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Warm-up activities

In order for the AIDS activities to be enjoyable and for them to help your group understand more about HIV/AIDS, you need to spend some time getting to know each other better and to help people get used speaking in groups. You may have been working with your group on other issues for some time. However, being free to discuss intimate and sensitive subjects together means you trust each other.

These warm-up activities, also called icebreakers, help you to get to know your group better. In the same way as you need to warm up your muscles before you start an exercise programme, you need to warm up your group in order to start an AIDS-related activity.

The following warm-up activities are a little time consuming. Select a few of them to start your programme. If you and your group haven’t met for a while, it can be useful to introduce another warm-up before starting the next session of your programme.

a. The name game


1. Have the group sit in a circle. Start with yourself as group leader and write your name on a large piece of paper. You could also say what your name means or any story associated with it, e.g., “My name is John and I was named after my father.”

2. The next person writes his/her name on the piece of paper. He/she also adds a story associated with his/her name.

3. Each person in turn writes his/her name and tells his/her name’s story. The paper is then attached to the wall for the duration of the session.



You can also ask group members to tell their names and related stories without writing them. Each person has to try to remember all the names that went before him or her. This provides a way to do the activity without having to write anything and may be helpful if some of your group members do not write well.

b. My life story


1. Prepare a number of drawings (one for each participant) of a ‘story-shield’, divided into six sections, on large pieces of paper.

2. Have the group sit in a circle and distribute the drawings and pens.

Start with yourself as group leader and fill in the different sections of the shield with the following information about yourself:

your name;
the place where you were born;
your occupation;
your favourite hobby;
your favourite music/singer; and
your favourite dish.

3. Ask the participants to fill in their shields in the same way you did.

4. Participants hold their shield in front of them and read out to the group what they have written on it. The shields are then attached to the wall for the duration of the session.

c. My favourite object


1. You have to prepare this exercise by asking the participants in advance to bring to the session an object that has a special meaning for them.

2. Have the group sit in a circle. Ask a volunteer to show the object he/she has brought and tell the group something about it, how he/she got it and what it means to him/her.

3. Each participant in turn shows his object and tells its story. To close this exercise, you yourself show your favourite object and talk about it.

d. Human knots


1. Ask everybody to stand in a circle facing towards the middle.

2. Now tell everyone to extend their arms forward and grasp the hands of others within the circle. Tell them to be careful not to hold the hands of the people just next to them or to grasp both hands of another participant.

3. The goal is for the group to get the ‘knot’ untied with everyone standing together in one circle holding hands.


Sometimes this activity ends with a spontaneous expression of happiness/satisfaction that the group was able to get the “knot” untied. This expression can be laughing, clapping hands or making noises.

Sometimes a group has a hard time getting the knot undone. This is not a failure. It can be a good opportunity to talk about how it feels to try hard to do something that does not always work. The “trying” is the important thing. By talking about why untying the knot is so hard, the group can learn something about the way they are working together.

e. My neighbour


1. Invite participants to form groups of two, preferably with someone they don’t know.

2. Explain that one partner will ask the other the following questions: n What is your name? n What is your occupation? n What are your hobbies? n What do you think you’ll learn in this AIDS training?

3. When finished the roles are reversed: the interviewer is now the one to be interviewed with the same questions. Allow about 10 minutes for each interview.

4. When the interviews are finished, bring the group back together and ask each participant to introduce his/her interviewed ‘neighbour’ to the group.

5. List what participants have said they expect to learn on a flip chart.

f. My expectations


1. Each member of the group thinks about what skills and knowledge they have about HIV/AIDS. They could write this down or remember it. They should also think about the areas in which they don’t know very much or in which they would like to develop new skills.

2. The group then moves into pairs and discusses with their partner the thoughts they have had. They should take turns telling each other rather than developing a conversation. When listening, it is important that the listener shows that he/she is interested in what the other person is saying and helps the speaker to think realistically about the information he/she knows and the sort of things he/she might be able to do as part of the group’s AIDS health promotion programme.

3. The group leader then brings the group back together and discusses the areas that have been talked about. It is important that no one is ridiculed for his/her ideas and that each area is talked about seriously.

The last two exercises are also useful to help you assess the information your group has already acquired and to discuss what the specific needs of the participants are.