call for comments on the behaviour of both the characters. If someone disagrees with the way either behaved invite them to come and act how they think the uncle or the girl should have behaved. If they are too shy, they can ask someone to act on their behalf but they should be encouraged to try themselves.

5. After all possibilities have been explored and discussed, move the role play one step forward.

The girl enters the room and finds the stepfather on the bed. He calls her to sit on the bed.

What would you do?

6. Repeat as above.

Alternative scenario

Stage 1: You have agreed to go with a friend to a birthday party. When you arrive there, you find that several people are already drunk. Your friend immediately joins the drinking and calls you to join him. You don’t want to drink.


1. What would you do?

After possibilities have been explored, the role play moves forward.

Stage 2: You have agreed to join in drinking a bit to keep company with your friends. One of them introduces marijuana and uses the same arguments that were used to convince you to drink.

2. What would you do?

Obviously this particular activity could be linked to a component on alcohol and other drugs to provide the knowledge input.


· It should be stressed that with role plays, as with case studies, the aim is not to provide messages but rather to provoke (self-) questioning that will eventually lead the children to making their own decisions and adopting particular coping strategies in specific situations.



Drawing activities are another good way of encouraging students to represent their feelings. They can do this individually or in groups.


(i) One form of self introduction is to encourage students either to draw their lives the way they think they are heading and the way they would like to head.

(ii) Groups draw the health promoting/demoting school as explained in the next session.

(iii) Students could prepare a picture in groups on the roles and responsibilities of different members of a family, e.g. a boy child and a girl child.



Discussions and debates give children the opportunity to gain knowledge, check out their own myths and misconceptions, learn new skills such as listening (critically) and clarify their attitudes and values. Ground rules are needed to ensure that all individuals are allowed to express their viewpoints.



These are not as formal as group discussions. They normally involve a brief discussion of participants with their neighbours in the room. They are used to allow informal discussion on an issue so that people can relax and try out their ideas before they are put to the test in a more formal discussion.



Tableaux are a more stylised form of role play which encourage students to think and discuss certain issues within the context of working out how best to represent them.

1. Divide the participants into groups

2. Ask each group to prepare a ‘frozen statue’ that depicts, for example, the feelings and state of a pregnant schoolgirl, or the needs of an AIDS sufferer. You could either ask to each group to prepare a tableau on a similar issue or each group could take a separate issue and present it to the rest of the class for discussion.

3. After the presentation, the facilitator can ask several processing questions.

· Why did you choose such a tableau

· How did you feel when preparing the tableau

· How did you feel when you were the pregnant girl/angry father/AIDS sufferer etc.

· What could be done in real life to change the tableau to a more positive portrayal.



Story telling is part of our childhood and upbringing. Everyone can remember some stories they were told and they are an important source of learning about life. They can be used to illustrate and discuss a variety of life situations requiring life skills to deal with them. Stories can be presented in many different ways, through traditional tales using animals such as those in Hare and Hornbill by Okot p’Bitek which were in fact originally created as a way of commenting on the life of the community and teaching life skills to the children. Alternatively stories can be used from the Sara Communication Initiative or the teacher, or students can make up their own stories to suit different situations. Stories can be told in different ways such as this letter below.

Dear Auntie,

I really want to study so that I can escape from this life of poverty but what can I do when I don’t even have time to study. I have really struggled to get to secondary school but as the subjects get more difficult, I think I am going to fail. Just imagine, I wake up every day at 5.00am. I fetch the water, sweep the compound and wash the clothes for my little brother and sister before going to school. My brother wakes up at 7.00 am, prepares for school and goes.

At school I do my best to study but because I ate nothing before leaving the house, when it gets to midday, I start falling asleep. The teachers get angry with me but what can I do. In the evening my brother weeds the garden while I do the housework and help my mother cook. After eating, my brother can start doing his homework but I have to wash the dishes first. After that I try to study but within half an hour, I am falling asleep.

At the weekend we both go to the farm but when we get back my brother goes to play football after which he says, ‘he has the job of bathing’ while I start to do the housework. My brother washes his clothes when he feels like it, but he makes sure I realise that he is doing me a favour. To tell you the truth auntie, although I do my best to help my mother, sometimes I pretend to be sick because that is the only way I can get a chance to rest.

So what should I do so that I can study like the others? My brother tells me that I don’t do well in class because girls are not as intelligent as boys. He says that boys are more curious which is why they do better in science. Sometimes I am tempted to believe with him because he always makes fun of the way I enjoy cooking. But then I remember that while he is playing with batteries and making his own little radio or torch, I am washing the dishes or fetching the water. When do I have the time to study like him? And if I was not so tired, wouldn’t I be as curious as he is?

Yours fed up,



1. If you were the auntie, how would you reply to this letter?
2. Do you think that such a situation exists in relation to your school/home area?
3. What do you think can be done to improve the situation?
4. Why do you think boys tend to do better in science than girls?



As with the introductory activities, it is important that individuals have the opportunity to say how they feel about particular activities or situations and how it affected them. In this way the facilitator can assess her/his activities and to what extent they are being effective in engaging the participants and challenging them to think about the issues and life skills being raised through the activities. One part of such assessment is always observation of how participants are reacting, but processing questions allows a more reflective assessment and also encourages the participants to think about the purpose and value of activities rather than just participating in them.

Some questions that may be asked are:

· How did you feel about the activity?
· How (much) did it challenge your thinking/attitudes?
· How have you changed? (Or not?)
· How do you think the group has changed?
· What helped?
· What hindered?
· How might you apply this activity in training/teaching?
· Which life skills are promoted in this activity?



It would be a mistake for a facilitator to think that s/he has to produce all the material her/himself. Very often it will be the task of the facilitator to produce the preliminary activities but, after that, s/he can draw on the creativity and experience of the participants/students to produce supplementary activities.

This can be done in several ways.


· After presenting a case study, students can be asked to prepare case studies of their own which reflect different situations/dilemmas/problems they face.

· Students will act the role plays and, in cases where the tutor requires one participant in a role play to have a clearly defined or very persuasive role, instead of acting it him/herself can coach a student to do it on her/his behalf.

· If the tutor is not confident of her/his drawing skills (and for the purpose of teaching they do not have to be good) s/he can ask one of the students to prepare the drawing required in advance.