Action and Transaction: Modeling Communication

Action and Transaction: Modeling Communication
Courses: CMST 10, CMST 20, CMST 30, CMST 40, CMST 54, CMST 60. Adaptable to other disciplines.
Purpose: This activity is geared toward students in Communication Studies who are learning the Transactional Model of
Communication. This activity exercises multiple learning styles by having students physically enact the model, write their
own examples of communication “noise,” and categorize others’ examples. Depending on the model or theory, the activity
can be adapted to any discipline.
3x5 index cards (labeled with elements of the model)
Printed signs that read “channel” and “context.”
Blank printer or lined paper (students may use their own)
Optional Materials (for added fun):
Nerf balls
Process: After an overview of the Transactional Model of Communication (done using PowerPoint, the white board, or
handouts and discussion), students are given an index card. Each index card is labeled with a different role from the model,
including Sender/Receiver, Message, Feedback, Internal Noise, External Noise, and Semantic Noise.
Place the “channel” and “context” signs on the floor or wall. Students who have index cards reading Sender/Receiver
should stand at the front of the room facing one another. Students who have cards reading Message and Feedback should
stand beside the Sender/Receivers. Let them know that when you cue them, their job is to walk back and forth repeatedly
to mimic a message being sent/received.
Instruct students who have received cards reading External Noise, Internal Noise, or Semantic Noise to take a blank sheet of
paper and write an example of the noise on the paper. (For example, if someone received External Noise, they might write
“loud, crowded cafeteria”). Once students have written their examples, tell them to fold the paper into an airplane. When
cued, their task is to (carefully!) throw the planes toward the students enacting the Sender/Receiver, Message, and
Feedback roles. Inevitably, the students playing Message and Feedback will dodge, stop, or run to avoid the planes. Once all
the planes have been thrown, instruct all students to collect and unfold one of the planes. Let them share the examples
written on the paper and have the class categorize what type of noise it represents. Debrief by asking what they saw
physically happen to the Message and Feedback when the “noise” planes interfered. Discuss how different types of noise
may impact communication differently.
Outcome: This activity allows students to get out of their seats and engage the model in a tangible way (with lots of laughs
along the way). This is a useful and memorable way for students to learn the elements of models/theories in any discipline.