It is commonly accepted that people learn by doing activities, not just by listening or watching. This active form of learning works well for me, as it does for many others. Here are two activities I’ve successfully used when teaching about health literacy. Perhaps you’d want to build on these when teaching your lessons, too.
- Games. It’s almost always okay to add an element of fun even when teaching serious subjects. I often do so with games. Here’s a game I created to teach professionals how to better communicate numbers. I begin by highlighting why numbers can be hard for many people to understand. I then show examples of communicating numbers well. Now it’s time for the game in which participants brainstorm strategies of their own. Participants divide into small groups. A person from each group randomly chooses two game cards. One is from a stack labeled, “Audience.” The card briefly describes someone who needs to learn about numbers, such as “Ken, 22 years old. Always in special classes.” The second card is from a stack labeled, “Messages.” These are common number-based healthcare tasks such as, “Add 2 teaspoons of powder to one cup of water.” The group’s challenge is to come up with multiple ways of teaching this task to that person. I find that such games not only help participants think of effective communication strategies but also add enthusiasm for learning.
- Role-playing. A way to help make lessons stick is by inviting participants to practice with role-play. Here’s an activity I sometimes use when teaching how to teach others. After introducing the topic and teaching some strategies, I ask participants to divide into small groups. The group designates one person as the “teacher” and another as a “student.” Everyone else is an observer. Teachers then get a scenario to role-play. (I intentionally choose an activity outside of health so as to minimize distractions.) The scenario might be to teach how to give correct change from $20.00 for an item costing $8.46 (not using a cash register, of course). It’s fascinating to see the many ways they successfully accomplish this task, such as by teaching with pictures, metaphors, or actual money. The larger group then discusses what they’ve learned from this exercise and how they might apply these lessons to practice.
What activities do you use to teach about health literacy? I welcome hearing what works well for you and your audience.
Helen Osborne often leads workshops that include active, practical learning. Find out more about what she does and how you might work together.