E: “Talk at a distance”

These activities are also available in Dutch .

These activities are suitable for older children, teens and adults. The starting point is that people can already read and write to some extent. The aim of the activities is to increase reading and writing skills.

E1: More than a text message

Goal: Learn to write complete sentences.

Needed: A piece of paper and a pen for each person, or access to a computer or mobile phone.


  1. Discuss which forms of written communication the people in the group know and sometimes use. Think of posters, announcements for a concert or theater performance, advertisements, posts or comments on social media. Determine the easiest form for the group to actually do.
  2. Discuss what information is needed for the chosen form of communication. For example, if someone wants to hang a ‘for sale’ note somewhere (in a shop or on an information board) what information should it contain? Use examples that match the group’s day-to-day experiences.
  3. Have everyone write their own “advertisement” (or poster, social media post, etc.). This can be done individually or in small groups, depending on how people prefer to work.
  4. Review what each person wrote down and tactfully point out mistakes or suggest improvements where necessary.
  5. Encourage everyone to actually use what they have written. During the next sessions, you might ask people to share how they used what they wrote and what the results were.

E2: Write a letter

Goal: To experience/practice written communication.

Background: Beforehand, discuss with the group why you might want to write someone a letter. What is the value of a letter compared to telling someone something personally, or calling him/her? Or compared to writing a text message? Think about things like: you can read it over again before you send it away (if you say something to someone, you may regret what you said afterwards); you can send the letter to someone who lives far away and does not have a telephone; you send a letter because it is too expensive to call the other person; you can give more information in a letter than in a text message; it can be nice for the recipient to actually get some mail; the recipient can read the letter again later; he/she can let others read it.

Needed: a sheet of paper and a pen, or a computer, laptop or mobile phone with an email program.


  1. Encourage each person to think about who they want to write a letter to and what they want to tell that person. If necessary, have the group discuss this with each other. If someone wants to write something very personal, create the opportunity to do it with them at another time.
  2. Discuss with the group how they would like to draft the letter. Mention some general things, such as the opening greeting, the length of the letter, and the typical way to close a letter.
  3. Then have everyone write a letter. Look over the letters for spelling mistakes, etc. Ask the writers if they are satisfied with the letter. You may want to have another person read through the letter to see if the communication is clear. If necessary, the letter writer can rewrite his letter.
  4. Have everyone send their letter, by post or email.

E3: Using a recipe

Goal: Use written information to make something to eat.

Needed: The recipe of a particular dish, the ingredients and necessary cookware.


  1. Read the recipe together and see if the group understands what ingredients and other things they will need, such as bowls, spoons for stirring, an oven or a hot plate. If these are not available, go and collect them together or, if possible, buy them. Also check whether everyone understand all the other information in the recipe: how long should the dish cook or bake, and at what temperature?
  2. Make the dish together.
  3. And then: eat it together! If you have made a lot, the people may want to invite relatives or friends to enjoy the dish, too.

Variant 1: Ask people to bring a recipe in advance or, if the recipe is unwritten, to tell or show the group how to make a certain kind of food. If someone is showing or telling how to make the food, the whole group can repeat the recipe and then write it down the recipe as writing practice. (Note:  this also practices sequential thinking.)

Variant 2: If there are differences within the group about how to prepare a certain dish, discuss this with each other.

Variant 3: Depending on their skill level, you may ask the whole group to bring in (or write down) one different recipe per person. Help with this if necessary. If this is successful, discuss with the group whether they would like to put all the recipes together into a booklet and what the value of that would be (for example, recording old traditions to ensure that they are not lost).

E4: Learning something new

Goal: Reinforce the relevance of learning to read.

Needed: a sheet of paper or a poster with new, relevant information on it. For example, how to sow seeds, how Corona spreads, how a baby develops.


  1. Look and read the information together. Explain difficult words and discuss them. Make sure everyone understands the information.
  2. Have one or more people retell the information.
  3. Discuss the benefit of knowing this.
  4. Talk about repeating this exercise with different information. Encourage everyone to find something written on a topic of general interest which they can bring to discuss in the group next time.

E5: Hello!

Goal: To practice writing simple sentences.

Background: Find out in advance if the culture/population group you are working with has a custom of giving or sending each other cards or letters, or if they know other ways of greeting each other in writing. Do people give each other birthday cards? Or do they send each other cards on other occasions? Do they write down prayers or blessings for each other? Or for themselves? Do they regularly write down religious messages and post them around the house? Or do they have other customs which include writing?

Needed: Material for each person to write a greeting card or other short message appropriate to the local culture.


  1. Discuss this type of written communication with the group. Why is it done? What do people usually write on such cards/greetings/banners? What would they like to write? If the group is not at all familiar with any kind of writing in the home or given as greeting cards, describe situations from your own culture where people give or send each other short written messages. Then ask the group whether they can think of a situation in which they would want to do this themselves? Does anyone in their community have something to celebrate soon? Is there someone in the hospital they want to cheer up? Or someone who is seriously ill at home?
  2. Distribute the necessary materials. If people want to make a card, show them how to fold an A4 sheet of paper into quarters and write a greeting on the outside, such as “Merry Christmas!” or “Thank you!” If group members are artistically inclined, they may want to decorate the letters or write them in different colors. Or they make want to add a drawing.
  3. Explain that everyone can then write a personal message of one or two sentences on the inside of their card. Perhaps some prefer to do this together rather than individually.
  4. Encourage everyone to actually deliver or mail their cards.

Variation: If people are used to using social media, they can also create (or find) and send a free online card to each other or to a friend or family member. Again, they should add a sentence or two of their own.