Anyone who spends time with young people can use Deep Speak to build rich conversations about some of life’s big questions… and some of the little quirky ones as well!
This is an engaging and thought-provoking resource for educators, mental health workers, chaplains, youth workers and anyone employed in juvenile justice. Deep Speak is a set of 120 question cards, each one pertinent to the issues that absorb young people as they deal with relationships, identity, emotions, beliefs and values. To get the ball rolling there are also conversation ‘openers’, and the card set comes with a 24-page booklet of suggestions to help users explore the transformational power of simple questions.
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Stories and Reviews
‘On a Mission to Tweak,’ SOON 69, August 2014
Like many people who use Innovative Resources’ tools, facilitator and life coach Donna McGrory is familiar with the importance of inviting participation. ‘I use Deep Speak for icebreakers all the time. When I come into the class I walk around and go ‘pick a card, any card.’ But I invite people to share whatever they’re comfortable with. Nobody has to do anything. The willingness to share is a bonus.’
Donna’s top tip for facilitators is simple. If you’re using a card set with a group, remember to share in the activity. If Donna asks participants to pick a card and talk about it, she chooses a card to talk about too. ‘I find that brings me into the group a lot better,’ she advises.
Learning to Listen (Serious Optimist 32, Spring 2006)
At the beginning of my workshops I invite each participant to choose a Deep Speak card they like. When everyone has chosen a card they are invited to pair up. Each person in the pair then takes a turn to speak about themselves (using the card as a prompt) for two minutes while the other person listens—and when I say listen, that’s what I mean!
Listeners are asked not to interrupt with questions, comments or their own stories. Some of us are great at interrupting with our own stories—or interrupting by asking questions that take the story in an entirely different direction to where the speaker was going.
I have more recently added the Deep Speak cards to my workshops as a second opportunity to practise listening. In this exercise listeners are allowed to speak by affirming what has been said or asking a relevant question, but they are not to hijack the speaker’s story with their own. This activity allows for two-way communication: acknowledging and questioning—without interrupting.
With the Deep Speak activity I asked people to choose a question that they were comfortable to speak to for one minute. I did this because I didn’t want people having to respond to a very personal question with someone they barely knew (for example, a question such as ‘Does dying scare you?’). Interestingly enough, though, while many people did choose ‘safe’ questions such as ‘What’s your favourite food?’ and ‘How do you relax?’ a number of people chose ‘What responsibilities come with having sex?’ and ‘How do you feel about abortion?’
At the end of the activity each person read out to the group the question they had chosen. By the curious looks on people’s faces, I could tell there were many more conversations to be had. People seemed genuinely interested in each other, despite the fact that most had never met before.
Again people were very aware of their speaking and listening capabilities. All agreed that these activities highlight a much more respectful way of communicating and that it is well worth taking the time to practise the art of listening.
Nicole Ellerton, Project Manager ‘Everybody’s Kids’, St Luke’s Anglicare, Australia
Many thanks for so generously sharing your expertise and time with our team. We are looking forward to using the new material and can’t wait to see lives helped through this. We spent a fun 3 hours in the car together coming home sharing through the Deep Speak cards. It’s what you call a captive crowd!
Innovative Resources continues to fill a gap for material that is so helpful with such creativity and quality in thought and practical tools. I continue to promote your team wherever I can and look forward to seeing you again in the future.
God bless you all in your future plans!
John Holton, ‘Scratching the Surface’, SOON Issue 21, June 2007.
I was chatting on the phone the other day to Jenny, a senior secondary school teacher from Melbourne, who was ordering some resources to use with her VCE students. Jenny told me a story about a psychology class she’d taught recently where she’d introduced the Deep Speak cards in an attempt to do something ‘a little different’ and create some conversation among the more reluctant students in the group.
‘I thought, great,’ she said, ‘a set of cards with important, maybe even controversial, questions to really get them talking.’ What actually transpired was both exciting and, as she puts it, ‘a little frightening.’
‘I wasn’t prepared for the depth to which the questions would plumb, or the degree of honesty with which the students would respond. While it was a quite a bonding experience for the group, a couple of students in particular reacted strongly to individual questions, ‘Have you ever felt things were out of control?’ and ‘How do you cope when things fall apart?’
‘I realised how little I knew about the kids in my group. How much suffering can be going on unnoticed behind a calm and quiet exterior. The class spilled over into lunchtime. There were tears in some cases and thankfully the school’s counsellor was available to have conversations with some of the students. As a consequence she has had ongoing contact with a number of them.’
Jenny finished by telling me that, above all else, the experience highlighted for her the responsibility that comes, not only with teaching, but with using conversation-building tools.
We feel the same responsibility at Innovative Resources when it comes to publishing materials, like Deep Speak, that have the potential to be life-changing. When using metaphors, whether they be in the form of words or images, you don’t have to scratch very deep or hard for profound meaning and powerful feelings to be let free.
Any hands-on resources need to be used with care. Here a few questions we recommend you ask before introducing Deep Speak to help you prepare for the responses the cards may elicit:
What are the unknowns in this situation?
Are my goals clear?
Am I relaxed, open and excited by this intervention?
Have I considered people’s confidentiality?
Can everyone be respectfully included?
Do I believe in what I’m doing?
Can I imagine this tool making a difference?
Rod Hanks, ‘Innovative Resources,’ Pumphouse (blog,) May 24, 2006.
Innovative Resources from Victoria in Oz have some great card or book based resources for promoting discussion and fitting in with any ‘Assets’ or Resilience approach to youth ministry.
I have been impressed by the Signpost set of cards seen some years ago at a Youth Workers Inservice. We have just ordered a set of Deep Speak question cards for promoting significant discussion.
‘I’m prepared to wait.’ Existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. (blog) April 25, 2008
Deep Speak (as seen on innovativeresources.org) – these seem cool for working with non-talkative teens. I basically want every single thing on this website.
StarlightMoonDancer, ‘Deep Speak—Self Reflections’, An Illogical Being in an Irrational World (blog), 9 February 2011.
Today, as I cleared my drawers in school, I came across a box of cards. The title of these cards is Deep Speak and basically the set consists of 120 questions on beautifully designed cards, which are meant for deep thinking.
‘Some questions are hard to answer
Some questions take us by surprise
Some questions haunt us for years
Some questions make us laugh
Some questions challenge our values
…and our picture of who we are.’
This is what is written on the cover of this box. I had used these questions when I taught literature last year, and needed to draw my shy, seemingly unresponsive kids from their shells.
I have picked out one for self-reflection of my own. This question reads, ‘What do you think is the hardest thing for young people today?’
I feel that while the younger generation is born in an era where life has been made much easier by all the technological advances, it has ironically made their lives less ‘meaningful’. They have access to fast information; can travel conveniently around the globe; and have most of their jobs less physically tiring by modern machines.
But has the ‘easy’ life made the young too comfortable? Do they assume that they can always get things the fast and simple way—and that eventually money will be the way to cure all the evils of the world they perceive?
How will they learn to be more resilient and less dependent?
Will they be able to think on their feet?
Can they retain values like compassion, empathy, care and kindness?
Young people today are lucky since they do not really have to ‘suffer’ much… And yet, I worry that without that necessary hardship; many will take things for granted. They may be more self-centred, and inward looking; and put their own needs first before the greater good of mankind.
I may be wrong… I am sure that there are still plenty of decent, well-grounded young individuals out there. But just a gentle reminder here… Life is not just the pursuit of material and physical gains.
Happiness, love and good health are still key to the human existence. Do not forget that.