SIMAGES 2016.1 – Ready to Use Activity: Paper Shapes

Paper Shapes

by Becky Rice

Here is a quick activity to raise issues around what make for positive communication.

Materials:  A sheet of paper for each person

Time:  20 minutes

Participants:  Any sized group


Tell participants that you would like them to play a quick game that illustrates a couple of facts about communication.   You will be giving them a series of instructions about what to do with their paper while you do the same with yours simultaneously.

  • Hand-out one 8 ½ x 11 size paper to each participant.
  • Ask everyone to hold their paper, close their eyes, and listen carefully.
  • Give the following instructions, pausing after each so everyone has a chance to catch up.
  1. “Fold your sheet of paper in half”
  2. “Tear off the upper left hand corner”
  3. “Fold it in half once more and tear off the upper right hand corner of the sheet”
  4. “Fold it in half again and tear off the lower left hand corner of the sheet of paper”

Ask participants to now open their eyes and inspect their papers.  Invite them to compare their papers with each other and with yours.

Debrief Discussion Questions:

  • What differences do you notice between your own paper and others’?
  • How do you account for so many different results even though everyone heard the same instructions?
  • What was it like to have your eyes closed during this activity?
  • What if your eyes had been open?  What difference might that have made?
  • What could we have done to achieve more consistent paper-tearing results?
  • How is this like communication in your workplace, on your team, in your family?
  • If this activity was a metaphor for communication, what might the paper represent?  What would the facilitator or having your eyes closed represent?
  • What is your definition of two-way communication?

Application Activity

  • Turn to someone sitting near you and make a list of the elements of good communication.

NOTE: Key points to bring out in the discussion:

  • This activity can be used to surface the following learning points.
  • The person who initiates a communication has a responsibility to be clear and make sure the message is heard.
  • Communication is better when the initiator asks for feedback.
  • Communication is better when the listener ask questions and provides feedback.
  • Sometimes we overlook needless barriers to communication.
  • Sometimes we impose needless constraints on our communication.
  • Sometimes the environment imposes constraints on communication.
  • It’s helpful to make sure our communication was clear before the person takes action.

Becky Rice is currently Training and Development Manager for the White Castle Corporation.  She has a BS in Biology from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Louisville.  Becky has had an array of careers, including a bird trainer, a zookeeper, a museum educator, a quality control technician, and a high school Biology teacher.  She enjoys scuba diving, golfing, making people laugh, and writing.  She has a husband and one son who is almost 4.  Becky believes that the key to making all learning successful is to MAKE IT FUN!

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