An interactive free course

In 2003, I developed tools to free ourselves from internal struggles out of popular education theory and counselling techniques. I use it widely in mental health and well-being, so we can learn, grow and be free. This process helps us to unblock, discover and restore our perspective. Often our words expressed through the external helps us to get in touch with what is really going on inside of us.

In order to understand popular education theory through Paulo Freire’s work in the 20th century in South America, this background video will help you start on your journey to understand the naming – renaming – reframing process.

Follow the page down to work through the background course.

1 Watch background video:

2 Aspects of Population Education

There are 5 main aspects of popular education: dialogic teaching and learning; listening; finding themes and decoding them; checking and recording.

Dialogic teaching and learning I spoke about in the background video. Recall the phrase and meaning of dialogue: “the word between us”

Listening includes love, humility, faith, trust and hope…

Freire (1972) stated five important aspects of dialogue. Firstly, dialogue cannot exist in the absence of profound love. Naming the world is an act of creation and re-creation. Love generates acts of freedom, it is not sentimental, but rather a commitment to the cause.Secondly, dialogue cannot exist without humility. Those entering the dialogue should allow themselves to be open, honest, and not consider themselves as owners of truth and knowledge, rather see knowledge as a tool and everyone holds this tool. Thirdly, dialogue requires an intense faith in people. In order to name and rename, one needs faith in people and faith in the creation and transformation of the struggles that one will attempt to go through for freedom. Fourthly, dialogue is built on trust. Dialogue itself produces a climate of trust. If dialogue happens or continues without trust, then real dialogue does not exist. Fifthly, dialogue cannot exist without hope. In the search of hope, one may find themselves, but they cannot do this alone, only through communion with others (in dialogue). Therefore, love, humility, faith, trust and hope are the foundation of dialogue. 

– Melissa Baker, Independent study project final paper, M.Ed, UTS, 2002

Finding themes and decoding: If life is constructed on questions and challenges that bring about dialogue, then life is about finding those questions, so that one reconstructs themselves. Freire states, ‘if there was no dialogue, then there will be no communication. And if there was no communication, then there will be no true education’. (Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1972)

When we critically and actively engage ourselves with images, we begin to discover or uncover the deeper processes behind them. This can be achieved by building a sense of community in naming, making and connecting parts of our lives that make us whole.

Checking includes listening, questions, dialogue

Recording includes images, drawings, metaphors, objects, representations, anything!

3 Exercise: Freire’s drawings

Paulo Freire’s work in 1970s

a) Identify the differences you see in the three drawings above, before moving on.

b) For each we want to name the theme, sub-theme and ask questions so we learn more about what these images are representing. These drawings of Freire’s work are removing the dimension of its location (consciously). They are close to being natural, but also symbolic; therefore, they require interpretation. We interpret not to place judgement, or find an explanation, but to inquire, reflect, find meaning so the right action can take place. Each drawing is a framework in time. There is growth and opportunity.

Let’s work on the first image together.

freire image 1

Theme: Work

Sub-theme: Nature versus culture

Questions to ask: Who made the well? (culture) Are the birds and plants thriving? (nature) What is the man’s relationship to the earth?

Taking a similar approach, what would you say about the next image:

freire image 2



Questions to ask:

freire image 3



Questions to ask:

Anonymous community responses are available at the end of the course.

4 Naming and Renaming in Freire’s work

“Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only be true words, with which men transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn appears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. Men are not built in silence but in word, in work, in action-reflection.” (Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1972, pp60f)

Are you picking up the language, naming, renaming and reflecting process in this quote?

During his early work in South America, Freire came across a slum area. He noticed the ground was wet surrounding the villages. The make-do houses were sitting in these damp conditions. Residents were moving through it constantly. Freire wanted to set his people free from oppression. This was his purpose.

He named what we saw: WATER

Then as he reflected more, Freire saw that water did not go deep enough to the root cause. He looked at the various aspects of the water and noticed the colour, the texture. So he renamed water to DIRTY WATER.

He seeing it now as dirty water, he felt that was not strong enough for any significant changes to take place for these oppressed people. He reflected more, using all his five senses now, instead of only sight, he looked at the problem from various angles. He brought in an external perspective. Then in gathering all the reflection, he renamed dirty water to SEWERAGE.

In discovering that sewerage existed, the smell intense, people living in it, the reflection – naming process needed to move to action. In action, the council had no choice but to change the conditions for the people as no one should live in sewerage.

Do you see the strength of the naming – renaming – reflection – action process?

5 Free yourself tools by Dr Mel Baker

I was so moved by the stories and work of Paulo Freire and the liberation Popular Education gave to learning. We are now seeing this work in the 21st Century, along with other educational pedagogies, reframed as co-design.

Before this took place, back in 2003, after I had finished my Master of Adult Education and before I started on my Doctor of Education; I built 6 tools to help bring out the internal struggle and externalise it. I spoke at many workshops, lectured on the topic and designed many courses back then. I have now integrated all this together with my doctorate, work with police forces around the world and the navy, and my own lived experiences through trauma (childhood and adult), to create life saving tools.

I believe we learn more from shared experiences, than from knowledge passed to us through instruction. Knowledge needs to be owned by the learner. Learning can take place by asking questions, reflecting, acting, evaluating and thinking individually and corporately.

When we share our experiences with others through story, drawing, theatre, objects, then people connect and learning begins with interaction. The reason why I started Living Expressions publication in 2020. As a participant in this course, your role is to listen, enquire further, ask questions, reflect and develop your experience into action. Otherwise, these are merely words, videos, audio and exercises on a page.

Introduction of the life saving tools I’ve developed from integrating all of my learning:

a) STORY: connection and expressive

Stories draw on personal experience. Every human has a story to tell. A story builds community and a bond of trust. They express our ideas, thoughts, feelings, behaviour, experiences and roles in life. The mere process of telling our story feeds connection with one another.

Exercise: a writing reflection – to help pinpoint what is missing in your life

What was the happiest moment you remember from your past? What is a moment you are looking forward to happening in the future?

After you’ve answered those two questions, reflect upon your current circumstances. Describe what is happening in your present life.

Go back to your first two answers. Search for the connection between your past and future happy moments. Identity key themes. Essentially, what is the important ingredients for you to experience a happy moment? Write down in point form on a page. Then, explore what areas are missing from your current circumstances. 

Over the next month, work out ways you can incorporate more of those rich experiences you enjoyed in your life currently.

If you would like to read my writing reflection, you can do so here (scroll down to the grey shading towards bottom).

b) QUESTIONS: reflective and explorative

Life is compromised of many questions and challenges that bring dialogue. Life is about asking questions, so that we can reconstruct ourselves. Remember your own childhood or listening to children when they reach that inquisitive age of asking questions, this is precisely what they are doing and they often don’t wait for an answer. Questions are more important than the answers.

Questions invite response, reflection and exploration to find inner meaning within our situation, our society and ourselves. A good question invites learning from the questioner as well as the listeners.

As you enter this next exercise, close your mind from other things, try to shake off that school / university teaching that being “right” is the only answer and be open to infinite possibilities. Focus on the question itself and allow yourself to imagine the picture or words that it evokes in you. Stand back from it if you need and utilise your five senses as Freire did those many years ago in the slum. Write down your thoughts, feelings and reflections. Try not to think about an answer. Don’t lock yourself into sentences with a full stop, rather describe and reflect through single words and single phrases. Once you allow yourself to that you will find the experience rather freeing!

Exercise: answering questions – in this present moment

How do you feel in your day-to-day life? What is working really well? What needs changing? What needs challenging? What areas need growing? Include all aspects: home environment, occupation, community and all are core responses (mental, social, emotional, physical, spiritual).

Exercise: asking reflective questions – during a meal time with friends and/or family

What questions would you ask over a meal time to get people talking and learning? It is always best if we stay as present as possible. So no sharing past memories. It is a fun exercise to do!

c) MUSIC: relaxing and contemplative

Certain types of music reaches into our soul and helps us to contemplate life and to relax. I call this type of music “dirth” – meaning down to earth. All music, of various genres, evokes response, dialogue, questions and story-telling. It invites you to move in spirit or in action.

Exercise: listen to a song written by Ben McKinnon based on my life as a teenager

Then, reflect upon the story it is sharing with you. What words, images, metaphors come to your mind? Does it speak into your own story? Write down any questions that come out for you.

Exercise: listen to a song that speaks into your life in this present moment. It might be a favourite song you’ve been listening to recently. It might be a new one you’ve come across. Use ear phones / air pods, to hear every note and lyric. Close your eyes and tune out the rest of the world for these 3-5 minutes. What does this song say to you? How does this song make you feel? Reflect then act. Your action could be to listen to it again and move with it or it could be to act on the emotions that it evoked in you. It might be to write down words on a page or draw an image that comes to mind. Your action most likely will be coming from a subconscious place. Allow freedom for you to explore.

d) THEATRE: engaging and therapeutic

Therapeutic theatre engages the body, heart and mind into action. It relieves pressure and helps to bring freedom to an issue or feeling. As you engage in theatre activities, focus on the questions asked and move into a position (body shape) that first comes to you out of a particular life experience. If you are asked to speak a word, again draw yourself into that moment, take control of the situation and express out loud the first word that comes to your mind. (Again no judgements to hold, no right or wrong answers, just go with your first reaction.)

Often in certain situations we are not the ones in control. These next exercises will help us to be in control of your own actions. Hopefully next time you are trying to be controlled by someone else that you will feel empowered to stand firm.

Exercise: single movement theatre – engaging the body

Move into a position that you tend to be in when you are spoken negatively to. Remain in that position as you reflect upon these questions: How do you really feel? What one word do you want to speak out? Speak that out loud. What do YOU want to achieve?

Move yourself out of this position, slowly, and move into a position that represents your goal. Feel your action as you move from that awful negative feeling towards a positive action. What words do you now want to speak out? Speak them out.

Now straighten yourself, stretch if that’s what you feel you need to do. Reflect on the process of this. Do you feel freer? Next time you are in an awful situation and you find yourself going into that first position, move yourself as soon as you realise to an empowered position. You will find your emotions and confidence stand with you as your body changes. It is quite liberating.

Exercise: speaking out words theatre – engage the mind

Allow words to flow from your mind onto a blank page or say them out loud. Using Freire’s single words or phrases technique. First, let your feelings, deepest pain and struggles speak loudly. Then, end the piece with a new beginning, a new era, a time for change and for transformation to take place.

I’ll share my example below. Your choice whether you wish to read it before to help you find your flow or to read it after you’ve completed.

Denial Pain Hatred Despair Hurt Lies Mask
Madness Escape End
Rejection Failure Betrayed Broken

No more

Beaten Ignored Guilt Hate
Fight abuse with abuse
Pretend Is it all there? Fight it Hate self

What is love? Who is love? How can I love?
Leave Gone Loneliness Sorrow Pain Eliminate
Trapped Find me Open wounds Fading away


Uncover my wounds Fading scars Part of me
Strength is mine Real No more masks
Open my arms Embrace Give me life

Seek the lost child in me

Belong Call Feel Touch Know See
Fight the pain with love
Look deep within my eyes

Free to be me

Exercise: theatre with others – engaging body and mind

Get together with another person or up to a group of 6. If you have children, get the whole family involved in this exercise. This is one exercise I will be doing in the face to face workshops.

Share a story. It could be a moment that is on your mind and you would like to work through it. It could be a recent moment your family experienced together. Allow one person to share the story as you wish to share it. (If there is more than one story, then do this exercise twice!) Read all the instructions first, so it flows well.

Ask if there are any questions that need to be clarified. Ensure everyone understands the story.

One person: mould yourself as the main character in the story (if you are the main character, then let it be another person). How do you feel as them? What insight are you gaining from their point of view? Then speak out loud one word, a phrase or a sound.

Second person: (can be anyone) Thinking of the story, add to this image. Mould yourself as part of this story with the first person. What role are you playing? Feel that character. What do you want to say? Speak that out loud.

If more than two, continue to add to this story and repeat “second person” instructions.

Then after everyone is part of the story, move yourself to a new position. This is our action part. What does your character need to most? Everyone to move when they feel ready. Again do it in slow motion. Once everyone has moved. Stop. Look around. Then sit down and reflect with dialogue with one another what themes came out, learning experiences or what you saw that can change this situation. A great question to dialogue also, is How did the main character feel seeing themselves? Remember dialogue is non-judgemental and is not explaining, but reflecting, decoding, listening, naming and reframing.

e) DRAWING: imaginative and interactive

Drawing allows you to interact with yourself, the colours you have chosen and the blank paper before you. A drawing, on its own may not be helpful, but when combined with questions and sharing, drawing becomes engaging.

Drawings are not there for interpreting, rather to help you determine what you see and what you do not see. For you to learn from your drawings, get someone to ask you questions about your drawing. Some questions will move you beyond the drawing to a place of learning.

If drawing does not come naturally to you, then I encourage you to have a go anyway. It doesn’t matter if you cannot draw, what matters is that you allow yourself to be free and interact with the paper and colours before you. Why not give it a go!

Exercise: drawing as a response to questions

Grab a blank piece of paper and coloured pens or pencils or crayons.

Draw symbols that represent: your heart (what are you feeling?); your mind (what are you thinking?); and your body (what are you doing?). You might like to do your 3 symbols that represent yourself now or you might like to do 2 images that looks back at a significant earlier age compared to today. You may like to add some words or phrases to your drawing/s or give to name it (like giving it a title). If you did 2 representing different years, reflect upon the differences you see.

Exercise: open drawing with outside involvement

Grab a blank piece of paper and coloured pens or pencils, crayons or even paint!

Allow self-expression to appear. Try to have no pre-thought. This allows your subconscious mind to draw what it needs to state. After you have finished, without explaining to them anything about your drawing, ask someone or a few people to ask you questions.

Remember the questions are more important than the answers. A question can help you see something you didn’t think of and thereby it becomes a learning experience. It might be a great thing to share on your social media feed and ask your friends to ask questions. The more questions you get, the more learning and reflective process you will go through.

f) OBJECTS: perceptive and external

Objects externalise problems, invite communication on sensitive issues, bring safety and provide an avenue through which you can express yourself. The object becomes symbolic with the ability to touch it, turn it and place it is revealing and brings connection. (That’s in times when you are physically able to hold the object.)

It is important to analyse the object and develop meanings through questions, observation and participation. Using objects is a key strategy to freeing ourselves. I have utilised objects in my own therapy sessions, when I used to do marriage counselling and as I listened to people’s stories battling with trauma. It enables you to dialogue externally the source of the issue or problem that has been internally locked in you; most often without feeling threatened or triggered.

If you use this tool with a therapist, then it gives you a chance to enquire further about the cause-effect relationship with the issue at hand and the object that you are speaking to, from and about. By asking the right questions, they will be able to learn more about you, the issue and together find a solution. Recently, I spoke with my therapist, through utilising my object technique, on a massive core belief and what we achieved in 30 minutes would have taken months or maybe years to get through in normal therapeutic sessions! And the best thing is that I wasn’t sitting in all those negative emotions whilst doing it because I was externalising it through the object in my hand. This is a powerful experience.

Engagement, connection, community and trust are all important aspects of this tool that must be in existence in order for it to work effectively.

Exercise: use the experience tool

Best place to start you understanding this concept of objects is to utilise the experience I have set up on this website. This will combine objects with the naming – renaming – reframing process towards reflection and then action.

Go to experience page, then read the instructions, choose an object and follow the path.

Exercise: holding your own object

Choose an object that is nearby that best reflects your current situation. Place it in your hand. Touch it. Turn it. Engage with it.

What do you see in this object? Why were you drawn to it?

Name the object. What do you want to call it? Or what word comes out for you? First thing that comes to your mind.

Rename the object. Go deeper.

Rename it again, be more precise. What is this really representing?

What would you like to do with this object now? If you know what to do, then reflect and act. If not, continue.

If you could change this object (object 1) into something else, what would that be (object 2)? What is significant about object 2? If you have object 2, then hold both of them. If not, imagine the other one with you.

Bring the two objects together. Demonstrate this through theatre, drawing, story telling or modelling. Explore this further through questions (enquire).

What have you learned from this experience?

Exercise: how to use metaphors with objects

Listen to the monologue audio below. Identify the number of objects I named in my real life story I shared. What was the significant points of change? What did I do to free myself?

Did you pick up the naming – renaming – reframing process? What was the most empowering part that connected with you the most?

What would your metaphor look like? What objects appear in yours? Can you name them towards reframing and find your way out too?


Write a short story about what has been on your mind recently. It could be something you have been worried about or would like to resolve. Write as much as you feel you need to.

Then read the story to a friend or family member. Get them to ask you any clarifying questions. If you would rather keep the story to yourself, read it out loud to yourself. Then ask yourself some clarifying questions.

In your story, is there a particular image that comes to your mind. Perhaps allow your hand to draw that image. Show your image to your same friend without saying a word and get them to ask some more questions. This process may help you discover, reflect and resolve your concern.

Introduce an object. How is it placed in the story? Why did you choose this object? What is it representing? Name the object. Rename it. Then go deeper and more precise, reframe it.

Bring your friend and other family members, if you have any, into the room. Summarise your story with any further reflections you have added. Mould one person at a time, creating an image of your story or situation. (Use other objects in your room if there is no one with you.) Name each of your characters and how they relate to your story.

Ask each person, how do you feel? What insight are you gaining from their point of view? What do you want to say in response? Then, touch each person one at a time, asking them to speak one word or sound out loud.

Place the object into the scene – it might go into someone’s hand, it might be centrally located in the room. Again ask each to speak a word, single phrase or sound with the object.

Place the drawing into the image.

As the storyteller, what do you see? View your scene from different angles. Is there anything you want to change? Move people around. Move the object or drawing. What action do you want to do to help you resolve this? If people have moved, then ask them to speak out a word or sound again.

Allow everyone to view the scene. Does anyone want to add anything?

Fix yourself on a goal and set out to achieve it through slow movement and sound. For example, if people were trapped or bound in someway, then everyone moves slowly to free themselves and find a way to be released.

End on a discussion on how that felt and how you feel having gone through the process. Have you come to a place of resolution? If you didn’t get a chance to do this with others, hopefully you will be able to get to a face to face workshop or a great imagination also helps!

You have done so well. How did you go? I hope you have learned to free yourself and how to best utilise these tools in your life and practices. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

Copyright 2021 Dr Mel Baker

Strategies used for young people to name and rename the world, M.Ed. (UTS) research project paper (2002), includes references