Suggested HIV/AIDS workshop structure and activities

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Suggested HIV/AIDS workshop structure and activities

Warm-up and welcome


Everyone should make and wear a nametag.

As facilitator, introduce yourself and give a little of your background that helps the learners to understand the experience you bring with you.

Briefly outline what will happen during the day. Tip: You may want to write up the headings of the different sections onto a chalkboard or sheet of newsprint. You can then cross of each section as you complete it. This helps the learners to locate themselves within the process. It also breeds a sense of accomplishment.

Song and prayer

Some background: Most of my target learner groups come from cultures in which song and prayer are strong unifying forces. If this descibes your learner group, then it helps to create a sense of group cohesion and focus if you begin each session with a song and a prayer initiated and lead by the learners.

Warm-up and ice-breakers

Warm-up activities are vital! And yet we so often leave them out. As this workshop is very participatory, experiential and holistic, leaving out the warm-up will mean that your learners are less ready and more reluctant to participate. A good warm-up will energise the learners, help them to bond with each other, create a sense of excitement and anticipation, focus their concentration and can introduce some of the major themes of the session.

Serious / delighted greeting

Purpose To introduce learners to each other and to break down physical barriers.

Process Tell the learners that they are going to greet everyone in the group in a special way.

Demonstrate the greeting for them - You may wish to choose the most stern looking person in the group to break the ice.

First they will greet each other very seriously, shaking hands and saying: ‘I am (name)’.

As they are doing this they realize, ‘I know this person! This is my friend!’

They cry out each other’s names in delight and embrace with much backslapping.

Jazz breaks

Purpose To energise the group and to introduce and promote harmonious group work.

Process The learners stand in a circle facing inwards.

Ask the group to describe Jazz music. The key ideas that need to emerge are: A beat, various instruments, and improvisation within a common theme.

Tell the group that they are going to create a Jazz band using their bodies and voices.

Set up a stamping rhythm into which the music will be played.

Each person will be a different instrument of his/her own choosing.

Each instrument must play continuously while listening to and harmonizing with the others.

Each learner adds his/her instrument.

Conduct the band. Keep the music playing until all have learned to listen to each other and work with the group.

Clapping circle: ‘'I am (name) and I feel (emotion)

Purpose To introduce names and the idea that the feelings of each individual are important.

Process The learners stand in a circle facing inwards.

Set up a clapping and clicking rhythm.

Into this rhythm each learner will chant: I am (his/her name) and I feel (the main feeling s/he is experiencing at the beginning of this course.)

Everyone in the group has a chance to do the chant.

Establishing the ‘safe’ environment

Creating a class culture

Purpose To establish an agreed upon set of rules to guide the learners’ behaviour towards each other and during the workshop session/s.

Process Ask the learners to explain what culture is. Key ideas that need to emerge are: A set of rules or norms that guide behaviour, it is shared by people of the same background, it creates a sense of shared identity.

Tell the learners that you are going to create a Class Culture to guide everyone’s behaviour on the skills programme.

Ask the class: ‘What can we do to make sure we work well together as a group who are studying a difficult, sad and sometimes embarrassing issue?’

Buzz groups: Pairs to come up with some ideas to answer this question.

Feedback: Each buzz group feeds back one idea until all are written up onto newsprint.

Discussion: Lead a discussion to make sure that the list contains rules and ideas that everyone can agree with and that it contains a comprehensive set of guidelines.

Enforcement: Ask the class who will be responsible for enforcing this culture and what the penalties for breaking the code will be. Try to encourage the process to involve peer enforcement with something beneficial to all, like tea-making duties, as the punishment.

Commitment: Once the whole class has agreed to the list, each learner signs the list to show commitment to the class culture.

Note: This document should stay pasted up throughout the workshop (and longer programme) so that it can be referred to when needed.

Ideas that you could include in the Class culture list:

  • Be considerate of the feelings of others.
  • Confidentiality: what happens in this room stays in this room.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Respect each other’s ideas and opinions.
  • No put-downs.
  • Challenge yourself and take learning risks.
  • Use ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ and ‘they’.
  • Participate actively.

What makes me human?

Who am I?

Purpose This activity is aimed at introducing learners and facilitators to each other and at establishing a sense of the group value system.

Process Group work: Divide the class into groups of 4. Tell each group that they are going to answer 4 questions. Write these questions on the board or on newsprint so that the learners can refer to them during their discussions.

  • What is my name and what does it mean?
  • Where do I come from?
  • What am I really good at?
  • What are the three most important things to me?

Report back: Each member of the group will report back on one question on behalf of the whole group.

What do I bring with me?

Purpose This activity is aimed at introducing the learners to ‘life as a classroom’ and at helping them recognize that they can participate and make valuable contributions to the sessions.

Process' Facilitator led brainstorm: Lead the learners in a brainstorm around the question: Where do we learn from? to identify the range of places that we can learn from. Write this up onto newsprint and paste it on the wall. You should keep this sheet up for the whole workshop / programme and add to it each time a new source of learning or support is identified.

Question: Ask the learners for each place or person on the list: How many of you have been here / know a person like this? Get a show of hands.

Input: Say to the learners, Reach up with one hand, pat yourself on the back, because you come to this course with lots of knowledge and skills already. Please do not be shy with your skills and knowledge – we can all learn from each other.

How do we know things?

Purpose This activity is aimed at introducing the learners to an holistic approach to learning.

Process Facilitator input: To be a happy and fully developed human being means balancing all the bits that make up who you are:

  • Head: Mind, knowledge, intellect, reason, memory.
  • Hands: Body, skills, abilities.
  • Heart: Spirit and emotions, inner person, values, beliefs and attitudes.

Drawing: Get the class to guide you as you draw a generic learner showing head, hands and heart drawn in. Draw this up on newsprint and paste it up the wall. You should keep this sheet up for the whole workshop / programme so that you can refer to it when needed.

Facilitator input: Tell the learners: ‘This workshop / programme will be helping you to develop all of these areas of yourself.’

What does being human mean?

Purpose This activity is aimed at getting the learners to think about what humans have in common.

Process Think-share-create:

  • Think: Tell the learners to think on their own about this: “What makes us human?”
  • Share: Ask each learner to share her ideas with the group.
  • Create: You show the learners how you can write these ideas in a mind map by drawing this up on the board.

What do we need as humans?

Purpose This activity is aimed at introducing the learners to a menu of basic human needs that will inform investigations of HIV/AIDS.

Process Individual self-portraits: Give each learner a sheet of paper and dump a pile of communal crayons onto each table. Each learner must draw him/herself at the centre of the page and then list or draw pictures of all the things s/he has or needs to make his/her life happy, safe and fulfilling.

Gallery walk: Paste the pictures up. Get the class to walk around looking at each of the drawings.

Facilitator input: Now paste up a large copy of the following list derived from Max-Neef’s:

  • Self worth
  • Freedom
  • Affection
  • Subsistence
  • Protection
  • Understanding
  • Creation
  • Participation
  • Rest.

Talk the learners through each of the needs on the list.

Discussion: Get the class to see how many of the things on the pictures match the needs on the Max-Neef list. Write these real examples onto the list. You may want to keep this chart of needs and examples up throughout the whole workshop / programme so that you can refer to it when needed.

No person exists completely alone

Purpose This activity is aimed at introducing the learners to a central concept in HIV/AIDS education: The pebble dropped into the pond of human life and the ripples caused.

Process Facilitator input: Point out that most/all the self portraits show people with friends, family, community: people with other people.

Drawing and discussion: Paste up a large sheet of newsprint. Onto it draw five concentric circles. In the centre of the inner circle draw a pebble. As you write in the label for each of the circles, talk the learners through the different elements of the drawing.

  • The pond is the human race.
  • The pebble dropped into the pond is HIV/AIDS.
  • The first circle is the impact of HIV/AIDS on the individual.
  • The second circle is the impact of HIV/AIDS on families and friends.
  • The third circle is the impact of HIV/AIDS on the community.
  • The fourth circle is the impact of HIV/AIDS on the nation.
  • The fifth circle is the impact of HIV/AIDS on the world.

(If you are running a full-lenght programme, these categories could form a simple and cohesive structuring device.)

Paste this drawing up on the wall. It will be a good idea to keep it up for the whole workshop / programme so that you can refer to it when needed.


Purpose This activity will help to slow the new learning process so that the learners can catch-up and briefly reflect on their learning thus far.

Process Facilitator input: Use the visual aids that you have created during the activities to talk the learners through the key ideas learned so far:

  • We learn from a wide variety of places and people and that everyone has brought lots of knowledge and skills with them into this classroom.
  • In order learn fully and deeply, you need to learn with your head, heart and hands.
  • We all have nine basic needs.
  • We are all part of a world of people with friends and family, community and the nation surrounding us.
  • HIV/AIDS will have a negative impact on how well we can meet our basic needs. It will impact on us as individuals, on our families and friends, on our communities and on our nation and world as a whole.

My personal experience of HIV/AIDS

Purpose This activity is aimed at encouraging learner input and at identifying real-life and context-appropriate HIV/AIDS stories that may be analysed.

Process Think-pair-share:

  • Think: Tell the learners: ‘Think on your own about a personal story that tells of the impact of AIDS on you and your family or friends or community.’
  • Pair: Get the learners to pair up. They must tell their story to their partner and discuss any common or important ideas. They must think of how the stories make them feel and write down 5 words to describe their feelings about HIV/AIDS.
  • Share: Combine couples into groups of 4. Tell the learners to share their stories and their feeling words with their group. The groups must look for common and interesting ideas in the stories. Each group then relates shortened versions of each story to the whole class and lists their emotional responses to these real life stories.

Discussion: As these are being related, note up key ideas on the board and probe to draw out important issues and impacts.

Also make a list of all the emotions. Discuss these feelings and introduce the idea of attitudes: How we feel about things and the attitudes we have towards them will shape how we behave.

What are the issues and impacts of HIV/AIDS for me?

Explore the stories

Purpose This activity is aimed at relating real life and context-appropriate HIV/AIDS scenarios to the workshop / course content.

Process This activity flows directly from the previous activity: My personal experience of HIV/AIDS.

Facilitated discussion: Lead the class in a discussion of the stories to draw out the key areas.

Note: Make sure that you probe for cultural and local understandings of HIV/AIDS and related issues. It is very important to uncover any local and cultural myths that may make it difficult for people to truly understand HIV/AIDS. It is also very important to uncover any local solutions to problems that may help communities to address HIV/AIDS.

Write these ideas up but as you do so divide them up according to the sections and parts that the course will cover.

Why do you want to learn about AIDS?

Purpose This activity is aimed at linking the real scenarios with how the learners hope to address them and to elicit from the learners their expectations of the programme.

Process Quick group brainstorm: Divide the learners into groups of 5. Write the following questions on the board and ask the learners to think up and write down as many answers as they can to these questions. They must not discuss or analyse the answers.

  • Why do you want to learn about AIDS? What do you hope to be able to do? What do you feel you need to learn about to make a difference?

Report back: Each group says one thing until all are out and you have written them all on the board.

Wrap-up (and preparation for the next session)

What have we covered in this session?

How does it hang together?

Facilitator input: Link the content of the stories, and the expectations and hopes lists with the exploration of what will be covered during the course. Walk the learners through the course content. This will give them a clear framework that will help them to organise and remember the new things that they will learn on the course.

What new information did we cover today?

Facilitator input: Use the visual aids and your initial list of content for the session to talk through what you covered today.

Think about for the next session…

Ask the learners to think about stories and real happenings of AIDS in their own communities – this could be the community where they live and/or work.

Prayer to close

Ask one of the learners to close the session with a prayer.