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Learning activities for birth & parenting educators | Teaching tips | CAPEA

Author: Lisa/Wednesday, 4 March 2015/Categories: Teaching Tips

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About the Language in this Fact Sheet 

For brevity and ease of reading the word ‘Activity’ has been used to cover all types of adult learning tools and the word ‘Educator’ has been used to describe group facilitators and early parenting educators. 

Types of Activities 

  • Small Group Work 

Small group work is useful to encourage networking, sharing and problem solving. Many activities lend themselves to small group work, including scenarios and specific activities with a clearly defined purpose including: 

• Ronnie Pratt’s “When to go to Hospital” or “Warning Bells”. 

• Bronny Handfield’s “Pass the Woman”. 

• Terri Shilling’s “Where does the Time Go?”. 

• Completing a question and answer sheet on community resources designed by the educator. 

It is essential to allow sufficient time for each small group to report their answers to the large group. This consolidates the learning and is a great way of sharing information among participants. 

  • Energisers 

Energisers are used to get the group up and moving when there is a slump in energy or between long topics. They can include: massage and or positioning practice; an activity where participants have a question card and they are required to look at information strategically placed around the room and stand under the relevant answer. An example is: 

Where can you go for help?

 Question card                                                       List of Stations
 Baby unsettled & crying al the time  Emergency Room
 Mother's bleeding is bright & increasing  Child & Family Health Nurse
 Tender, sore, inflamed breasts  General Practitioner
 Baby has white coated tongue  Chemist


Please note this is just an example. Many more scenarios and stations can be used in this activity. 

  • Graffiti sheets 

Graffiti sheets provide a safe way for participants offer a variety of opinions on a range of pre-prepared sheets of butcher’s paper. Questions are posed as open-ended, unfinished statements; for example, 

When labour starts I will call ............. 

Five or six sheets of butcher’s paper, each containing one unfinished statement are placed evenly around the room. Marking pens are placed in close proximity. 

Instructions are simple. The members of the group are asked to make their way to each of the graffiti sheets, read the question and write down an appropriate end to the statement. They are asked to write down the first answer that comes to mind without reading previous answers or entering into discussion. 

Many topics lend themselves to this activity, for example: 

• Breakdown of household chores (who does what). 

• Labour support. 

• Breastfeeding. 

• Newborn care. 

• Baby equipment. 

• Community resources and useful telephone numbers. 

After all members of the group have had a chance to fill in each sheet, they are asked to collect the sheets, bring them back to the large group where volunteers are asked to report the suggestions to the large group. 

  • Scenarios 

Often used in small group work they are a good strategy to encourage group participants to discuss common issues. Scenarios require the participants to read the short scenario and then problem solve by brainstorming answers to questions about the story. This strategy can be used to cover an endless array of topics, for example: 

1. Miranda and Geoff are excited about their first pregnancy. At 35 weeks Miranda notices some tricking and on inspection there is bright blood on her pants. 

What is the possible cause? What action could they take? 

2. Amina is in the 39th week of her pregnancy. She woke because of a sudden gush of liquid from her vagina. On inspection it is dark yellowy/green in colour. 

What does this mean? What action could she take? 

3. Mary is 1 week and 4 days past her due date. She is booked for an induction in two days time. 

What can Mary do to avoid this? Why has the doctor booked an induction? 

  • Carousel 

The carousel is a good way to gather a range of opinion on allocated topics. 

Carousels are good energisers and discussion starters and they can become extremely frantic and noisy. It is best to limit the size of individual carousels to avoid the activity becoming too lengthy and chaotic. Ten or twelve participants to a carousel are optimal. If the group contains more than 16 participants it is best to break them into two smaller carousel groupings. 


Set up the carousel: (based on a group of 12 participants) 

Six people are asked to bring their chairs and arrange them in the centre of the room in a circle with the seat facing out towards the room. Ask them to be seated on the chairs (indicated on the diagram by the blue circles). Provide each seated person with a pen or pencil and a piece of pre-prepared paper containing a topic-related heading such as, “How to settle a crying baby”. The remaining six people (indicated in the diagram by the red circles) are asked to stand in front of their seated partner. 

Facilitating the carousel:

• Seated people are instructed to show the topic to their partner and to record all answers and suggestions from the standing participant on their paper. 

• Standing participants are asked to brainstorm as many topic-related suggestions as possible within a set time limit; for example, 20 to 30 seconds, before moving on to the next seated person to the right. 

• Educator acts as a time keeper indicating time to move forward by clapping hands, ringing a bell or instructing audibly, “Move on”. 

• This process continues until the standing participants return to their starting position. 

The seated people are instructed not to help and to avoid saying anything other than, “I have that one”, and to write down the suggestions on their piece of paper. 

This process will take approximately five minutes for 12 participants. Note that this is a fun and very noisy activity; an excellent energiser and one way of sharing group knowledge on a topic. 

Suitable Topics: Examples of suitable topics for a carousel activity include: 

• How to settle a crying baby. 

• Where to get help. 

• Self care activities. 

• How to schedule partner time. 

• How to manage celebrations like Christmas, birthdays, Easter, etcetera. 

Feedback: The most important step! The carousel is deconstructed and participants asked to return to the group. Those with the pieces of paper are asked to share the information with the large group. Discussion ensues as necessary during this process, including myth busting, topping up or correction of information as required. Allow at least 15 mins for this process. Allocate 20 minutes minimum for the entire activity. 

  • Storytelling 

Storytelling involves presenting a metaphor to the group through the retelling of a story. A popular story used to introduce the topic “Unexpected Outcomes” is Welcome to Holland written by Emily Pearl Kingsley  

The beauty of storytelling is in its simplicity and the way the brain interprets the information. Scientists have shown that the left side of the brain deals with logic, linguistics, mathematics, sequencing and organisation while the right side of the brain is responsible for music, pictures, movements and kinesthetics 

When a person listens to a story the left side of the brain processes the words and details, analyses and logically categorises the information. At the same time the right side of the brain, which is the core of imagination and creativeness, begins to build images to match the words. Some words may tap into past memories allowing the listener to experience sights, smells and sounds tied to the memory. This means that the story will be different for each person. 

Research has shown that when both sides of the brain are stimulated it makes the person more alert and ready to take in new information. Studies on brain wave activity show that alpha waves are stimulated when a person listens to a story. The listener becomes relaxed, their heart and breathing patterns synchronise with the brain’s alpha waves and they tune into the cadence of the storyteller’s voice patterns. In this state the listener is able to visualise and imagine pictures to match the story. Pictures link to the words ensuring that the information received is transferred from the short term memory to the working memory. Multisensory information assists association, memory and recall. 

Story telling appeals to all learning styles: 

• Aural learners concentrate on the words, and the paralinguistics of the storyteller. 

• Spatial/visual learners observe the story teller for cues in facial expressions and body/hand gestures. Pictorial memories from their own experience will surface during the story. 

• Physical/kinaesthetic learners use the brain to turn the words into appropriate images, fitting the events and characters depicted in the story. They can sometimes be seen copying the emotions and movements of the characters. 

Stories can be found on the internet, The Story of the Little Frog is a useful story for parent education sessions. 

Children’s books are another great source for stories for example, ‘Starbright: meditations for young children’ by Maureen Garth, 1991, Collins Dove, ISBN 0-85924-958-1. 

- Kim Brickwood  December 2013


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