This is part 6 of my weekly series on “Group Process in Childbirth Education: Building and Supporting a Community of Learners.”
If you spent all your class time lecturing, showing videos, and demonstrating, your students would get a lot of information out of your class. But they would have missed out on one of the other benefits of taking childbirth classes: the chance to meet and connect with other parents. Consider spending a portion of each class on building community. (A side benefit for you: As students get more comfortable with each other, they will participate more, ask more questions, and learn more from the class.)
Here are some activities to try:
Tune Out, Tune In. Each week when students arrive at class, they’re often not quite “present” when they walk in. Their mind may be on work, or traffic, or the errands they need to run after class, or many other things. Try a warm-up activity each week to give them time to get present.
- What’s on your mind today? What worries have come up? What questions?
- Highs / Lows: What have been the best and worst parts of your last week?
- What have you learned since last week? What have you read? Did you have an appointment with your caregiver? Did you see anything about birth on TV?
- Question of the week related to the topic:
- Name something that helps you when you’re feeling sick, in pain, or worried?
- What’s one item you plan to bring to the hospital with you?
- What’s your biggest worry about medical procedures and interventions?
- Agenda setting: Any questions left over from last week? What questions do you have about tonight’s topic you want me to be sure to answer?
Small Group Work – the bigger the class, the more important it is to fit in some small group work into your classes, so people have a chance to connect. Sometimes keep couples together and pair up two or three couples. Other times, encourage a couple to separate and join different groups so they hear different perspectives.
- Small group discussions. Examples:
- Discuss experiences they have in common, like: common discomforts mom is having or plans for postpartum and baby care.
- Labor words: Pass out a list of adjectives that could be used to describe labor. Ask them to mark 4 or 5 words that resonate with them. Then discuss with your group: what did they mark? If their labor was like that, what support would they need?
- Scenarios for discussion: make up cards which describe variations scenarios or other challenges that may arise in labor. They read one out loud, then discuss what they think is happening, and what they would do.
- Quizzes – make up cards that review the info you covered in the last class session – write a question on one side of the card, the answer on the other. Pass them out to small groups of students. They read the question, guess at the answer, check to see if they’re right.
- Brainstorms: Assign them a topic (write it on a big piece of easel paper). Have them brainstorm all the ideas they can come up with. Example: pros and cons of vaccinations, circumcision, and breastfeeding.
- Separate moms and support people. (Works best if you have two rooms.)
- Ask moms to self-guide a discussion on common discomforts of pregnancy while you facilitate a confidential discussion with partners on what they’re worried about related to their ability to provide labor support.
- Ask moms to self-guide a discussion on postpartum support resources and imagining how they’ll adapt to life as a mom while you teach dads/partners some newborn care skills (like baths, cord care, nail trimming). Allows dads/partners to be the “expert” on a topic so moms have to ask them how to do it.
- Invite participation in class. Give plenty of time for questions from students. Ask them plenty of questions.
- Play games.
- Try the Breastfeeeding myths and truths game: Each student reads a card and says whether they thinks it’s a myth or think it’s true. You follow up with more details.
- Try the Signs of Labor game – write on the board “maybe, probably, definitely” or “possible, prelabor, positive” if you prefer. Give students a card describing a sign of labor, and ask them to tape it where it goes.
- Birth Matters has a collection of game ideas, as does Passion for Birth. and Stacie Bingham.
- Do role plays. Example: print these labor scenarios. Cut up the cards describing stages in labor, and put the posters on the wall. Have a couple read one scenario out loud, then suggest a comfort technique or two to try from the list of options (breathing techniques, comfort techniques, position). Everyone practices together.
- Mocktail party. Laurie Levy invented this activity, where she brings tacky margarita glasses and offers several types of non-alcoholic mixed drinks for people to try (with recipes), puts on party music, and encourages them to mix and chat while drinking. You could combine this with a wide variety of icebreaker type games.
What do you do to build connections amongst your students?