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

One Reply to “Values Clarification Exercise using Image Theatre”

  1. Hi Petro
    Your article link for ‘Values Clarification: a crucial step in building self esteem.’ takes me to a wordpress login page. Could you possibly send me the article or link to it that I can access?
    Many thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *