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Creating a physical RSE resource - See It Shout It

I love making new relationships and sex education resources. "See It Shout It", is the latest resource I have made to help young people grow in confidence to verbalise sex related words. I was asked how I choose the 31 icons that made the resource and I thought the creation process might be interesting to talk about. 


Normally I create activities that can be shared digitally and then printed out or used with a projector. But sometimes I am involved in creating physical products. The process is similar for both but there are a few extra steps with making a physical product to be sold. The barriers to start making your own high quality resources is lower then ever and new creators can always bring a fresh perspective to a topic. 

I have worked in the sex education field for over 15 years and this topic is what I know best but I'm sure that the same basic process can be applied to many different subjects. I am going to share the process I went through creating "See It Shout It" and explain some of my thinking at each stage.  

Identify the need and desired outcome

I always start from an identified need, For "See It Shout It" the primary need was simply, many young people feel unconfident in verbally saying out loud sex education related words. This low verbal confidence made it harder for young people to ask the questions they wanted. There are a few classic RSE activities to help with the issue but some of them have limits. 

For example a classic option is getting learners to shout out "rude" words they know but the problem I have with this one is that it can turn into a competition between young people trying to say the "rudest" thing. It can break the ice, but for a young person who feels unconfident, seeing some of their peers shout out all these words, it can embarrass them and make them feel silly or immature for worrying about using the less explicit words they are nervous about. Equally sex ed versions of the party games Taboo* Scattergories* and Just a Minute, can all work but they require people to be confident enough to be the centre of attention or risk being wrong. They can work great with building the confidence of adults staff during training but I find them less effective with young people. 

So I wanted an activity which creates opportunities for lots of verbalisation but without the need for one person to be the centre of attention. And with the added bonus of being somewhat predictable for facilitators. It can be counter productive when an RSE facilitator starts an ice breaker activity that ends up going off into tangents and topics they did not expect or even feel personally uncomfortable discussing. I was looking for something that was a bit more predictable. 

Research the field

Often great resources already exist for doing all kind of things and normally the problem is finding the resource you need. I always try and find if someone else has created a great resource I can just purchase and direct people to. No need to reinvent the wheel when great stuff exists. When I find something new that fits the bill the process is finished and I move one. 

But sometimes nothing exists that ticks all the boxes you are looking for. Or if it does exist but maybe it is outside your price range or out of print. Whatever the reason sometimes I reach a conclusion that making something new and bespoke is a good option. Then research shifts gear from what else is available to what evidence exists around the need and possible responses. 

It is not hard to find news stories talking about the long term problems young adults face with low confidence in saying words. There are journal articles (Dobson 2019) about how staff struggle to use correct words. And studies with young people consistently say that awkward atmospheres and embarrassment around sex hinder good sex education (SEF 2022, Barnardos 2018, Young 2016 etc).

Verbal confidence in sex education terms is just one part of a much bigger issue. But the evidence seems to support the need I had anecdotally witnessed in my work with young people. 

Generate your idea and create a prototype 

During the research phase I searched for activities and games where young people regularly say out loud a variety of specific words, without a single person being the exclusive centre of attention. I love board games and think the overlap between board games, youth work activities and teaching resources is considerable. A board game that is very popular with youth groups that mechanically meets my needs was Dobble. If you have never played it I highly recommend buying a copy and playing it. Simultaneously, players attempt to match icons on cards and shout out the pair to win a card. 

Dobble is great fun and the game play is great fit for my needs. At this point it is worth explaining that games companies can not claim copyright for specific mechanics. They of course can claim copyright over specific images, terms and looks but gaming mechanics can not be claimed in the same way. This is evidenced by the large number of Dobble clones available online. It is important that we do not create a resources that looks like it is trying to succeed by borrowing the intellectual property of an existing product. If you are interested in the process of board game design I highly recommend the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design*. It is a great guide to create your own games and much of the guidance applies to creating fun teaching resources. 

So putting all my research together I drafted my ideas into a prototype. For this resource creating the prototype had three big jobs. Firstly, working out the maths for the cards, so that every card would have one icon in common with every other card in the deck. Secondly, choosing which words I wanted the players to be saying out loud and finally sourcing or creating the necessary icons. 

Working with young people regularly, I got them to help me create my list of words. From a focus group with young people they generated a list of words young people felt least confident to say out loud. The generated list included things like 
  • Vulva
  • Anal sex
  • Ejaculation
  • Masturbate
I then added in extra words based on balance/completeness. For example whilst young people didn't specifically say "Oral" was a hard word to say, I added it along with "Anal" and "Vaginal" to role model a wider variety of sexual activity that can each be discussed specifically. An interesting addition came from young people discussing how to actually negotiate consent. Some young people told us they felt it was hard to verbally say No (or Yes) out loud when talking about specific sexual activities. 

Once I had the maths, the words and the icons I was able to create a prototype. Printed on card and cut up by hand I had my first version of the as yet unnamed "See It Shout It" resource.  

Focus groups and piloting 

When I am developing a new RSE resource my first test groups are adults. Friends and RSE educators I work with or am training. People who come on RSE training facilitated by me often get first looks at new ideas. Adults are more forgiving then young people of simple mistakes. They are great test beds for the resource mechanics and they can give rapid feedback on both how they found using the resource and how they would feel about using the resource with young people.

I find the important thing at this stage is not to hold onto your ideas too tightly but be open to the view of other professionals. Let them rip apart your ideas and welcome their input. I usually test out a few different versions of the same activity at the same time. If I have 4 groups of trainees on the course. Each group might have a slightly different version of the same activity and I will let them compare and contrast their experience with the resource. Capturing their feedback, I quickly move into a cycle of improvement and iteration. Making changes based on this feedback. 

The next stage of piloting is bringing the resource to young people. I normally start with a known group, often a youth group. If my RSE activity can compete with the fun of a youth group I trust it will likely be appreciated in a classroom. The piloting process repeats the same pattern of test it, get feedback, make changes and try it again. 

During the piloting of "See It Shout It" the inclusion of specific icons and words were regularly discussed and some interesting things emerged. For example, during testing some original icons were found to regularly elicit words I didn't plan for. The best example is the LGBT+ icon. Originally it was a pride rainbow flag. But I found many young people would say "rainbow" or "rainbow flag". Which would be fine as a game but as the resource was deliberately about growing confidence to verbalise words I switched to the current acronym logo. Then I found young people would actually say "LGBT+". So the icons in the resource are not chosen specifically as the best icon to represent each word but as the best icon found from testing that lead to the verbalisations I aimed for.

Keeping the educational aim of the resource at the front of my planning is very important. It is easy to get side tracked into making the game as fun as possible. Yes, I want it to be fun and engaging but as it intends to be an educational resource it needs to meet the educational aim as the priority, above pure fun. Practically this meant making decisions such as including some easier icons. The inclusion of these icons helped less confident young people to start engaging with the activity so benefitted the overall impact. Even if Love and Baby are not particularly awkward words for most young people to say, their inclusion has value.  Equally, some fun icons that adults and older young people enjoyed saying (for example Vibrator) were cut from the final version as they proved to be a barrier for some young people and a distraction.  

Repeat focus groups and revision process until it is ready 

It is easier to stay in this stage for a long time (and some of the resources I have been developing are in the stage now despite me starting their development before "See It Shout It"). But at a certain point you need to move the resource on if you want to make it into a final version for other people to get access to. At this stage I often do two things. 

Firstly, I create a prototype version that looks more like a professionally produced version and I stop using the print, cut and laminate versions. A cheapish way to create a small batch of a new card resource is to use a business card printing company. Many business card companies require you to order identical cards but Moo* lets you print a unique design on one side of each card. They are a great UK service to get a quick prototype made that looks professional. Young people instantly react different when a resource feels more professional. This step can create some important feedback about issues such as icon clarity, card feel and layout.

Secondly, I send the resource out to trusted educators I know for them to trial with young people. This step should not be skipped. It is really important to get feedback about how the resource works when you are not present to guide how it is used. I always ask my testers to provide written feedback on the resource and for this resource I sent them a table with each icon on it. This was to help collect feedback about each specific icon. To see if my piloting experiences are representative of how others might use the resource. 

After all this piloting I reached a stage where I had a high level of confidence in the resource. The core mechanic of the resource is simple, tried and tested. So, the revisions centred mostly on the icons used. The icon selection does not necessarily reflect what young people think is most important in RSE. For example, I initially tried including an icon for Sexting, as that is an important issue. But young people don't use that word and secondly when they want to discuss the issue it is not usually a hard issue to verbalise in general. But instead they reported in lessons on the topic feeling less confident about naming specific body parts in a photo. So I made sure Bum, Breasts, Vulva and Penis all had specific icons in the resource.

Finalise design, publish and start thinking about future editions. 

The final stage is sourcing a production company that can produce the resource at a cost effective unit price. Depending on your situation distribution can also be a significant hurdle. For this resource both of these steps went quickly as acet UK already operated an online shop that would be the primary distribution channel and is linked with printing company we have worked with before. 

The final step is getting the word out there. The scope and scale of this depends on your aims
and needs. I highly recommend finding groups of people who already have an established interest in the subject field. A youth worker or teacher who hates RSE is not likely to spend their limited budget on a new RSE resource. But RSE enthusiasts and experts in the field are more likely to want to test out your idea. If your resource is well received hopefully they will tell other people about it and word of mouth can be a very powerful. 

But for me the process does not finish there. As soon as a "final" version is agreed I start thinking about how the resource could be expanded or improved on in the future. If my first print run sells out would a 2nd edition change anything? Could the resource be developed with an expansion pack? Or an alternative edition? For example I am already tempted to create a 18+ version of "See It Shout It" where the icon selection can go in some different directions. Another thing to think about is could the resource work in a different form. Larger, smaller, digital, more complex or maybe more tactile. There are lots of options. 

If you have made it this far through this long post, I hope you have found it helpful and if you have any questions about this specific resource or how I create resources please find me on twitter @blindfishideas.

By Gareth Cheesman

*indicates this is either an affiliate or referral link. These links do not impact the price you are offered but I may receive a small % of the sale.  



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