I'm a big fan of Trolleys. The earliest description of this team coordination activity that I could find is in The Bottomless Bag by Karl Rohnke (1988). Classic Trolleys are built with 4 inch by 4 inch boards and rope (my favorite type is retired 11 mm climbing rope). Three quarter inch holes are drilled into the boards about 12 inches apart and counter sunk on the bottom side so when the rope, knotted on one end, is pulled through the holes (up from the bottom) the knot becomes lodged up inside the counter sunk hole. With the knot up out of the way the Trolley will remain flat on the bottom for easy maneuvering.
I've seen Trolleys made for three and on up to 12 participants. No matter how long you make them, be sure you have a place to store them. Here's a picture of "The Trolley Tree" - a solution for storing 12 participant Trolleys (somewhat) out of the way - near the open field where they are most often used.
When I first started using Trolleys the idea was to move your Trolley team from point A to point B as safely and efficiently as possible. In many instances there were multiple Trolleys moving across to the final destination at the same time. Now, when I program Trolleys I never tell my multiple Trolley teams they are racing, but we all know how this ends up! Nowadays, more often than not, I like to add some challenging obstacles to the Trolley travels.
Using colorful game spots (or any other flat prop - please don't use three-three-dimentional obstacles. Trolley boards will be unstable if set down upon the 3-D object), I can place them in a random or straight pattern. If the Trolley touches a spot during the crossing the team is required to stop all movement. Then, each person on the team must circumnavigate their Trolley boards, get back on and continue their movement. (If a participant touches the floor/ground during this Trolley obstacle variation I only require the team to stop until everyone is on the boards - all feet must be on the boards for them to work.)
Placing the spots in more-or-less of a straight line is very similar to Trolleying The Line (below). If you place the spots close together the best (safest) way to avoid the spots is to turn sideways and then lift one Trolley board at a time to clear the spots (you'll see this strategy in the video below). (Consider this: If a Trolley team decides to walk right over the spots (a viable option), every time a Trolley board is lifted and then set on a spot, participants must make their 360 trek around their Trolleys. It's one way to do it, but it takes a while.)
Trolleying The Line (video below):
This is my most recent favorite Trolley challenge - clean and simple. Start the Trolley teams about 20 feet from a long line laid down on the floor/ground (use tape on the floor and a rope outside in the grass - you want to avoid a line the Trolleys could "roll" on. This could cause some added speed to the Trolleys you might want to avoid).
Once the teams know the objective, "Get your team across to the finish area without the Trolley boards touching the line that is in your path" (more rules below), they can orientate their starting position any way. (You will see in the video that two teams decided to start sideways and one starting in the perpendicular position - this is the team that made it to the finish area the fastest. Both strategies are worthy of study.)
Trolleying The Line Set-Up:
The "Journey Area" is 40 feet wide. Set down your tape (indoors) or rope (outdoors in the grass), 20 feet from the starting line. Clearly mark the starting and finishing lines with cones on either end of the invisible line (between the cones).
Trolleying The Line Rules:
Below is a picture of the Trolley Team's start and a video of how it plays out. (Note: Before the first journey across the expanse, I had the teams practice moving the Trolleys together for about 10 minutes. I did not tell them about the Trolleying The Line challenge until they were done practicing - this is when two teams decided to start sideways, even though they did not practice going sideways - good stuff to talk about!)
Have FUN out their my friends. Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Welcome back, again, for Part 3. As you know by now, the purpose of What? & Why? is to tell you 'What' I do with a particular process (e.g., an activity), and then tell you 'Why' I do what I did. In this series of What? & Why? I've been sharing one of the ways I introduce choice to my groups by using the activity "Have you ever...?"
Be sure to read through (or even review) Part 1 and Part 2 of this Have You Ever series, before you dive in here.
Another quick review. The numbered comments below match up with the Part 1 numbers. For each step of the What? I share my Why? behind it. Here, in Part 3, I share the final 12 points of the Why.
13. When everyone is back on a spot and I notice (I can see and hear) the group may be ready to give me their attention, I ask the players that moved to raise up a hand. Then I ask everyone to look around. Again, this time (space) is provided for participants to look around and see others in the group they (may) have something in common with.
During these first few movements and the "raise-the-hand" request, I'll point out that those people with hands up are sharing something about themselves and we can assume that they all have something in common (e.g., they've all eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza, or have been part of a team building program before). The participants that did not raise a hand may or may not share something in common with each other (e.g., they didn't do what the asker did), because they could have chosen not to move even if they could have. "As we move forward together in the program we'll find out more about each other through talking and taking on tasks and challenges." After the first two or three reminders, to look around, I will leave it up to the participants to process the information on their own - we just get into the game and raise a hand if we moved.
14. Overall, I have about six participants share a, Have you ever... question to get some good movement and interaction and to notice some commonalities. I don't go on too long at this level because I want to change it up a bit and get back to talking about, and experiencing, choice.
15. Before changing the dynamics of the activity I take some time with the group to explore the choices that were made during the last several rounds. It's easy, at this point, to take in a few responses and move on. I like to stick with this "choice thinking" for a while. The first five or six responses are usually pretty easy to come up with, then when it goes quiet (that, quiet discomfort) we often just move right on to the next part of our process. I like the discomfort. In this discomfort we are also making choices. "Should I say something?" "This is boring, let's move on?" "Oh, maybe there is more we are not seeing. I wonder. Let me think. What else is there?" I believe there is a skill development process that can be experienced and practice when in quiet discomfort. What skills can we practice? Patience? Cognitive engagement? Managing frustration? Participation? Respect? I believe providing more time to think about more possibilities to one question there is more time to practice community building behaviors. And, providing more time also gets us to deeper thinking and more answers - answers that are often more interesting than our first reactions.
During this discussion I also ask my groups what choices they "didn't" make. It's wording that stimulates a different way of thinking. Yes, we can frame choice answers in the positive (so to speak). For example, "I chose to be quiet during the game so I could concentrate more on finding a spot." This could also be worded in this way, "I chose not to talk during the game so I could..." I found this option ("I chose not to...") helps me when I'm working with people (especially young people) working on specific behavior change. Here is my favorite (true) example, "I chose not to make fun of someone when I felt the urge during the game because I know I want to work on this." Another, very common one I've heard several times is, "I chose not to run to a spot because I know I might hurt someone if I ran into them." Again, it seems some brains are wired to see what was "not" done as opposed to what "was" done. Now, do we direct skill development towards "I chose to..." and away from "I chose not to..."? I don't know if it matters. We'll have to propose this question to others more qualified to answer (e.g., mental health professionals). If you have an idea, please share!!
16. After I point out the fact that everyone had a spot around the circle during the first round of questions, I make the physical move to the center with my spot to show everyone things are about to change. Now, I could simply stay on my spot as part of the circle and explain what’s going to happen. It is arguable that staying as part of the circle I will be able to see everyone while I’m talking – my back will not be turned to anyone in the circle. However, I believe this physical change provides some visual preparation for the change. (And, I use a nice loud voice, turn often, and repeat the directions at least a couple times in order to get the change across.)
17. By simply moving into the center of the circle there are usually a handful of participants that can figure out what’s ahead. And, by changing the game configuration participants are starting to prepare themselves for something to change. If I sense some strong reactions to this physical change I might take a brief moment (before I provide details about the change) to check in with my group to find out what emotions are surfacing. Some people have physiological reactions to change that are challenging to manage. “I was comfortable, now I have to do something new. I’d rather stay where I’m comfortable.” This is an example of one type of comment made several times in my experience. Even playing a (seemingly) simply game, change aversion can come up for people. So, I keep myself mindful of reactions during my move to the middle.
When I sense I can provide the group with new information I share the change in the game. During the directs to the change, I do say that the person in the center is, “…obligated to ask a, Have you ever… question.” This can be interpreted as not having a choice in the matter. But do they? There is often an assumption of a consequence without checking. I love it when participants ask about the “obligation” when left in the center. “Well, what choices do you have? Do you have to move?” On more than one occasion, I’ve been involved in a conversation about obligation. Even though a participant does not want to be caught in the middle (they don’t want to be “on the spot”), they still feel obligated to move if the question is true for them. The ensuing behaviors related to avoiding getting caught in the middle tend to be on the assertive side and have caused uncomfortable emotions, reactions and even consequences. Again, so much can happen in a “simple” game if one pays attention. And, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to share insights, feelings and feedback.
18. Before playing the new version of, Have you ever… we take some time to look at the changes ahead and possible choices we have moving forward. Again, what will be choosing to do and what might we choose NOT to do? I also slip in some possible norming behaviors, “How do we want to play during this part?” There are usually some warnings related to increased movement (speed) that might show up and suggestions as to what behaviors might be considered during play. I don’t push this question too much, I just like to introduce the idea of considering how we want to BE together. I will continue with norming discussions later if it within the scope of the program goals.
19. Now we get into the new version of the game. After each question, we raise hands and recognize similarities. I also choose to stay on my spot (for the most part) and observe the behaviors of my group in play. (What’s that quote? You can learn more about people in an hour of play than a day of conversation – something like that.)
First and foremost, I’m looking for safety concerns and I address these right away. I will push safety-related norms if needed and hold my group to these norms. I’m also looking and listening for (and at) the behaviors I see and hear. I want to start getting a picture of the individuals in the group and the group as a whole. How are they playing together? Are players exhibiting more individual (selfish) behaviors or group (thinking of others) behaviors? Are players asking for help? Are players talkative or quiet? These observation prompts and behavior data will help me adjust the activities ahead (if needed), and help me frame questions during processing sessions that are related to what’s happening (as opposed to being related to program objectives that might not be relevant to the group at the time).
20. I wove the issue about safety concerns above – if I see something, I say something. There have been times when I explore the choices made around unsafe behavior. Excitement and high energy individuals often “blame” the context of the game for their behaviors – “Well, you didn’t say we couldn’t run.” “I didn’t want to lose (i.e., be in the middle), so I made every effort to get to a spot.” Lots of great opportunities to discuss group interaction, behaviors and norms. And, why certain behaviors are more acceptable within a group than others.
21. After about six to eight questions from participants, I stop the activity in order to readdress our choices one more time. During this third round of choice thinking, I often hear more insightful responses. The group has practice and experience with the question. They are ready to add more to their answers – expand the thinking.
At this point, I will also share some of the observations I made related to choices being made if the participants do not bring up what I’m thinking about. I do like to check in with participants (in general) about what I saw. Like, “Why do you think some players chose to move quickly to an open spot? Did anyone notice this?” “Why do you think some players offered help during the game and others did not? What helpful behaviors did you notice during the game?” “Why might it be difficult for someone to come up with a, Have you ever… question when they ended up in the middle? What was this like for you if this happened?” My general approach is meant to build some empathy for some of the behaviors we might see within a group and to open the door to developing some norms around how we want to be together. It’s an opportunity to recognize what’s going on, even if everyone did not see what was going on. Playing and observing are difficult to do at the same time – a good reason to have a facilitator in the group.
22. At this point I want to frontload some of the possible experiences ahead. If (and more often than not) there are participants that have been in team building programs before, I ask them what choices they’ve made in the past during similar programs – I like to get them talking first. Then, I can add to the conversation with some of my experiences. Again, in educational terms, I’m providing an anticipatory set – things people will (or might be) faced with in the near future.
Maybe I’m planting seeds? Maybe I’m “setting” the group (and participants) up for a predetermined outcome? As I see it, with the time I have, it’s a way for me to get closer to desired outcomes. If you have more time (e.g., working with students over the school year), you can do less frontloading and provide more exploration and discovery. Letting my group know there will be lots of choices ahead is the intent of this final look at choice.
23. My caveat. Again, my personal philosophy about choice (developed during my work with “at-risk” youth populations). I am partially responsible (my participants share in this responsibility) for my group's wellbeing. I need to know where everyone is at all times. Yes, at ALL TIMES. The choice to “disappear” is not an option for my participants. Now, if I relinquish my responsibility to another responsible party (e.g., a teacher or chaperone with the group), then the participant (or participants) is no longer my responsibility. So, I share my expectation about this choice right away. As you see it’s worded, someone can step away from the group when needed (and it can be needed), but it’s important for me to have everyone in my sights. And, I word it as “helping me” with this. Most of us are very willing to help someone when asked respectfully and with reason. There might be some questions about this and even push back on not having the choice to walk away, out of sight. But, I respectfully make it clear that, as in life, there are limits to our choices sometimes.
24. Now we need the rally cry. I want to ignite a little energy to move forward. I’m always excited to get into the program after a good foundation and understanding (hopefully) of the choices ahead. As we move forward together, choice thinking conversations continue since we’ve laid the groundwork for thinking about choice on purpose.
As always, I'm open to your opinion and thoughts about what I have to offer. Leave me a comment below or send me an email.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Welcome back for Part 2. Quick review. The purpose of What? & Why? is to tell you 'What' I do with a particular process (e.g., an activity), and then tell you 'Why' I do what I did. I view this documentation as a training tool, a thought motivator, a way to share intention - to share ways to program on purpose.
Be sure to read through (or even review) Part 1 of this Have You Ever posting, before you dive in here. Part 2 (and Part 3) might make more sense after you know "What?" I'm talking about Or, maybe it would be more informative to postpone Part 1 until after reading Part 2 (and Part 3). Who knows, finding out Why before we know What might be a better process for you. (And, be sure to let me know if you try this order - share What? you did and Why?, and how it turned out!!)
Another quick review. The numbered comments below match up with the Part 1 numbers. For each step of the What? I share my Why? behind it. Here in Part 2 I share the first 12 points of the Why. In Part 3 I'll cover the final 12.
1. I like to have participants help me whenever I can - it's a nice social skill to practice (and it saves me time as well). By clumping together, I am able to hand out five or six game spots to several participants near me so they can also help me hand out spots - or pass along the spots after taking one for themselves. Being together in a "clump" saves us steps and time in the long run. Another option is to set down the game spots into a circle formation before your participants arrive. In my experience, setting up a circle of spots by myself takes more time than getting help. Totally up to you.
2. When everyone has a game spot I collect the extras, then together we form our circle. Doing this together might become our first "problem solving" activity! I might give a visual image suggestion, like, "We want to form a circle, like a big pizza, or a basketball." Then, I'll ask my group, "Do you like the shape of this circle, or do we want to change it? What do we need to do to change it?" After asking these questions I listen for how participants are communicating with each other - is it positive, constructive, negative, sarcastic, useful? If some coaching is required I will add some thoughts while we're getting circlized. I also make sure to praise the useful behaviors and positive feedback participants are engaging in and sharing - I'm starting the norming process with the group. I too am working on forming the circle with my group, because I am also standing on a game spot as part of the circle (remember, this version of, "Have you ever..." does not start with someone in the middle of the circle).
For this game of "Have you ever..." (HYE), I think the circle formation works the best. I've tried HYE in a square, a triangle and scattered formations. The circle is best for hearing the HYE questions and a circle provides more space for moving from one space to another (again, in my experience). (BTW: Playing HYE, just as an ice breaker, is really interesting from a scattered formation, but it increases the level of risk. So, if you are norming for safety with your group scattered HYE might be an option.)
3. In this step, I'm frontloading the idea of choice. Even though we will be discovering things about each other - some similarities and differences - my main facilitated objective is to emphasize the concept of choice and how choice fits into the program we are in together. Some participants might recognize the game once I share the part about saying, "Have you ever..." When participants speak up, sharing they've played before, I often say, "That's great. In a moment you will be able to help me out since you have some experience with this one. For the moment you might notice some differences in the way I play, so please go along with me on this version and have some fun." I use the example of, "...eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza" because I'm pretty sure there are a few people in the group who have done so.
I'm choosing to use an example of something that more than a few people have done so I can get some movement when we try. Now, depending on where you are in the world, you might use a different example. If I use something too unique, like, "Have you ever swam with dolphins?" I might not get any movement during my test run - and I want movement for the example. (I do use the pepperoni slice example as the practice run.)
4. I come back to the idea of choice at this point. I present choice as an invitation - an invitation to move off of their spots or not if they have done the Have you ever...? I know I picked up the idea about choice as an invitation from someone in my past, but I don't remember who. So, thank you - whomever you are! I suppose being "invited" could be seen as someone with power opening the door for others with less power - and argument to explore at some point. For me, I like being invited. It shows me I'm being recognized, seen by others. "Chris, I'd like to invite you to my party!" Thanks! I'll be there." It's an opening, a way of thinking that can work for a lot of people. During discussion with more groups than I can remember, participants have told me that they liked the idea of being invited - they felt included and part of the group.
5. By now I want my participants to lock in the directions with practice. I use the example, "Have you ever eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza?" because they've already been thinking about it. It's not something new at this point - in educational thinking I'm (sort of) reviewing. Participants already thought about my question and they've probably answered it, in their heads at least. Now, we're moving (literally) to the next part of the learning process. We're adding something to what we know. We've also heard the directions, now we're putting them into action.
6. I choose to move with the pepperoni pizza eaters at this point, and I also keep an eye on the movement of others. Most participants will recognize that they don't have to move quickly because there is a spot for everyone (at this point). However, some energetic players (e.g., younger participants) might choose to move quickly, so I'm watching for safety issues.
Now, as the facilitator, you can choose to frontload the practice step by reminding participants they don't have to run - "there is a spot for everyone." If you think your groups needs this information, let um have it. By leaving out the safety frontload I get the chance to observe my groups participate in some natural behaviors. They might already have a good sense of how to behave safely - I might not need to bring it up (just yet). After we are all back on our spots I can ask the question about choices. (This is where we can talk about "safety" choices if they were observed.)
During this first bought of choice recognition, I don't push too much. I like to get in more action before digging deeper. So, here I just ask five or six times, "What choices did you have the opportunity to make?" I don't share any of my observations and choice options I know about at this time - I want to give my groups the first opportunities to share what they observed and practiced. However, there is one exception. If I observed any safety concerns we will open this discussion and create some norms (rules) for moving (literally) forward. I will often add, at this point, that one of my roles as a facilitator is to monitor safety issues and help the group develop norms and behaviors around safety concerns.
7. We need to move again. Asking my participants if they have participated in a team building program before is one of my favorite questions. It usually (these days) produces lots of movement and it lets me find out if there are those in the group who have not been in a team building program before - I observe this information in the next step. Again, I'm observing my groups for behaviors (e.g., safety) that may need to be addressed right away. In most cases, I stay on my spot so I can watch the movement.
If someone (and this happens quite a bit for me) brings up the fact that I didn't move and asks, "You haven't been in a team building program before? (they are ALWAYS watching us!) I share my choice to stay on my spot so I could observe the group in action (another role I have as a facilitator that I might share with my groups at this time). In educational terms, I can be modeling choice.
8. After this second practice, I add some new information and action. As a way to now recognize others we have something in common with. I ask participants to raise up a hand if they moved to a new spot. Now, we can look around the circle (again, the best formation to see everyone), to see who has been in a team building program before and who has not. We can also see that we have a difference among us - some have and some have not. (This is where I find out who is team building for the first time. Why is this important? I might change my language a bit or define more of the terms I use with my participants. This thinking is another topic we can get into at some point.)
And, I do like to invite participants to put their hands down when we're done looking around as to avoid any discomfort and confusion about when it's time (okay) to put hands down. ("Have you ever..." been in one of those situations where you weren't sure, then you just put your hand down because others were putting their hands down? Doing what others are doing because you don't know what to do....now that's something to talk about!)
9. Okay. We're now getting the idea, so I want to prepare my participants for a change coming up. I let them know that, after I ask one more "Have you ever..." question, I will be inviting them to ask the questions. In this way I'm giving participants a heads up, some time to think about something they might want to ask. Even though they'll be listening and possibly moving around, they will have some time to think. In educational terms this is called an anticipatory set - I'm setting up my group for something that is about to happen. Something they can anticipate.
The next new thing will not be new - they "knew" it was on the way. This prepares the brain for some action. Along with my next question there is a chance that I might be the only one that has done the "Have you ever..." (If you've played "Have you ever..." you know that if you ask a question it must be true for you. I have not shared this rule yet - but it's on the way.)
If I don't see anyone else making a move from a spot, I will take one step into the middle and take a bow. Then, step back onto my spot. (Again, another "rule" - invitation - I have yet to share, but it's on the way.) More often than not, since I'm taking a bow, participants will clap for me - it's a pretty common cultural norm. I didn't set up the bow-clap process yet, but if I have the opportunity to demonstrate it, I take it. Again, depending on the question I ask, there will be more, less or no movement at all.
10. If there was some movement I ask the movers to raise a hand. Then we all look around to see who we have something in common with. Again, this action is about providing an opportunity to recognize others. If I have a hand up I recognize that I have something in common with others who have their hand up. I also recognize there are others I might not have something in common with - there are differences in the group.
The participants that did not move, do not have a hand up, can also assume that they have something in common with others in the group - the non-movers. Now, since there is a chance that one or more of the non-movers could have moved but chose not to, I like to make a short point about assumptions. "We can assume we have something in common with others through observation, but how do we know for sure?" This will often produce comments about "talking" to each other, asking questions, and listening. This, more often than not, is part of a team building program - getting to know each other beyond observations and assumptions.
11. After movement stops I invite participants to ask a "Have you ever..." question. But, before they start I share the information (rules) about how play will continue - the questions have to be something they've done and if no one moves after a question, the asker is invited to step into the circle and take a bow, at which point we will all clap. I also like to add the option of simply waving as well - the stepping into the circle and bowing might not be comfortable for everyone. Again, I like to provide choices when possible and give permission to make choices they are comfortable with. The reason I let someone else ask a question after a bow or wave is to save time. In my experience, if I let the same person ask another question, they often have to take time to think of something new, whereas others in the group are ready to ask a question. A couple other thoughts.
Depending on my group, I might give the "Rated G" guideline here as well. "Please share 'Have you ever...' questions suitable for a G-rated movie audience." This will often produce some laughter because they know what your talking about. This is a choice I do take away. Another role I have as a facilitator is to help create an emotionally safe learning environment. If I let my group make choices that make others uncomfortable and unwilling to open up and connect with the group, the learning environment will be altered. This can be tricky, but important to consider. We (us facilitators), are challenged to provide learning experiences that help groups move forward together as a community, not hinder the process. "Guiding" the process with appropriate activities and purposeful language is our responsibility.
12. Okay. Here I ask for someone in the group to share a question and I remind them about the context of the question - it must be something they've done. Some groups I work with naturally raise up hands (it is a norm they've adopted) and I'll pick by pointing at them. In other groups, someone will simply speak up before someone else. Depending on your group, you might need to set up the guideline (rule) that you will pick someone who has a hand up - you might need to structure the sharing (you might want to establish this communication norm). This could be a norm that you want to manage or let the group manage. Will they set up the structure or do they want/need you to set it up?
A facilitated objective I have at this point is to move "control" of some of the process to the group - get them taking and interacting as soon as possible. (Note: By this time in the game, we are only about 4 minutes in! Yah, lots of words and thinking in 4 minutes!) And, even if I could move to a new spot on some of their questions, I usually stay on my spot and watch the interaction in the game. I'm looking for "things" to talk about - things I need to talk about (e.g., safety issues), and things I would like them to recognize (e.g., group behaviors) that I can bring up in a processing discussion. Purposeful observation leads me to more appropriate questions. (Another good blog topic to explore at some point.)
Lots to consider at this half-way point. What works for you? What would you change? What would you add? Leave me a Comment below.
See you next time, in Part 3, for the remaining Why?
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Have You Ever...eaten strawberries and whipped cream on a buttery toasted (nooks & crannies) english muffins? (Oh yes, it's yummy.)
I'm guessing most of you know this classic, "Have You Ever...?" ice breaker activity - I'm sure it's been played by millions! Let's review.^ (If you know, Have You Ever..., you can skip past this review.)
Your group, of 12 to 50 players, forms a circle. Each player is standing on a game spot. You are in the middle of the circle explaining the game. You are going to say something true for you - something you have done/experienced. You preface this information with, "Have you ever..." For example, you might say, "Have you ever been to Canada?" (Again, the statement must be true for you.) If anyone in the group (players forming the circle) has been to Canada, he/she is invited to leave his/her spot and move to another spot that is not directly to his/her right or left.
While this movement is happening, you, or any other player in the middle, want to go stand on one of the spots left vacant by one of the players from the circle (the idea is, you don't want to stay in the middle). There will then be a player left without a spot to stand on (because, in this game, there is no sharing spots). The player, without a spot to stand on, is the next person to share a, Have you ever... question from the center of the circle of players. The moving, getting a spot process ensues after every, Have you ever... question from a player standing in the middle of the circle. .
If the player in the middle shares a, Have you ever... question, and no one moves, he/she takes a bow and asks another question. Remembering, the idea is to get players to move - so you want to ask questions that are likely to produce movement.
What? & Why?
Back in January of this year, I posted the first What? & Why? Discussion about how I use Name Card Return - an engaging ice breaker for learning names and experiencing a simple problem solving activity to introduce the group to the kinds of activities they will be experiencing. (Thought - Can an icebreaker be a problem solving activity?)
The purpose for this type of discussion for me is to tell you "What" I do with a particular process (e.g., an activity) and then, in "Part 2" (and 3, if I needed), tell you "Why" I do what I did.
I'm using this format, on the one hand, to document my thoughts about some of the things I do during team building programs. On the other hand, I'm thinking, maybe those of you who train team building facilitators could use this format of thinking as a training exercise.
First, you can share the What?, like how you lead a particular activity. Don't reveal the Why? right away. Have a discussion on the What? with the trainees about "Why?" they think the activity is set up the way it is, and "What?" purposeful reasons they might have for leading this activity (or process) in this way. Then, share your Why? behind your What? - what reasons/purpose do you have for leading an activity the way you do. (You can design your own What? & Why? discussions or use one of these FUNdoing blog posts to explore.)
NOTE: Believe it or not, the step-by-step process detailed below takes me about 15 minutes to lead. It's a lot of writing for 15 minutes, and an interesting process (for me) to go through.
Okay, let's get this one started:
This was the description of one way I introduce choice to my groups. In Part 2, I'll tell you Why? I do each What?
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
^ Have You Ever...? questions first appeared in Karl Rohnke's Bag of Tricks periodical - he started writing Bag of Tricks in 1978. In 1988 he compiled "...the best writing and most useable copy" from his first 38 issues, into the book, "The Bottomless Bag." Have You Ever...? Questions in this book are introduced as a 'raise your hand if you have' activity - as an ice breaker, the questions were a way to start conversations and share stories. In, The Bottomless Bag, Again (1991), Karl expands, Have You Ever...? by adding a circle of chairs - now, if you 'have' you move from your chair to an open chair. And, the game continues....
Before I explain The Cotton Ball Machine, I have to give a shout out to Kathy, Mia and some savvy kids for sharing with me. I love to share and I love it when others share so I can share that!! One share can lead to so much FUN! Thanks friends!
What's interesting about this sharing is the initial link - from Advanced Dental Care, Activities to Make Kids Smile. (I really like Game 2 on this first page). How many of you would go to a Dental site to find team building ideas? Right!
Okay. now I'm digging into the links on the initial page. I go to ZOOM Games (a PBS Kids show). I dig around here a bit (at this point I'm having too much fun!!) I get down to the Physical Challenges section and click on One-Handed, Blind-Folded Cotton Ball Transfer (the title catches my eye because I like easy-to-find resources). I think, "So how can we turn this into a team building activity?" We can find cotton balls most anywhere and plastic spoons, no problem. You don't even need blindfolds, you can ask players to close their eyes. Okay, what can we do? Here's what I'm thinking at this point:
The Cotton Ball Machine
(Many of you will see this one as an alternative to Pipeline.)
Here's what you need:
Here's how to play:
Objective: Given five minutes, move as many cotton balls as possible to the Finishing point.
After working The Cotton Ball Machine for the first time you can lead a processing session to find out what worked well and what didn't. Then, if you have time, you could offer the group another attempt to see if they can improve their score. How will their planning session go with the knowledge they shared during the processing session?
Okay! Have at it my friends. Let me know how it goes. And do let me know if you adapt the rules in order to meet the needs of your group. Especially the Transportation Rule. I really want to find out how groups work within this parameter.
Have FUN out there. Keep me posted!
One final SHOUT! Thanks for the share my friends. You are awesome!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
The Obstacle Field is my name for Mine Field - Mine Field is the traditional name for the unsighted-guide-someone-through-an-area-with-stuff-in-the-way activity. I like using "obstacle" (instead of mine) so I can ask my participants what obstacles they face in their lives and then talk about the skills, abilities, and behaviors they will need to overcome those obstacles. (Getting "help" from others is one of those behaviors, and verbal help is essential for Obstacle/Mine Field.)
For CUP IT UP fans and those interested in a great versatile prop - Check Out This Video of Obstacle Field using red cups - an unsighted player is guided through a field of cups. The overall objective is to avoid touching the cups. (Want more team building activities using cups - without alcohol? Pick up your copy of CUP IT UP - over a dozen team building activities using cups - and a few other things. Click on the link in the left sidebar of this blog for more details and purchase options. Or, just go to the FUNdoing Store and buy your copy right now!)
After presenting Obstacle Field to my adventure education students, one of them came up with this "Got It" version. (NOTE: I found many of my college-aged students to be very competitive - especially being physical education majors. So, they liked making and playing versions of team building activities that were competitive. This is not a bad thing. There is a lot to learn through competitive experiences, especially how we treat our opponents.)
How We Play, Got It (Competitive & Cooperative)
Competitive: The first boundary area that I saw for Got It was the back rectangular portion of a volleyball court - from the 10-foot line to the baseline. We had a lot of cones available so the boundary area was filled with them (of course you can use any type of obstacle but you will need something to elevate the small ball). One tall cone was placed in the center of the boundary area with a small ball atop this cone (see picture).
Teams of 5 or 6 players were grouped at each corner of the boundary area. Each team had one blindfold (optional of course - closing eyes is another option). One player from each team was blindfolded (eyes closed). On "GO!" each team, staying outside the boundary area, verbally guided their unsighted player into the cone area and towards the small ball. The first player to hold the ball up and say, "Got It" earned a point for his/her team.
After a "Got It!" was called, all blindfolded players could be sighted (take off blindfolds or open their eyes) and walk back to their teams to prepare for the next round. If an unsigned player touched a cone along the way s/he had to clap before moving on - 10 claps for the first touch, 20 claps for the second touch, and if a player touched a third time, s/he was "out" of the round - s/he had to stand quietly in the boundary area until "Got It!" was called.
In this competitive version, the first team to 5 points won the game. After each round of play (a round ends with someone saying, "Got It!", my student gave the teams 90 seconds to talk strategy before the next round began.
Overall, the students really liked this version - again, they were all relatively competitive and liked the challenge. After playing Got It, we talked about how it could be adjusted to be more collaborative. (I always presented this question after a competitive team building activity.) Here was the adjustment that was most popular...
Cooperative: The entire group, all four teams, had 8 minutes to collect as many points as possible - so, play is continuous. When time starts, an unsighted player from each team is guided into and through the boundary area in order to "touch" the small ball atop the center cone. After a touch, the player can remove his/her blindfold (or open eyes) and walk back to his/her team so another unsighted player can go for a touch.
If an unsighted player touches a cone s/he must return (sighted) to his/her team and either start again or the team can send in another unsighted player. If the ball falls off the cone it must be placed back atop the center cone, by an unsighted player, before it can be touched again for points. Play at least two games, with some good processing in-between, to see if the "group" can improve upon their first score.
Have FUN out there my friends. Keep me posted!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
I shared this challenging communication activity with my FUNdoing Fridays followers in May of 2016 (Join the FUN by filling out any one of my "Sign Me Up" forms at any page here at FUNdoing and receive a handful of team building activities and ideas every Friday - FREE to you.)
My hope with this new activity (at the time) was to gather feedback about how it "works" to bring out useful communication skills and problem solving behaviors. I didn't hear from anyone. So I ended up sharing my set of Number Squares (and the directions) with a few friends to let them try it out. They told me the preparation information for the activity was not very clear. Let me fix that. I'm using some space here to share more about the set up of the number cards in the hopes of eliminating one of the main barriers to using this activity.
Below (in PDF form) you will find the full detailed write up I have for Number Squares and the print-n-play number cards. There are three different challenge levels for this one. There is a 16-card version that I consider to be the easiest. There is a 25-card version with a "hollow" numbered center card - a moderate difficulty level. Then, there is a 25-card version with a "solid" numbered center card which I consider to be the most difficult version. (All three puzzle layouts are below.) BONUS VARIATION: A friend of mine suggested that you can also play any of the three variations where players can show - but not give away - their card(s) to others. As a nice progression, I intend to try the 16-card puzzle first giving my group the option to show others their card(s) and then play the 25-card puzzle where they can only describe what they are holding. This might make the 25-card puzzle a bit easier to solve once the group learns about the number cards for their first attempt.
Playing the Game: In a nutshell, each player has one or two number cards and can only verbally share what is on his/her card(s) to other players (this is a ZOOM-style activity, if you know that one). In the end the group places the cards down on a table (or floor) in the correct 4by4 or 5by5 pattern. (Again, there is a fully-detailed PDF of the activity below.)
Included in the set of number cards are the answer cards for each of the two puzzles - the 16-card puzzle and the 25-card puzzles.
Each number card in this activity has a letter designation (see the cards below). The letters are used to identify each card in relation to the answer of each puzzle. This letter designation also helps when pulling out the number cards you want to use with a group. Again, there is one 16-card puzzle (easiest), and two 25-card puzzles - one with a hollow numbered center card (card C) being the moderate challenge, and a solid numbered center card (the other card C) being the most challenging variation of the three.
Here is the part that can be confusing:
There are two of the following cards: X, H, W, A, G, E, I - one set for the 16-card puzzle and one set for the 25-card puzzle. Look at the puzzle solutions below. Notice that the numbers on the outside edges of each puzzle are comprised with "hollow" numbers - this designation is a fact that groups will (hopefully) come to realize after communicating with clear details. This fact can help groups piece the puzzles together. When you use the 25-card puzzle you need to replace the right and bottom edge cards of the 16-card puzzle with the other set of numbered X, H, W, A, G, E, I cards. Then add the D, Q, Y, N, V, F, K, R & O cards for the right and bottom edges.
16-Card Puzzle Solution
25-Card Solution (with hollow numbered center card)
25-Card Solution (with solid numbered center card)
I hope this information is helpful. First and foremost, you need to decide which puzzle set of cards you're going to use. Then, pick them out of your set - put any extras out of sight. Be sure you have the appropriate answer card for the puzzle you are using and have some, or all, of the Help Cards available as resources for your group. (Help Cards are described in the full write up of directions below.)
Okay, please let me know how Number Squares plays for you. Any feedback is welcome!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Fast Ball (detailed below) is an activity found in my Portable Teambuilding Activities book. It's one of those "mental model" activities where (more often than not) groups initially define (via Groupthink) a word (or a direction) in one way and to be successful they need to redefine the word (or direction) - one way to innovate is to redefine something your believe to be true.
After using this activity a few times, Jeremy, a fellow FUN Follower (and good friend) wrote me, asking:
I have a question for you about the game Fastball. I have facilitated this activity mostly with college and adult groups and it does tend to take a while 30 min – 1 hr for groups to complete. When the group finally gets it and is able to complete the challenge, there has been a common reaction of great let down and almost the look from participants like “You tricked us”. How have you led this activity so that it does not take so long that group members check out or become so frustrated by the end. It doesn’t bother me to frustrate a group or to raise the tension but I’ve found it hard to bring the processing back around and be productive because the group is just done with it.
Early on in my team building career, I struggled with this same issue when learning about and working with activities like Fast Ball. (Group Juggle to Warp Speed comes to mind - you create a tossing "order" standing in a circle, but you didn't say they couldn't move from where they created the tossing order?)
With activities like this, I tend to lead them with my adult groups (college age or older) in one of three ways:
1) When I have time, like Jeremy, I will let the activity play out until the shift is made. And, as Jeremy has found out, it can take up to an hour. I have experienced group reactions of success and powerful learnings, and frustration and projected blame on me, their facilitator. (Lots to talk about in both situations.)
There have been times during the later reaction where the group felt tricked and it was difficult to get them to focus back on any learnings that could be brought forward. These groups were not ready to see the learning(s) underneath the challenge. I'm sure I did my best, at the time, to move forward, but these (or any) reactions cannot be predicted. We do the best we can to program activities that will meet the objectives of our groups.
(Here is another interesting topic to explore at another time: What are some strategies to bring a groups "back" from a "negative" experience?)
2) Here is the way I lead Fast Ball most of the time (mostly because I don't have the time to let this play out). I frontload the activity with some information that might move the group to the shift in thinking quicker. I tell them:
"On the surface, this activity might seem relatively easy to accomplish. And, it might be - you might "get it" right away. However, I've seen a lot of groups struggle with this one for one reason or another - the activity is designed to make you think. Remember, when approaching a challenge or task, be mindful of the "problems" you encounter. Solve one problem at a time and keep moving. If you reach an impasse, see this as an opportunity be creative and innovative. I will hold you accountable to the rules and you are free to clarify my expectations about them at any time."
After this frontload I let them play. I usually will remind them of some of the points in the frontload when they seem to be "stuck" - but, for the most part, groups will make the shift and produce a fast time in under 30 minutes.
3) When I program experiences involving objectives around "mental models", "paradigms", "phantom rules" or simply "making assumptions", I will use Fast Ball as one experience, of many, to touch on the learning points. I will move into the "Teacher as Educator" role from time-to-time. I will ask more pointed questions like:
Now, depending on your experiential philosophy, asking these types of questions will not be your preference. As I've learned, there are lots of tools we can use, as educators, to reach our objectives (i.e., the objectives you have for the group or the objectives a group brings with them). Other than giving my group the "answer" (there is little learning here, but it could serve a purpose from time-to-time), I don't want to limit the tools at my disposal.
Again, if I choose to "point" the group in a direction with Fast Ball, I've planned to use more of these "shifty" activities with the hope that my groups will move to different ways of defining and thinking on their own - a skill or behavior I want them to pick up.
Jeremy, thanks for sending me the inquiry. I hope I've provided some insight.
Let me know what your'e thinking about this. Leave a Comment below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Activity Objective: Players are challenged to move a safe tossable object to each person in the group as quickly as possible.
Facilitated Objective: Cooperation, Communication, Brainstorming, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Innovation, Goal Setting, Failing Forward (trial & error), Mental Models and Phantom Rules (false beliefs)
Needs & Numbers: One timing device and one safe tossable object is needed for a group of 8 to 24 players. If game spots (like rope rings or poly spots) are available, have one for each player. However, spots are not required.
Time: 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the level of paradigm shift thinking)
Circle up your group of players for directions (Note: A circle formation is not required for the activity, but don’t reveal this fact). Explain that everyone will stand on his or her spot. If physical game spots are not being used, simply tell everyone that “where you are standing when you catch the tossable object is your spot”—and say no more. (Note: This “spot” concept is an important factor for this activity.)
Once participants are standing on/in their spots, toss the object to someone in the group. Inform the group that this will be a timed activity. The time starts when the first toss is made and stops when everyone is standing in the spot of the player each participant tossed the object to (e.g., if you toss to Peter, you need to end up standing in the spot Peter was standing on when he caught the object).
This activity has turned out to be an interesting discovery. At first the solution seems to be quite straightforward. However, its simplicity “is an outward semblance that misrepresents” (disguises) the true nature of the activity.
The Rules (these should be simply stated):
Safety: I have not observed any physical safety issues during this activity as the solution does not require fast movements. However, I have seen some groups get rather frustrated. Be sure to monitor the communication so that you can step in if emotional safety is being compromised.
Facilitation: Some groups may have a few questions before they get started. Most can be answered by referring back to the directions. The answer to questions like, “Do we have to stay in a circle formation?” depend on the situation. I answer based on the amount of time I have for the activity—less restrictions to an activity tend to extend its time to completion.
When I throw the object in to start the game, it is sometimes a random choice; other times, I choose someone who might benefit from a leadership experience. However, this does not guarantee this person assumes the leadership role.
Spoiler Alert! (If you want to try this one first, do not read on.) You might be asking, “What’s the big deal? Seems like a pretty easy task.” Here’s the rub—if players choose to move to the spot of the players to which they have tossed immediately, the activity will not end; it becomes a perpetual loop. Think about it. No spot can be occupied by more than one player, so movement would have to be continuous. Now, look at rule three. It says, “After tossing…” but it does not specify precisely when. So, to complete the activity, following the rules (as far as I have determined to this point), all tosses should be made first AND THEN everyone moves to his or her designated spot and time stops! Hmm, interesting. Have a go. See what you think.
Variation: Hand everyone a spot. After the directions are given, have the group decide what configuration they want to make. A circle is still a possibility but not a requirement. I have seen two lines facing each other, which avoids possible complications of rule two as tosses are made across to the other line. A scattered formation is also interesting—no one is directly to the right or left if set up with this in mind.
Fastball can also be a good group goal-setting activity. There have been instances where I impose a goal of a very low time as a way to (hopefully) get the participants to make a shift in thinking.
One of Alfie Kohn's* latest blog posts (Transformation by Degrees) inspired me to put together a few thoughts I've been having about "participant-centered" team building. Now, as experiential educators, most of us know how important it is to build a trusting community of learners by first getting to know our learners (as the teacher discovered in Mr. Kohn's first story). After we get started how do we, as team builders, shift more (or all?) "control" of our learners' experience to them?
*Alfie Kohn is an educational thought leader advocating for less homework, less testing, and more "student-centered" educational practice. He is one of my heroes.
At this time I have more questions than answers about how to make team building more "participant-centered". In this post my intention is to light the fire. Let's see what we can come up with together. To get the wheels turning, let me share a couple of recent stories and then share some thoughts from Kohn's Transformation by Degrees.
One of the things I tried this Spring was to let go of the "harness demo" and have my groups figure out how to get them on - they were in charge of getting it done (and done correctly, meeting safety standards). Now, I did give them some information for safety reasons: The waist belt must be above the waist and, There should not be any twists in the webbing of the harness. It became a nice addition to the group's "team" building experience. It also helped, I'm sure, that there was at least one person in every group that had climbed before (having worn a harness). My groups ranged from 5th graders to adults. Yes, there did need to be fixes from time-to-time (that I pointed out), but they were in charge of getting it right.
On another note, here is a recent story from a fellow facilitator that highlights a factor of "control" (or management) with a group - time. Working with a new group (for a half-day program) my friend wanted to go around the room for (what she requested) "quick" introductions. The first few people shared their name, their role at the company and a little bit about themselves (one minute tops for each) - all was going "as planned." Then, the trend changed. The stories from each participant got longer. The planned (on paper) 10-minute intro activity turned into over 20 minutes of sharing.
So, how do we adjust "control" and still get in everything we've planned? Do we impose a time limit on things so we can get to other things on the list? Are our programs about quantity or quality? Can there be both? How much planning with participants can take place before a program? Do we (and they) have time to do this? Again, more questions than answers right now, for me.
Here are thoughts from Mr. Kohn (from Transformation by Degrees) about moving/ sharing control:
"...those of us who are trying to serve as change agents in education had better not count on teachers’ [facilitators] waking up one morning prepared to adopt radically different practices. In fact, we would do well to have some examples ready for how they can get from here to there step by step."
"It is possible to edge slowly away from traditionalism with respect to just about any specific practice."
"To learn something about the students was to transcend (or at least create the conditions for transcending) traditional pedagogy [team builders are pretty good at this part]. To invite the students to talk with, and then introduce, one another was to transcend an ideology of individualism — learning as an activity for a roomful of separate selves. To ask (rather than dictate) what the interview questions should be was to transcend the default model of top-down teacher control. In each case, what was challenged had simply been taken for granted."
"At each stage, one can move ahead only after confronting the unsettling truth that what looked like a destination turned out to be just a rest stop. There’s farther to go on this journey."
“My job,” a teacher in Ohio once commented, “is to be as democratic as I can stand.” Had she invited me to append a friendly amendment to her declaration, it might have been, “… and my other job is to push myself to be able to stand more democracy next year than I could this year.”
"Perhaps our motto should be: Change by degrees — but don’t underdo it."
What are the changes you are making (or have made) out there to be more participant-centered in your programs? We could put a "best practices" document together and share it with the world. What do you say? Add your ideas in the Comments below.
Keep me posted!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
After receiving my new Blocked Perspective activity from High 5 the other day (I'm so excited to try it out), blocks have been on my mind. Nate Folan, a friend and fellow team builder, inspired the Lotsa Blocks post back in April of 2015 - a series of six different activities using blocks. Block It Out is my latest development.
So far, in the beta testing phase, Block It Out is a table-top activity for six to twelve participants (but as you know, feel free to adjust this one to meet your needs).
Numbers: Six to twelve participants in a group - multiple groups can play.
Equipment: Masking tape, 12 wooden building blocks for each group (with pictures, numbers, and letters on the sides of the blocks), and a timing device for each group.
Set Up: You'll need a solid surface (e.g., end of a table) for each group. Stick down a 12-inch piece of masking tape on the surface you are using. Build two block towers (for each group), six blocks each, like in the first picture above.
The Challenge: The group is/groups are tasked to move the "Two Towers" into the "Pyramids" (picture 2) then into "The Wall" (picture 3) as quickly as possible. You will be giving them three attempts to get their best (lowest) time.
Let me know how this one goes for you! What needs to change to make it better? What can we add to make it better?
Keep me posted.
All the best!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.