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close this bookAnimation Skills (Peace Corps)
close this folderFishbowl
View the documentCommunication skills
View the documentFishbowl activity
View the documentVariations on the fishbowl
View the documentRole plays/drama
View the documentIn the neighborhood....

Communication skills

"A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. "

Nelson Mandela

Every day of our lives we try to share ideas, feelings, and information with other people. This is what we call communication. It's a part of any relationship between two people. A good relationship can't exist without some sort of sharing of ideas. Talking is the most common way of communicating, but there are many other ways to share information, such as writing, body language, drawing, singing, dancing and so on. Communication, of course, is not a one-way path. There is a sender of information and a receiver of that information. When the sender communicates clearly and appropriately and the receiver hears and understands, ideas are shared. That is when communication really happens. A basic philosophy of the Peace Corps is to help people help themselves. Is it possible to work effectively with people without really communicating with them? In fact, many of the techniques you will use in your work as Volunteers in the field are essentially methods of communication. Your skills in this area will be essential to your effectiveness and success with the communities you find your self working in.

The action of sending a message, whether oral, written or otherwise, does not automatically result in communication. There are many common breakdowns in our daily communication efforts that cause misunderstanding, confusion, and sometimes problems in our personal and professional relationships. Coupled now with the language and cultural differences that you will encounter in the communities where you work, the communication skills you possess will be continually challenged.

Let's look at some examples of common difficulties with communication that you may encounter in your field work as a Peace Corps Volunteer:

"The moment you have protected an individual, you have protected society"

Kenneth Kaunda
(First President of Zambia)

Communication skills

· Your message may be received but not understood. (It may be in the wrong language, too technical. You may be speaking too fast or mumbling or not connecting with your audience.)

· Your message may reach only a portion of the audience. (Different learning styles and/or differing needs of the illiterate vs. literate audience.)

· Your audience may receive the message but misinterpret it. (If they don't see the guinea worm cyclops. in the water, it must be safe to drink.)

· The message may be received and understood, but it may conflict with traditional attitudes and beliefs. (The belief that guinea worm comes from evil spirits to punish a family. Or a preference for the taste of water from a traditional source.)

· The message is received and understood, but the people are unable to act upon it because of poverty or inaccessibility factors. (Geographically impossible to install pump or dig for well. Nearest potable water source is inaccessible.)

· The message is received and understood, but behavior change is temporary because of disappointing results. (It takes a full year to realize the benefits of guinea worm prevention efforts. There are no immediately recognizable results that would encourage behavior change.)

Now let's take a look at some points to remember that will help you in your field efforts:

"Spoken words are living things-like cocoa beans packed with life.... They will enter some insides, remain there and grow like the corn blooming on the alluvial soil at the river side. "

Gabriel Okara

· Define clearly (for yourself) what message you are trying to relay before presenting to an audience. Think ahead/be prepared. If possible, test your materials first. (Even with just one or two people you can get some valuable feedback on important details.)

· Keep your message simple, practical, brief and relevant.

· Use appropriate language. If you do not speak the language of the village, use a translator, preferably someone you know and have worked with so that you are assured of accurate translation. Speak in simple terms. Do not use technical language. Find the appropriate words to replace the technical terminology. Speak slowly and loud enough for everyone to hear.

· Unless you know for sure, do not assume that your audience is literate. Use oral or visual or active methods of communicating. That way no one is left out or intimidated by your presentation.

· Repetition is very important. Repeat or let someone else repeat the main points of the presentation. Summarize at regular intervals so that the group stays with you and understands the primary message. If possible, arrange subsequent visits to repeat and reinforce those main points.

Speak slowly and loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. "

Margaret Mead

Three skills needed to promote good communication are:

Speaking Clearly

Listening and Paying Attention

Discussing and Clarifying


· To provide Trainees an opportunity for structured observation of various communication skills.

· To provide Trainees with accurate information about the life cycle of the guinea worm.


· Trainees will have learned how to conduct and participate in a fishbowl as animation technique.

· Trainees will have identified at least five practices that contribute to poor communication and five that promote effective communication.

· Trainees will be able to accurately recite the transmission cycle of guinea worm disease.


1. Begin by reviewing basic knowledge concerning guinea worm disease. (Trainees should have read the guinea worm fact sheet by now.)


Ask for a volunteer to describe the life cycle of guinea worm. Be sure these main points are covered:

· Water containing guinea worm infected cyclops.. is swallowed by human being.

· Guinea worm develops inside body for about one year before emerging from human host.

· Guinea worm takes several weeks to totally emerge and exit the human body. During the process, the worm emits larvae.

· When guinea worm larvae come in contact with drinking water source, the water is recontaminated.

· Anyone drinking recontaminated water is at risk for guinea worm disease. The cycle begins again.


2. Review the importance of good communication skills. Ask Trainees to cite some common breakdowns in communication that they have experienced and some points that are essential to good communication. Write key words from their responses on flip chart paper. You may complete their list with points found on the Communication Skills handout.


3. Divide Trainees two or three groups to quickly come up with a definition of good communication.

Ask each of the small groups to present their definition. Take a few minutes to discuss and come to consensus on just one working definition of effective communication.

Ask Trainees to imagine how simple facts about the life cycle of guinea worm could be easily misunderstood with poor communication.

Choose one or two examples of communication breakdowns from the flip chart list to illustrate problems in communicating information correctly. Have Trainees give concrete examples of possible confusing or incorrect messages about guinea worm life cycle.


4. Explain the purpose of a fishbowl to Trainees. It is a technique for structured observation of a group process. ( In our case, it is observation of communication skills and the transfer of information about guinea worm.) An inner circle of participants is given a specific topic to communicate about while an outer circle of participants observes and gives feedback on the inner circle activity.

For this particular fishbowl exercise, we will use a role play as our activity. There are many other possibilities such as one-on-one or group discussion, a song, a dance, a game, etc.

Explain to participants that this role play deals with the life cycle of guinea worm but can easily be changed to other topics of interest.



5. Determine how to divide the large group: according to number of participants, by sex if appropriate, by other natural groupings according to your specific circumstances.

Present the prepared role play to the inside fishbowl participants and give them a few minutes to review their roles together before you begin the exercise.


6. Arrange a circle of chairs for the participants inside the fishbowl with a circle of chairs outside for observers. The outside circle should be close enough to the inside circle for participants to hear and observe without problem.

7. With the selected inner circle participants in place, instruct the outside circle participants to observe closely and take notes on what they hear and see. They especially should keep in mind the previous discussion about effective communication.


8. Allow the role play to last for a few minutes or until the main points have been covered.

9. When the time is up, you have a few options:


a.) Ask for random feedback from the outside circle on what they observed. You want observations only-no critique at this time.

b.) Ask the outside group to identify what they saw, what they heard, and what they felt during the role play. Take comments about each aspect separately.

c.) Ask inside circle to comment on what happened and how they felt.

Relate participant comments back to the list of breakdowns and points of effective communication that were made earlier.

Ask the observers what messages they received about guinea worm in the role play. Were the messages-clear? How might they be misinterpreted by the poor communication skills used?


10. Now ask the participants of the inner circle to do the role play again using the proper communication skills cited on the flip chart. Ask for general approval from the outside circle on the communication skills used and take this opportunity to repeat the main messages about the life cycle of guinea worm.


11. A second round of the fishbowl could be practiced switching members of the outside and inside circles. You could have a second role play prepared or you could ask the participants to spontaneously act out a scenario of good communication.

12. After the entire exercise is over, lead the group in processing the experience. Take this opportunity to relate the exercise and skills learned to other sector-specific considerations.


Fishbowl activity



1 Peace Corps Volunteer


1 Host country counterpart
3 Members of a village committee


The PCV and his or her counterpart are meeting with members of a village committee to discuss the possibility of launching a guinea worm education campaign in the village.


The PCV is a bit nervous and tends to dominate the conversation by talking too fast and speaking a lot of franglais with local language words mixed in. She or he interrupts the others as they try to ask questions or clarify information. She or he tends to speak in formal/text book language about guinea worm (e.g., Dracunculiasis, crustacean host cyclops. subcutaneous tissue.) She or he hands out a written article to committee members who do not read. She or he does not give her or his counterpart the opportunity to facilitate the meeting and in the end everyone is frustrated. The PCV complains that nobody understands her or him.


She or he is diplomatically patient with the dominating PCV but is keenly aware of the discomfort of committee members, who do not appreciate the manner in which the meeting is taking place. When she or he begins to speak or tries to clarify main points for the committee members in the local language, the PCV interrupts and finally the counterpart becomes frustrated with the PCV.


The members are mostly there to listen, but their facial expressions clearly indicate that they are not able to follow the conversation. They look to the counterpart for clarification but she or he doesn't find the opportunity to help them understand. They ask questions about guinea worm life cycle (e.g., Where does the guinea worm come from? How do we get rid of it? How can it be in my body for a year without me feeling it?) They are confused with responses given and become frustrated with the meeting.

Variations on the fishbowl

1. The fishbowl method could be used to observe group process and help define particular roles that people play and the authority those roles command. The outside circle might be asked to observe:

· Who does most of the talking? Who remains silent?
· What differing roles do individuals play?
· How and why does the discussion get off track?
· What body language is used and what does it communicate?
· How are conflicts resolved?

2. The fishbowl technique is useful for problem solving or decision making when you are working with a large group. First break into smaller groups for discussion on a particular topic. Then form a fishbowl with representatives from each small group representing the position of their respective groups (whose members make up the silent outer circle of the fishbowl). After some discussion, the small groups reform for more discussion and make any changes in their original position to be presented in the next round of fishbowl. The process could be repeated several times until a resolution is found.

Role plays/drama

"In a world of cooperation and peace, we seek not to stifle inevitable change, but to influence its course in helpful and constructive ways."

Jimmy Carter

Role play is a spontaneous hands-on method for simulating a real life situation. As a training method, it is excellent for providing Trainees with an opportunity to involve themselves and to be active in their learning. Role plays permit participants to act out a relevant scenario, giving them a chance to examine their personal reactions and behaviors to the circumstances presented. This is a method that not only allows participants the opportunity to examine their personal reactions to a problem situation, but gives them the chance, in a safe environment, to experiment with different reactions or new behaviors. Role play is an animation technique that draws upon the past experience of participants and requires them to apply theory to actual hands-on practice.

Role plays come in many formats:


A few players act out a stated scenario or problem situation. A group of observers watch closely and give feedback on what they saw and heard. The players, as well as observers, critique the role play and comment on how they felt in the roles they presented.


Each player has an alter ego who stands behind them to prompt with comments or questions they may not be thinking to ask. The feedback session is the same as above.


During the role play, the trainer asks the players to switch roles. This promotes empathy with the other's viewpoint and provides an alternative reaction to the situation. Trainers should be sensitive to the timing of a reversal, looking for the opportune moment to make the switch. Feedback session is the same as above.


During the role play, the trainer asks new participants to continue the dialogue already in progress. This method increases participation by Trainees and provides more and different viewpoints during the presentation. Choose carefully the moment to rotate players. Conduct feedback session same as above.


Players are given a problem situation to act out in two parts: the obviously wrong way to approach the problem and then a possible correct way to deal with the same problem. Feedback is given by observers and players after each presentation.

"We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it."

James Baldwin


A few considerations for using role play:

· Use the role play method a little later in your training when participants are more at ease with one another.

· Set ground rules so that players feel safe and protected from inappropriate feedback during the discussion phase.

· Choose (or write) a role play that directly relates to a problem you want the Trainees to address. Be as concise as possible in its description so that the role play does not become complicated.

· Provide instructions-either oral or written-for the role players and for the observers.

· Give role players enough time to think through their roles (maybe 10 minutes) before asking them to present to a group.

· Arrange the room so that everyone can see and hear the presentation.

· Allow for hesitations or "fumbling" on the part of actors but know when to stop a role play before it gets too far off track. You can usually wait until the second lull in action before ending the role play.

· Conduct a feedback session that analyzes what happened in the role play. Never rush the processing. Allow at least as much time for processing as it took to do the role play itself.

Drama presentations are a very powerful tool for communicating with and mobilizing a community around particular issues. Drama is rooted in the oral traditions found in many developing nations where literacy rates are varied and often limited.

Drama is similar to role play in many ways but requires more time, organization, planning, and commitment by the players. A more formal script needs to be developed for actors to memorize or use as a guide for their own words. Props and scenery will be needed to set the stage. Rehearsals for the actors and publicity for the event will need to be organized to assure attendance by the community.

But do not be discouraged, village drama (or theater) can be very effective for not only getting your main points across, but, for encouraging team work and community involvement. The entire process can be a great deal of fun, too. Remember that some of the best village drama presentations have grown from role plays that first took place in other settings. Keep a record or start a collection of role plays that have worked well and then, given the time and resources, turn them into drama productions.

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightened than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."

Laurens Van der Post

Role play/drama

A few considerations for using drama:

· The people presenting a play will learn twice as much if they also take part in creating or writing it.

· Encourage people to speak in their own words. Have actors memorize key ideas and sequence, but let them express themselves spontaneously.

· Conduct the drama where the audience can see and hear easily. Some sort of a raised stage is a good idea if possible.

· Insist that actors speak in a "shout" so that people the farthest away can hear.

· A few good simple props can be very useful for stimulating the imagination and holding the audience's attention. Make them colorful and imaginative. Otherwise, the actors should help the audience to imagine that things are there.

· A play or drama will hold people's attention best if it has lots of action, movement, emotion, and surprises. Try for a balance of serious, sad, light and funny.

· You can include the audience with songs during the drama or by pulling up one or two people to take part in a "village meeting" for example.

· Leave time for discussion afterwards for people who want to make comments or ask questions.


· To provide Trainees an opportunity to develop role play and drama skills as animation techniques.

· To increase Trainees' sensitivity toward people in problem situations that they might encounter in the field as PCVs.

· To provide information about cause and prevention of guinea worm.


· Trainees will have learned about and participated in the technique of role play as a tool to assess a problem situation.

· Trainees will have examined their own and others' reactions to a particular problem situation.

· Trainees will be able to identify at least three high risk situations for contracting guinea worm and three ways to avoid contracting guinea worm.



1. Begin by reviewing basic knowledge concerning guinea worm disease. (Trainees should have read the fact sheet on guinea worm by now.) Lead a brief discussion about the causes, prevention, and treatment of the disease.


2. Ask Trainees to tell you what a role play is. Make sure their responses include the concepts of simulation, animation technique for educating the audience, examining theirs and others' reactions to a particular incident, and emphathizing with another's point of view.

Explain that there are several different role play formats. (You might want to take time afterwards to describe some of the other formats.) In this exercise, a simple, single role play format will be used with feedback by both players and observers. State that the purpose of this role play is to recognize misconceptions about guinea worm disease and its prevention and how the Trainees might react in situations presenting those circumstances.

Ask Trainees to set ground rules for the feedback session. Write key words from their responses on flip chart paper. They should include the rule that comments will not be made about individual performances, but rather about the content of the role play and how it made observers and players feel.


3. Ask for volunteers to play the five roles involved and distribute the printed role descriptions. Before having players leave the room to prepare, ask the entire large group if there are any questions. Give players 10 minutes to prepare.

Arrange the room so that everyone can see and participate fully.

Ask observers the following questions to think about during the role play and for discussion afterwards:

· In your opinion, what were the problems in this situation?
· Were the problems resolved? How? Or why not?
· What lessons did you draw from this role play?


4. Call players in and conduct the role play. As the trainer, only intervene if the players are having difficulty. Wait until at least the second lull in action occurs before stopping it. The presentation should last between 5 and 10 minutes only.


5. Allow actors to respond first to the following questions:

· What problems were you facing?
· How did you feel in your role?
· Were there any surprises for you?
· What did you learn from this situation?


6. Now allow observers a chance to respond to the questions stated in step 3.

Ask if there are any other general questions or remarks about what happened in this role play.

Ask if Trainees learned anything new about guinea worm during the presentation. Did they learn anything about how they might deal with a similar situation in the field?

7. If time permits, and interest continues among participants, you can conduct a second role play or repeat the same one using a different format and different players.

8. Thank all players and observers for their participation.

Role play/drama 1

In the neighborhood....



You are coming home from a day in the fields with your wife and you are very pleased with the growth and quality of your crops. You are especially grateful because before this year you had guinea worm and were barely able to work during the important planting season. Your entire family suffered because there was very little to eat and no money to buy medicine or clothes or even to send the children to school. Although you used to believe that guinea worm was a natural part of the body that came out when it smelled other guinea worms, you are now convinced that the health workers were right when they explained that guinea worm comes from drinking water that is contaminated with worm larvae. Since last year you have been very careful to drink only water that is filtered first. Your wife and children always filter the pond water into the drinking jar at home and you always take a plastic jug of filtered water with you to the fields. This year no one in the family has guinea worm, so you are convinced and determined to continue to filter your water.

On your way home, you pass the house of a neighbor that is suffering several guinea worms at the same time. His young son, too, is lying on a mat in front of the house, unable to walk, unable to help his family in the fields, and unable to go to school. You try to explain to them what made the difference for you.


You are coming home from a day in the fields with your husband. You have a basket of early potatoes that you just harvested from your field. For the first time in three years no one in your family has guinea worm. You continue to filter water at home and drink only filtered water in the fields, but you are concerned with the continual contamination of the pond by others who still have guinea worm and visit the pond for bathing, doing laundry, or for gathering drinking water.

As you walk past the house of neighbors who are suffering guinea worm, you stop to talk with them about why they still have the disease and why you don't want them to go near the pond water. You insist that they try to stay away from the pond and that you will send your eldest son to help them bring buckets of water for bathing. Before leaving, you give them some of your potatoes and assure them that if they filter their drinking water and stay away from the pond, they will be able to have a healthy crop again next year.


You have several guinea worms coming out of your feet and legs and you are weak from not eating well and not being able to sleep. Your son is also sick with guinea worm on a mat next to you. You have an older daughter who went to the market in the next village to sell her embroidery work so that she could buy food for the family to eat. Your neighbors are walking by after a day of work in their fields and you are reminded of what you do not have and will not have because you cannot work your fields at this time. You believe that the guinea worm in your family is the result of an angry local god who saw how badly you treated your wife last year. She has gone away to live with her family in another village. You resent the advice of your neighbors who are doing well and who believe that you can prevent guinea worm through your own behavior. You are treating your guinea worm sores with a mud pack mixed with plant leaves recommended by a local traditional healer. A few of your sores are inflamed and infected.

While you are talking with your neighbors, the local Peace Corps Volunteer arrives to treat your sores. After some discussion that makes you angry, you refuse to let him treat you and you announce that he understands nothing about what really happens in the village. As you struggle to get up, you tell everyone that you are going to the pond to wash and bring some relief to your painful sores.


You have guinea worm on one of your feet and you cannot walk without a staff to help you. You have missed weeks of school and will not be able to pass your exams next month. You remember a teacher last year who explained that guinea worm was waterborne disease and that everyone should filter their drinking water and be sure not to walk into the pond with a guinea worm sore. You didn't pay much attention because you thought guinea worm disease was hereditary and you wouldn't get it. Besides, your mother and sister were responsible for getting water to the house.

There was much trouble at home last year between your parents, and you were not sure if the water in the jar was filtered or not. You now wish you had filtered it yourself to make sure. You have tried to explain to your father, who is also sick with guinea worm, that he should not go into the pond with his sores because the water will be unsafe for them to drink and they may get the guinea worm again. But your father will not listen. He believes that guinea worm is caused by witchcraft or angry gods and he gets angry when you tell him you don't believe that. You refuse to use the traditional mud pack to treat your guinea worm sore as your father does.


You have some public health training and you know about guinea worm life cycle and how to prevent it. You have recently suggested that the village committee assign someone to guard the local water source to prevent anyone with guinea worm from entering and recontaminating the pond. You have spoken to many of the village women about filtering drinking water and asked them to teach their sons and husbands to filter as well. You have invited everyone to attend a filtering demonstration after the mass on Sunday.

You arrive at the home of someone with several guinea worm sores. There are neighbors present discussing how the family contracted guinea worm and what they should do about it. You greet everyone and join the conversation trying to confirm what the others are saying. You offer to assist the man with guinea worm to wash his sores and apply antiseptic, but he has become angry with the conversation and refuses your help.