This is an light-hearted exercise that I have used a number of times during training workshops to help participants reflect and share their feelings. Using play dough, participants shape it to represent what they learned during the workshop or how they are feeling. Express yourself can be used as an ice breaker activity, mid-activity review to deal with conflict and as reviewing and reflection exercise.
Resources: Play-Doh (one lump per person)
Group Size: 8-12 participants (For larger groups, split them into pairs or smaller groups)
Time: 10 – 15 minutes
Express Yourself Explained
- Give each person in the group a lump of play dough.
- Ask them to shape it into something which represents:
- Ice Breaker: Something about them that they wish to share?
- Conflict: How they are feeling right now?
- Review: What they learned during the workshop?
- Development: How they see the current situation?
- Allow 10-15 minutes to create their play-dough shapes.
- Once they have finished, take it turns for each person to share their shape with the rest of the group.
- Review as a group and identify any common themes and transfer of learning.
Express Yourself Benefits
- This exercise can help release stress (at least certainly reduce it). If you give a lump of play dough to any participant who is either stressed or angry, they will squish and mash the dough until they get those feelings out of their system.
- It allows participants to express themselves and carefully reflect as individuals in safe learning environment.
- It is a good exercise for sparking conversation and group discussion about an experience. It will help group members build a connection and identify common interests or understanding.
To understand the participants point of view you might ask some of the following questions:
- What does this lump of play dough mean to you?
- How did you come up with the shape?
- Did you change the shape at any point during the creation stage? If yes, why?
- What did the exercise help you learn about either yourself or your team?
Tips and Guidance
This exercise can be used to focus on a specific aspect of the workshop or the workshop as a whole. Remember to adapt the exercise to suit your group and your learning objectives.
If you’re working with larger groups or you have limited time, you can also do this exercise in pairs or smaller groups. Instead of each person shaping the play dough, they do it as a smaller group instead. Before you put them into pairs or groups, allow each person a minute or two for self-reflection. Next, they must take it turns to share and discuss their feelings or thoughts as a group before shaping the dough to represent everyone.
Using this exercise as a group exercises offers a range of learning and development opportunities including helping group members build rapport with one another and improving communication and listening skills. These points should be discussed during the exercise review.