Values Clarification Exercise using Image Theatre

How do you clarify which values need interrogation for your group?

This values clarification exercise can draw out the critical values for a group and give you a strong basis for building self esteem. If you are wondering how a values clarification exercise can build self esteem, read this article on Values Clarification: a crucial step in building self esteem.

The exercise has two steps: a discussion as preparation and the main values clarification exercise which I will call talking stills. Others have called the same exercise image theatre, drama codes, tableaux or statues. I like talking stills because the silent frozen images can tell you more about your group than a whole hour’s discussion can, It can also teach your group more about themselves than you can in an entire lecture.

Step One of values clarification exercise:

Group discussion

Choose any of the following questions to spark the discussion Some suggestions are subtle and other rather straight forward.

1. Unsubtly, ask the group what values they think are missing in society. I recently used this upfront approach with a group of teachers and community workers in a training workshop. I let them discuss the ideas in groups of about 5 to 7 before moving straight into the talking stills. The question immediately puts the group in an authoritative position from where they can comment on society. It works like a charm especially with young people.

I came to the workshop to explore new ways of stimulating learners’ creativity,. I enjoyed the experience and got insight into ways in which drama can be used in discussions about values. – Teacher who attended workshop

2. A little more subtly, ask them what things people do that upset them the most. Apart from highlighting the things that are really important to them, the discussion forges a bond between the group members as they agree with each other about all the things that bother them.

3. Another great question to start your values clarification exercise is to ask the young people what messages they have for the world, or their parents, or their peers. This question forces them to articulate their needs and tell you exactly what values are important to them.
With a group of teenagers this question clearly brought out their need for acceptance and tolerance.

Let them chat in two’s and threes before feeding back, or just talk in the big group. Read the dynamics. The aim is to make sure everyone takes part.

4. Another way is to ask questions about a story or object you bring to class. Get them talking about a news paper clipping to stimulate them, or some other interesting story/object. Even ask them to bring their own stories ahead of time. If they come with their own stories the chances are better that you will not contaminate their views with your own value system.

Step Two of values clarification exercise:

Talking stills

As a second step to your values clarification exercise, get the group to make a tableau in answer to any of the questions discussed. E.g. make a tableau of your message to the world/ one of the stories that most touched you/ what you think our society needs most from us.

A little creative input

Sometimes a group needs a little more input from the facilitator to help them use the stills effectively to communicate their views.

I like to show them the different thins that can be communicated by placing people higher or lower than each other (vertical plane).

For example a person standing has more power than one sitting down. A sitting person has more power, or status, than one with his head down or one lying on the floor. The most status can be achieved by placing some one on a chair or standing on a table.

The horizontal plane communicates intimacy or closeness. Two people standing close together have a more intimate relationship than one standing further away. One person separated from the group to one side is clearly cut off and not included in the group relationship.

The values clarification exercise blow by blow

1. Divide into groups of 4-6 and shortly discuss your response to the chosen question.

2. Choose one director in each group.

3. In complete silence, the director uses the bodies of the others to shape an image of his/her answer to the question posed. He or she takes into account what the others have said during the discussion.

4. Ask the group members if they agree with the image. If they want to change something, the person suggesting the change takes over the role of the director while the first director takes his or her place in the picture. Continue until all are satisfied.

5. Show the images one by one to the whole group. Ask the onlookers to say what they see.

6. Dynamise the statues (give them a chance to express their meaning) by one of the following:

  • Touch each individual in the picture on their shoulder and ask them to say just one word, or make a sound to express what they are feeling.
  • Similarly ask them to unfreeze and show their next movement at your touch.
  • Let the whole group move together.
  • Play with the different options and let them speak and move together.
  • Discover your own ways to help them express their feeling and their meaning.
      7. Let the onlookers feed back what they saw and experienced. Focus on what they see and feel and hear. No deep interpretation needed, but do not shun it when it comes (obviously). 

      Discuss the solutions to the problems portrayed, these lead to the values. If you have time, also make statues of the ideal world where the problems are solved. Again, the values come to the fore. Michael Shank: Theatre of the Oppressed Training Manual

      The values clarification exercise is moreeffective, however, than talking: ask them to show you an image of what they can do themselves to address the problems, or to instil the values identified. Alternatively, let them act out their stories and use forum theatre to test out solutions. Here is a fantastic resource on Forum theatre if you want to know more:

      A real world example

      Recently with a group of about 70 Education students learning to be Life Orientation teachers, I asked them to show me the problems that are caused in society by a lack of values. This can be an effective exercise for character education training as well.

      After showing and talking about their stills, we discussed which values will remedy these problems. Here was the list of problems and corresponding values they came up with:

      No discipline
      Dysfunctional leadership
      Peer pressure

      Values lacking:
      Self Esteem

      We took these 10 values in a next class and used the same values clarification exercise to do stills of what they can do to instill these values in their future classes. I auctioned off the values to the groups to see who wanted which value to work with.

      Three values were fought over: self esteem, acceptance and trust.

      I had to allow them to leave out some values and double up on these. These three were the critical values for this particular group. Note here that these values are not the values important of critical for the learners they would work with, but their own critical values. How do I know this? Because these are the values they could talk about most. The group is motivated to think about and explore them. These are the values I would use as a central theme for building self esteem in this group.

      What if self esteem was not a value on their list?

      I would simply use what ever values are on the list. I was lucky that this group was able to identify and name it as a need for themselves. If they didn’t, I would simply continue the process with the values they did give me.

      Understanding and interrogating these values will inevitably lead to raised self respect and self confidence.

      Know your values and you will know your value.

      To understand better why this is so, read the article on Values Clarification: a crucial step in building self esteem.

      Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Why bats hang upside down – the story

Once upon a time before humans ruled the earth, animals reigned on the ground and in the tree trunks and birds reigned the sky and the tree tops Both animals and birds loved their world and loved who they were.
One day the animals decided to celebrate their ‘animalness’ and the word was spread across the land. When Bat heard the news he was very excited. He loved dressing up and he loved making friends. So, on the night of the party, he brushed his hair, gelled it with a bit of tree gum, cleaned his wings and set off. On the way he caught his reflection in a puddle and he winked at himself.
At the party he was just about to swagger in after the tall giraffe when a foot shot out and tripped him. Wait a minute’ said Big Baboon who was playing bouncer for the night. “You can’t come in”.
“Why not?” asked Bat surprised.
“Because you’re not an animal”, said Baboon, “you are a bird. Look at those wings and you only have two legs. OUT!”
“But I have fur and teeth. Look at me, I an animal”, pleaded bat.
“What about my ears?”
“Owls have ears and they are birds”
Bat tried a desperate dash through the door, but Baboon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him out. He landed on a wing and bruised it. Limping home bat began to cry. At home he sat on a branch and the tears just kept streaming. He cried so much that the branch on which he sat got wet and slippery and Whoops! He slipped round it, his feet still clinging and there he hung, upside down, weeping.
A few weeks later the birds had a party. They too wanted to celebrate their ‘birdyness’ and the words was spread. Again bat got excited. He loved dressing up and he loved making friends. Again he brushed his hair, gelled it with gum and cleaned his wings. He paid extra attention to his wings. As he slinked off he caught his reflection in a puddle and winked.
At the party e was just about to glide in after Little Sparrow when a curvy beak grabbed him from behind. It was Vulture who was the bouncer for the night “Wait a minute”, Vulture said, “You can’t come in”.
“Why not?” asked Bat surprised, this time he did not expect trouble.
“You are not a bird, look at you, you have fur and teeth.”
“But look at my wings” said bat confidently, and I have two legs. Clearly I am a bird.
“Nonsense” said vulture” you don’t fool me, look at those ears”
“Owls have ears” bat whimpered.
“Owls ears are just sticky outy feathers, not real ears. OUT!”
“But the animals say I am a bird” he tried one last time
“OUT!” Said vulture and flung him out with a strong talon.
Bat landed with a leg twisted in under his body and sprained it. Limping home bat began to cry. At home he sat on a branch and the tears just kept streaming. He cried so much that the branch on which he sat got wet and slippery and Whoops! He slipped round it, his feet still clinging and there he hung, upside down, weeping.
And now ever since, bat hang upside down because they are neither animals nor birds.

The ABC of Self-confidence

Self confidence and self esteem – Can you have one without the other?

Can self confidence be learned? Is there a set of skills you can master and once you have them, you will be self confident? When you have self confidence, do you also automatically have good self esteem?

Self confidence is the belief and feeling that you can accomplish something worthwhile, something that somehow expresses who you are. You feel you can face whatever life throws at you. You may not win every time, but you will find a way to make it. It is a ‘can do’ attitude as opposed to an ‘I can’t’ attitude.

If you do not have a sense of mastery or personal power, you have no self confidence. You feel like you are good at nothing and fail at everything you try.

Self esteem, on the other hand has two components: Self confidence and self worth. The one cannot be without the other.

Your self esteem is a combination of how much you like yourself (self respect) and whether or not you think you can cope with life (self confidence). It is both an appreciation of your inner beauty and a recognition of your innate ability.

Self respect is the belief that you are okay with all your idiosyncrasies. You know that you have inner beauty and you are worthy of receiving love and admiration. Self confidence is the ‘can do’ attitude that makes you believe you have the ability to measure up to the challenges of life.

Looking at our definition of self esteem, it seems clear that self confidence is only a part of self esteem.

The difference between self esteem and self confidence is that the first comes from inside and must be coupled with respect for your own worth. Self confidence by itself can be learnt by mastering the skills of presentation and communication.

Self confidence can be learned

Learning the skills of looking self confident from outside, is a great way of starting to build your self esteem. You start outside and work inward. This is why parents who want to help their kids gain self confidence enrol them in drama or acting class.

To act you must learn certain techniques and skills to overcome your fear of doing stuff in front of other people.These skills can be transferred to any other context where you must face other people like going for a job interview or asking a girl out on a date.

Many situations in real life can be compared to performing in front of people. Performance skills can help you act confidently in these contexts.

How can a feeling be learned?

Now you may be wondering: if self confidence is a feeling and a belief, as stated at the beginning, how can it be learned from outside? Surely it must be cultivated from within…?

The truth is that even amongst the best of actors and directors, there is not agreement on this matter. One side insists that acting is best when it comes from a feeling inside and the others disagree saying that you can act out any feeling without having to truly experience it. This is the difference between Stanislavskian acting and method acting as opposed to Brechtian acting.

A Story

There is a story about Dustin Hoffman, an American method actor, who had to play a mentally disturbed man. He spent days in a mental institution attempting to feel what it must be like to be mentally il. When he met Laurence Olivier a famous British actor on set Olivier asked him: “Why did you go to all that trouble?” Hoffman answered: I have to be that man.” Why, asked Olivier, “can’t you just act it?”

I will not take sides, but rather say that the two: action and feeling is inseparable and are conversation partners just like self confidence is the conversation partner of self worth when you are building self esteem.

However, when you want to start cultivating a feeling, where do you find it? My answer: start acting the way you want to feel. It is what people mean when they say: fake it until you make it.

I like to say Fake it until you feel it.

Test it for yourself:

Right there where you are try the following sequence of actions and notice the change in how you feel:

1. Rub the palms of your hands together
2. Bite your lip.
3. Breathe faster and more shallow.
4. Look from side to side and even over your shoulder.
5. Wipe your hands on your thighs and take a deep breath…

What are you starting to feel inside?

Here are some of the answers I often get:

I feel anxious, nervous, suspicious, like I am hiding something, guilty, paranoid.

And all this just because of a few physical movements.

Now try the opposite:

1. Sit up straight.
2. Open up your shoulders.
3. Breathe more deeply
4. Smile.
5. Wink at the computer.

Now what are you beginning to feel inside?

Action and feeling feed each other

By learning certain skills, or ways of behaving, you can cultivate a feeling of confidence and power. If you act confidently even though you are nervous, people will respond to you as though you have power and know what you are doing. This will feed back into your feeling that you have power and confidence and you will act even more like it.

In the words of Aristotle, ” … we become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions” (Kilpatrick, 1992:97). I would add: to become self confident you need to perform confident actions.

So what are these skills and how do I learn them?

I can teach you my ABC of self confidence. These are all external skills that you can try out and use. They are a kind of checklist for you to tick off as you enter a potentially nerve racking situation where you need to muster as much confidence as you can. They are easy to understand and you can practise them easily by yourself and try them out anywhere.

I have used this ABC to teach Rap artists and singers to market their material to record companies. I taught it to actors and performers to improve their acting. I used it to teach environmentalists to present proposals for changing policy. I even used it to teach some ‘boring’ University professors to get their students interested in their material. Now you give it a try.

What about self respect?

However, without also cultivating self respect the outward appearance of confidence remains just an empty shell. You can be enormously successful from the outside, but feel unfulfilled, worthless and frustrated on the inside.

This is because you are not expressing who you are in what you are achieving. You do not think that what you really have to offer is worth the time and effort so you only do the things you know will work and feel confident about. Yet, you will always end up feeling empty.

How do you fix this problem?

The short answer is: follow your passion.

By all means apply the skills to any situation where you need them, but do so especially in contexts where you are afraid and nervous. In the pursuit of your passion you will have to make many difficult choices where you are uncertain of the outcome and where you will risk all sorts of things: money, reputation, relationships… It is in these moments especially where you must act as though you are confident and fake it until you make it… feel it.

These moments define who you are and prove to yourself your own self worth.

Follow Your Own Flute in Gauteng – 3 Oct

Reconnect with your passion and align with your internal motivation

In our interaction with companies and individuals we meet an increasing number of highly talented yet intensely frustrated individuals who feel a deep need for new inspiration. Many express the desire to rekindle their passion and reshape their professional careers to express that passion.

This workshop will help you to:

  • grow in self esteem
  • get a framework of what drives you and the values that guide your choices
  • Acquire confidence in aligning your life to reflect these values.
  • Know the sound of your own voice and the feeling of listening to it.

Join us on a journey back to your unique self, the source of real joy, inspiration, creativity and motivation. Rediscover your passion, feel great about being you and reshape your career to mirror who you really are.

Playing Mantis specializes in helping you grow through connection with yourself, your passion and your relationships.

We use storytelling and improvisation to play with new ideas and perspectives, reflect on the discoveries you make about who you are and apply the new found knowledge to reshape your professional life.

Who should attend:

Individuals who are looking for the security of knowing whether or not they’re in the right place and the ability to trust their own voice.

Leaders who want to lead with self confidence and make clear decisions in spite of uncertainty.

Can you afford it?

In these times of economic uncertainty, can you afford not to align with your passion?

Your passion and unique motivators are the only things that truly distinguish you from others. We would like to help you align your external context with your internal life so that you are more productive and more effective.

Consider the time and money you spend on keeping your body physically flexed and ready for action – gym fees, hairdressers, clothing bills, healthy food. Can you afford to spend some time and money on getting your heart, mind and spirit flexed and ready for action?

Free follow up consultation

To ensure that you get your money’s worth, we offer you the option of receiving a free 1 hour consultation after the workshop. This is to make sure you get the help you need to apply the new knowledge in your unique context. Too many workshops leave people excited and ready for action, but without a practical plan to make it work for them.

The ability to apply the skills we teach is part of our promise and we will do what is necessary to assist you in this step.

What people say:

It was as if a flashlight was shining through my muddy waters. It showed me a way out and that there is more for me in life than mud. – Amanda Jooste, PRO for artists


I enjoyed the creativity – this is the most fun I have had in ages. – British American Tobacco HR team member


Your unique way with stories and characters opened a fresh perspective on my own character and story. I was moved by the way in which the stories brought the participants straight to the heart of their search for meaning. Dr Jeanette de Klerk, Philosophy of Education, University of Stellenbosc

Workshop details

This is a 6 hour workshop that includes 5 hours contact time with a 15 min tea break and 45 min lunch break.


Follow your own flute: Sat 3 Oct
Improv your foxy skills: Sat 10 Oct

Time: 8h30 – 16h00

Venue: Melville Junction Church, cnr of Seventh Avenue and
Fifth Street

Cost: For our first time in Jozi you get these exclusive
workshops at the highly reduced price of R650 for 1 / R1100 for


We like to keep our workshops small and exclusive, so BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment.

For bookings e-mail us at or call Burgert on 0822559625

To read more about Playing Mantis and our Facilitators click here

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