Teaching Materials - Exercise

Exchanging useless gifts

Name of Artist Educator: Ellis Yip
Excercise Category: Self-awareness

Let’s start from personal belongings to rethink our “personal history”

Concept / Inspiration:

Let’s start from personal belongings to rethink our “personal history”

This exercise derives from the theme “personal history”. Students in their secondary school years may not have experienced any extraordinarily memorable or significant happenings, nor do they develop any particularly strong feelings towards things happened around the world. Asking students to link their personal history with that of the society, and transform that experience to a photographic work, is a rather challenging task. Nevertheless, things contain memory and sentiments, they embody a person’s character and history, and so what we own are actually a reflection of how we have grown up to be who we are today. Hence, personal belongings can be a starting point to rethink our personal “history”.


The exercise reflects on how the meanings of things change as we grow, how they portray our personality, growth and change, and how we become the “I”; students also learn how to discover and describe the characteristic of things.

Materials / Equipment:

  • Personal objects prepared by the students on their own



Workshop Description:

  1. Students are asked to bring one “useless gift” to class and wrap it like a gift.
  2. Students exchange gifts with one another by drawing lots. After unboxing it, the sender would explain why the gift is useless to him/her but might be useful to others. Students may take a picture after exchanging gifts.
  3. Instructor explains to students the meaning of the game, and drive them to consider whether others’ experience is, in any way, related to them.

Note 1: Instructor needs to define clearly the meaning of “useless gift”, it may mean nothing to the owner, but it could be something meaningful in others’ eyes. Instructor should forbid students from bringing meaningless garbage to class, such as used tissue.


During class:

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The student had once enjoyed so much from the comics. But now she no longer enjoyed it and hence she gave it away.

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