Goal: Have students act out and discuss key aspects, pros/cons and guidelines for a specific type of communication. The different communication methods explored here are: Face to face, telephone, e-mail, and social media.
1. Divide your students into four groups, handing each group a list of topics to use as conversation prompts. The first group represents the face to face communication environment. Have students sit in one corner of the room and communicate freely with both verbal and nonverbal communication.
2. Send the second group to another corner of the room, which will represent the telephone environment. These group members should be blindfolded in order to replicate a telephone conversation (in which they cannot see).
3. Send the third group to the third corner, or the e-mail environment. Have the students sit back-to-back without speaking. They should each have paper, pens, and clipboards. In order to communicate, they must write notes and pass them to each other.
4. The fourth corner of the room will be the social media environment. Provide photos that you would typically find on social media (celebrities, food, nature); try to leave photos that might generate a reaction, either negative or positive. Have one student sit blindfolded, holding up the picture of their choice for the others to see. Have the others in the group anonymously write down their thoughts on the photo and leave them for the student to read (as people on social media cannot be seen or heard as they leave comments, and are often anonymous). If time allows, have students take turns holding up the photos while blindfolded.
5. Give each group about five-seven minutes each. Encourage students to communicate in a language and manner as closely as that to which they would normally use as much as possible (and within reason). For instance, if they normally leave their signature when using emails, have them do so here, or if they normally use abbreviations when leaving comments on social media, have them do that as well.
6. Once the physical activity is completed, have students write down their reactions to the types of communication in each stage - which they preferred, which they disliked, and the pros and cons of each type. Have students use their reactions to generate a class discussion about the activity.
Alternative Option: Instead of face-to-face, email, telephone, or social media, you may want to create a station on texting. Set up a station with two sets of alphabet letters (Scrabble blocks would be useful here, though pieces of paper would work just as well). Have students sit next to or across from each other and communicate using only the alphabet letters. Bring in smiley-face stickers or print-outs to serve as emojis.
This activity was adapted from its source at Sixth College, UC San Diego