Michelle Cummings is the "Big Wheel" behind Training Wheels - the best and most comprehensive (in my opinion) team building equipment resource site on the planet! Michelle is a well-know author (see Playing With a Full Deck - one of my favorites on how to use a standard deck of playing cards for team building activities), trainer, and adventure education entrepreneur.
I met up with Michelle at the last AEE Conference where she shared with me (over a cup of coffee) her Top 10 Activities (at that time). THANKS MICHELLE!! Here we go....
Simon Says - Michelle (and Scott Gurst) take this age old favorite elimination game and turn it into a "teaching tool". Check a video of the process HERE.
Handshakes with Questions - When introducing the different "action" handshakes, add some questions with each one in order to connect the players in a more meaningful way. For example (if you know these handshakes) when do the "Lumberjack" handshake partners share things they look forward to (in the program of in the future) as they saw the log. When doing the "Salmon" handshake partners share at least one thing that challenges them (like the challenging swim up stream the Salmon make every year). When doing the "Cow" handshake, partners share something that would be out of their comfort zone. (Here's a VIDEO of Nate Folan doing "Five Handshakes in Five Minutes" as an example of some action handshakes.) Any handshakes can be incorporated with questions.
Switch, Change & Rotate - I fun interactive challenge for small teams of three or four (any large group can be divided into small teams. (I learned this one from Mike Spiller years ago. I use it all the time. Here's a write-up I found in my files:
Needs & Numbers: No props are needed of the basic variation. Any number can play (maybe no more than 100 people)
Set Up: Divide your large group into smaller groups of 3 or 4 people.
Directions: Here’s the summary – have each of the small groups form a single file line in front of you with enough space between each other to move around. You will be teaching everyone to do a certain action based on a word that you give them. When you say "Switch" the player in the front of the line (in each small group), moves to the back of the line – have the group practice this a couple times - after saying "Switch" a couple times. When you say "Change" each line turns 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. In turn the person who started in the back of the line is now the new head of the line – have the groups practice this a few times until they are facing you again - say 'Switch" a few times. When you say "Rotate" the person in the front of the line goes to the back and the person in the back moves up to the front. Practice this a few times along with the other two words they know. All of this practice is done with all the lines staying in the same place.
To up the challenge add the word "Go" - This means each line is tasked to move forward together around the area. Then, be sure to teach them that when you say "Stop" all lines stop moving.
After some stationary practice, start the small groups moving forward on 'Go" – meaning, the person in the front of the line is leader who walks around the playing area while the rest of the group follows him or her. Now, use your signal words get the group to change people around – keep reminding them to keep moving if you haven’t said "Stop".
About 5 or 6 minutes of play works well. If the group is willing, have all the players put their bumpers up while in their line and then have everyone close their eyes for some moving and changing around. Be mindful to call "Stop" if you anticipate any danger.
Ubuntu Cards - HERE's a link to information and activities for the cards. One of Michelle's favorites with the cards is having the pairs of players find something they have in common with each other after they discover the common image on their two cards.
Body Parts Debrief - HERE's a link to this popular prop-based debriefing tool. A really fun and engaging way to lead a learning discussion.
Shuffle Left, Shuffle Right - This is an interactive group processing activity found in the book, A Teachable Moment by Cain, Cummings (Michelle) and Stanchfield.
The 'process' involves the group circling up and connecting together (or not if it's not a good idea) - like arms over shoulders or linking elbows. Everyone begins to, slowly, shuffle to the right (the circle turns) until someone says "STOP". This person then shares something they learned (or whatever you set up) during the day. When this person is done they call out the direct the circle will move next - "Shuffle left!" This process continues with "Stop" and "Shuffle" until it appears everyone is done sharing. You can then call "Stop" to share a final closing thought and thank you. (Of course, more detail are provided in the book.)
Seven Up - This is an activity Michelle and I both learned from Karl Rohnke (now, I think it can be found in his book, FUN 'N' GAMES - I can't put my hands on the book right now. I'll update this post when I can). Here's my version called:
Needs: A number of tossable objects and one “final” tossable – a Star, a Roll of Tape, a Rubber Chicken. Numbers: Works well with 8 to 14 players. Process: Circle up your group with players starting out about one arms length (both arms stretched out) from each other. To begin with, using a star (or Roll of Tape or….) as the final object, say something like:
This activity will be played in a number of steps – this number will be determined by you. The objective of the activity is to ultimately catch this star [I hold up the star for them to see]. Now, the entire group, by consensus, must agree to when the star will be tossed and ultimately caught. Before each step I will ask you, ‘Do you want to go for the star or another object?’ [At this point I hold up one of the other objects in my other hand.] The challenge level of this activity increases as more of these objects are added to the process.
Once you’ve introduced the activity (with still a bit of mystery to it) you can deliver the remaining stipulations as needed. I often just get started and add the rules to the process when the group needs to know them.
After asking which object the group would like you to use, you will always toss the object chosen with a nice high arch on it and an aim of landing in the center of the circle. Before you toss the first object, tell the group what it will look like (i.e., a high toss into the center of the circle) and let them know that someone from the group must catch it if you want to move ahead. Ask them, “Are you ready for the toss?” If the group tells you they are not ready, give them some time before asking again. If the group does not stop you, say, “1, 2, 3, toss” – then send the object out into the circle. If the object is not caught, have someone pick it up and toss it back to you and start the process again. Ask which object they want you to use, then ask if they are ready, and then toss.
If someone catches the first object you can now add more rules. The group must always start each step of the process (before a toss) in the large circle formation. Every object held by a player in the circle must be tossed at the same time when you call “1, 2, 3, toss” (all objects tossed on the word “toss”). Each object, including the one tossed by the facilitator, must be arched up at least three feet above the tallest player in the group and must be caught by someone in the group other than the person who tossed it. (Will you, the facilitator, be allowed to catch an object? This would be something interesting to consider.) If, at any time, any object touches the ground after the toss, all the objects are given back to the facilitator and the game starts over with one object. Also, if there are any unsafe situations (close calls) that occur during the activity (deemed by the facilitator) all the objects are returned to the facilitator and the game starts over. You might have to explain what a close call is if you think your group needs this information.
So, now that there are two objects out there, “Which object would you like me to toss? Okay. Are you ready? [if you don’t hear anything to the contrary…] 1, 2, 3, toss!”
Poker Face - This one is found in the book Playing with a Full Deck - noted above. If you SIGN UP for Michelle's weekly (Wednesday) newsletter you will receive an ebook with some of the activities from the Full Deck book - one of them is Poker Face.
"As If..." Greeting - This is an energizing ice breaker that Michelle uses to role play some of the group outcomes that are possible during a program. The activity can be found in Michelle's book, Setting the Conflict Compass. The book includes "hands-on activities that held address the issues of conflict resolution, prevention and diversity."
Key Pad 2 - One of my Top 10 favorites as well - I call it Corner-to-Corner (named by Frank Fry and his students). You can find the full description of this one in my newest activity book, Portable Teambuilding Activities. It's a great one for learning about sharing resources and considering the needs of others beyond yourself. The Key Pad 2 is written up in one of Sam Sikes' books (I'll come back here and put the reference in when I can get my hands on my books.)
Thanks for sharing with us Michelle!!
Have FUN out there my friends! Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Tube Switch (1.0) made it's debut back in November of 2014. (HERE is the original post.) The equipment was easy to make using toilet paper rolls and index cards. It's been so fun for me to see this activity grow into the new 2.0 version.
Tom Gardner was the first to show off his new kit. He used 2 inch diameter PVC tubing, cutting the tubes about 4 inches high then adding numbered stickers - 1 to 28. For his number spots he picked up some yellow floor matting and cut out 4 x 4 inch squares before adding the numbers using a marker. (Construction Note: Each number should be small enough so it can be completely covered by a tube when placed over it.)
Recently I found out there were a couple sets made near me in Texas. My good friend and colleague Jennifer used (what I'm calling) the Double Play (Texas) Kit - shown in the video below. One Tube Switch set was made with numbers and the other set with letters. The number/letter spots were made with index cards which were laminated after the numbers/letters were added.
The tubes for this Texas (Double) set are made from 1.5 inch PVC tubing, cut 4 inches long. The numbers and letters were printed on copy paper, cut out and then taped on the tubes with packaging tape - they look nice and clean. There are 26 letters (of course) and 26 numbers.
Tube Switch: Double Play
Set up two separate Tube Switch areas. Use a 50 foot (or longer) activity rope to make a nice big circle for each area - have the rope circle areas about 20 feet apart. In this (Texas) version, one circle has the letter set and one circle has the number set.
Place down a set of number/letter spots in each area (see video). For a more challenging version of the activity, don't place any of the number/letter spots too close to the edge - far enough away so a player cannot lean over, while standing outside the rope circle, and look down through a tube to see the number.
After all the number/letter spots are placed set down the tubes over the numbers/letters - the tube numbers/letters SHOULD NOT match the numbers/letters on the cards. Be sure the tubes are completely hiding the numbers/letters.
After running this activity a number of times, I've found a good range of participants per Tube Switch area to be 8 to 12. With Double Play you get more action and there is now the potential to collaborate if you set it up that way. When you have enough people for Double Play, divide them into two groups. Assign one group to each area.
Here's the collaborative idea:
Move all the tubes to their matching numbers/letters.
*One interesting consideration in this activity - it is not a requirement to set a tube back down on a number/letter spot with the number/letter upright. If someone thinks of this, flipping over a tube that is going down on it's matching number/letter will help the group(s) know which pairs are matched up - thus saving time to validate matches at the end.
Let the groups try at least twice (even three times) to see if they can improve their overall time. Better yet, after each attempt, have groups "switch" (get it?) Tube Switch areas.
Be sure to check out the video to get a glimpse of the action.
Have FUN out their my friends! Let me know (pictures!!) if you build a set of your own and how it works out for you. Leave a comment below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D
There are lots of Key Punch variations out there - let's add another - why not. We already have the numbers! (If you haven't done so yet, check out Key Punch: The Overlap recently posted at the FDblog.) A colleague of mine (Thanks Kevin!) recently presented this version of the activity to a group during a "Points Challenge" program. This was one of the stations. Any number of different teams could play. A team needed to have 6 to 8 players to make an attempt - multiple attempts could be made by any one team and that team would then record there best score (see Scoring below.) .
Set Up: Numbered spots from 1 to 30 are scattered out on top of one or two table(s) (easier access to the spots). One Rubber Chicken and one stop watch is provided - left out on top of the table(s). (See photo above.)
Upon observation of a number of teams, the activity was energizing and exciting for them. And yes, under 60 seconds is possible! Of course, with good "teamwork!"
Have FUN out there!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
As many of you know I'm a fan of Chiji Cards. I love their versatility. They started out as a "picture processing" tool. Now, they can be used in a variety of activities. (See The Chiji Guidebook HERE.)
One of my favorite activities is using the cards to prompt "Personal Stories" that participants share with each other at different times throughout a program. I will use "happy moment" stories at the beginning of a program. I will use "challenging moment" stories after the group has some time to get to know each other. And, I will use "learning stories" at the end of a program to discuss important moments. In each case participants pick a Chiji image card that prompts a story for them related to the theme.
In an earlier post I shared about how I've been using Dixit cards to tell stories and create story lines (find it HERE). You can also create story lines using Chiji Cards (or your favorite image cards). Recently I found that the Dixit cards are a bit too complex for some of my younger groups (decoding the Dixit images takes more cognitive time) so I've gone back to using the simpler image Chiji Cards with them.
Story Line Processing
At the end of a program scatter all the Chiji Cards out on the floor/ground/table. Then ask your group to choose images that highlight different moment in times from their program. The timeline story can begin from before they even arrived at the program site to the point they are now, or even beyond - what will it be like once they leave the program site? As the facilitator, use probing questions related to their overall program objectives to remind them of certain experiences within the sequence of the day. For example:
As the group chooses specific images, place them down in sequence to represent their timeline of work together. As they move down the timeline there will be fewer images to choose from. I like this consequence because it forces a little more creative thinking and image interpretation. After the timeline has been created, provide a brief summary of events for the group so they can hear "their program story" one more time before they go.
Be sure to get a picture of the timeline you can send them (e.g., multiple shots that can be cobbled together or a panorama) so they can print and post it as a reminder of their experience and learning.
Do you have a fun way to use Chiji Cards (or other image cards)? Leave us a comment below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
With the goal to "help you understand the drama that may be playing out in your own work or home life and how to transform it into conscious, compassionate, collaboration," the authors, Nate Reiger and Jeff King introduce us to the "Drama Triangle." These two Next-Element co-founders point out that because of drama, relationships are strained, trust is absent, creativity is stifled, and costly turn over rates [in business settings] are present and rising.
"The Drama Triangle," they say, "is a model for how people relate to one another in distress, dysfunction, and conflict." It is comprised of the roles of the persecutor, the victim, and the rescuer, all of whom carry out roles and myths that derail progress and community wherever they operate.
In the persecutor role, an individual falls into blaming, manipulating, controlling, and judgmental behaviors. Their myths are "I'm okay, you're not okay," and "I can make you feel bad emotionally."
The behaviors in the Victim role are withdrawing, being needy, and complaining without doing anything. They believe, "you can make me feel good emotionally," and "you can make me feel bad emotionally."
On the Rescuer side of the triangle we find unsolicited advice, meddling, and people who do the jobs of others. Their myth is, "I can make you feel good emotionally."
It is very easy to get caught up in this triangle, especially when circumstances or other people invite you in. The trouble is, "when you act outside the realm of your best character, you lose power over yourself." The good news is there is an alternative triangle called the "Compassion Triangle" where your concerns, and the concerns of others can be vocalized and heard in an open and meaningful way. "compassion means 'to struggle with,'" the authors state, and it is in this struggle with your community that moves you into open dialogue, problem solving, and conflict resolution. [Concepts we work on with some of our team building programs.]
In the compassion Triangle, the three roles of the Drama Triangle are invited to take on new roles that drive the community towards growth. Here the alternative of the victim is "Openness," and is characterized by "transparency, honesty, assertiveness, and the willingness to risk trusting another person." The Open person knows "my OK-ness is not dependent on another's response."
Persistence becomes the alternative for the persecutor. They work to "preserve the dignity and respect of all parties," and are characterized by "the willingness to stick with someone or something rather than attack, abandon, or blame."
Resourcefulness takes the place of the rescuer and is characterized by the use of problem solving and empowering others.
In the drama triangle communities and individuals often find themselves in tunnel vision rather than seeing other perspectives, looking for justification rather than finding ways of being effective, and being delusional rather than being in touch with reality.
In the chapter titled "Expectations: The Double Edged Sword," the authors point out that the expectations can be used in the content and the process, and that knowing the difference can keep you from derailing the motivation of yourself and others. It is by understanding the motivational needs of self and others that allows someone to create expectations that motivate people.
As a basic example, Nate tells the story of his son who decides he wants to play basketball. Nate, being motivated by conviction felt that the way to motivate his son was to practice every day and shoot certain amounts of shots from different places on the floor, and to run drills. His son, on the other hand was driven by contact. He wanted to play a sport to have fun and to interact with his peers in a sporting environment. When Nate began trying to motivate his son, the son started losing interest because it was no longer meeting his needs, but rather Nate's expectations. When Nate begins just playing basketball with his son, his sons motivation returns. In the Drama Triangle, the relationship between the two became strained, but when Nate was able to step into the compassion triangle, he was able to see the situation from a different perspective and work with his son to develop interactions that worked for them both.
Note From Chris:
I hope Floyd's brief synopsis of Beyond Drama inspires some of you to pick up the book and dive in. For me it's information I can use and share with groups whose members might be showing the behaviors involved in the Drama Triangle. Of course, it will depend on the type of program you are leading, so use your new-found information with care.
Please let us know if you dive in and how you use what you've learned. Leave us a comment below. Also, if you have knowledge of a good book that we should know about, send in a review - I love sharing!!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Balloon Frantic is a classic Karl Rohnke activity (Silver Bullets) where a group of participants try to keep a large number of balloons in the air at the same time. Here in Balloon Frantic Too we make it a small group challenge so we can focus on process improvement, collaboration, creative problem solving and maybe a little competition (if needed).
This activity evolved from the "Minute To Win It" activity, Defying Gravity (and it's eventual relation to Balloon Frantic). In Defying Gravity (you've got to give this a try), one person must keep three balloons aloft for 60 seconds. Sounds easy, right? So far my best is 37 seconds. Let me know how it goes for you. (Yes, indoors is the best venue.)
For Balloon Frantic Too you will need to divide your big group into smaller groups of 8 or 9 players - less players makes it harder, more players makes it easier. You then need six inflated balloons for each group - 12-inch or bigger balloons. (To make the activity easier provide six different colored balloons for each group. To make the activity harder don't have six different colors for each group.) Have the teams blow up the balloons to about the size of a basketball (or a bit smaller). You will also need game spots - one for every two players in each small group. If you have an odd number of players, the odd player out will use one spot, the other platers will be share (more below). Finally, each group needs a timing device of some sort.
Keep all six balloons up in the air as long as possible.
Here's what I like about this activity:
Let me know how it goes for you. Leave a comment below.
Have FUN out there.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Change! As team builders we have a lot of opportunity to work with groups dealing with change - one of the constants in todays world. Recently I was given the chance to experience change in the moment. (My new internal response/reaction is to breathe, then say, "okay, let's see what I can do!" I still need to work on my facial expressions though - the lead facilitator that asked me to 'change' thought I was mad - no, just thinking. I'll do better next time.)
Okay, back to the change. Our team was about to host 150 middle school students. The plan was to divide the large group into five different smaller groups - the expectation was about 30 players per small group. I was (t)asked to run a Key Punch activity and assigned a pretty generous space to lead it. I was ready to set up Key Pad Express (Full G.E.M. write-up HERE) when the change occurred. The lead facilitator wanted me to move to a conference room area - okay, "let's do it!" The space was a little bit more than half the size I was planning on. So, time to change Key Pad Express to Key Punch: The Overlap.
I set up the room like the diagram above. (The diagram is not to scale - it's more for the visual.) There are two sets of numbered spots from 1 to 30 in each of the play areas - so, 60 spots are in each area. The two sets of numbered spots in each area were different. One set I used has black numbers, the other set has yellow numbers (see the picture below). (If you don't have the poly-numbered spots it's easy to make your own sets with small paper plates or index cards.) Each of the two sets of numbers were scattered randomly around each play area before starting. (In the diagram above notice the gray spots scattered around among the white spots.) I also placed one bucket (not in the diagram) on each of the masking tape lines. This Bucket is the final destination for the animals - when both animals from one area make it into the designated bucket the time stops. And yes, the buckets can be moved to any place on the masking tape line before the time starts. (If you set this one up outside you can use an activity rope instead of masking tape.)
To finish the set up I placed a small stuffed animal on each of the number ones - four stuffed animals, two in each play area. We used a cat and a dog in one play area, and a lion and giraffe in the other area.
Here's what I like about this activity and overall set up:
Here's the context in which we were working. There were 150 middle school students in total. They were organized into five different groups based on a particular fine arts class they were in at there school (as noted above) - they were classmates (some classes crossed graded levels). Their "team building" program started off with some large/all group (everyone) ice-breakers and warm-up activities. After that each group moved to and started off at one of five activity stations set up for them (some team building activities, some recreational). Each station ran for 20 minutes with two minutes for moving between stations. So, we had 20 minutes with each of the five groups. I was the lead at the station and I had a co-facilitator. Once the directions were given each of us worked one of the play areas.
The smallest group from the school included 16 participants, the largest group had 40. With the first group we had at our station we divided them in half - as they entered the Key Punch room we asked them to place one foot on one of the masking tape lines on the floor. We also asked them to have an equal number of people (plus or minus one) on each of the masking tape lines). Once this was done we gave the directions:
Information & Directions:
After I presented the information and directions to the entire group, each play area group then consulted with their facilitator. This is where questions were addressed [smaller groups made this process a bit more efficient]. Again, considering the limited time and the dynamics of each group I offered more or less information (from initial observations I could see some of the groups could handle some problem solving together, other groups had limited skills in the problem solving area - but were great workers when provided with an idea or two).
Since we had white boards and markers in the room we were able to write down the times for each attempt. I wrote down the time when the first animal from my area made it into the bucket and then the overall time when the second animal made it into the bucket. This provided some good information to discuss. For example, "Could we get both animals in the bucket as fast as the first one made it in?" This question from me was meant to get them thinking about sharing ideas - collaborating.
In most cases there was enough time for each play area group (during each rotation) to get in three attempts (some got in four). Since we knew, and told each group, that we would be rotating stations when the 20 minutes was up, my co-facilitator and I did a little processing between each attempt. Just enough to spark a little adjustment to their plan so they had some chance at recording better times.
The last point I want to share is related to the motivation factor. We challenged each group to "beat the time for the 'conference room' challenge" (this is what we called it). We kept the top two lowest times on the white boards and built up the challenge to beat one of the two times. In this way we did not encounter any competitive behaviors between the two play area groups in the room. We also encouraged and congratulated them on improving their own times. I thought these motivational approaches worked well for this middle school program.
Thoughts? Additions? Other ways to Key Punch? Leave us a comment below!! Thanks.
Have FUN out there!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D
Over the last two weeks we've been working through the first What? & Why? activity thinking process. Part 1 detailed the specific steps I take when using the activity Name Card Return as a way to introduce a basic team building program. In Part 2 I shared the reasoning behind each of the first 14 steps of the activity. This week I'll finish up the Why? for the final 14 steps.
Be sure to let me know about this activity thinking process. This first one has been an interesting journey for me - it's been a long one. As I've noted in the other posts, my hope is that this process could be used as a training tool - a way to possibly learn/understand how to be more purposeful in what we do as team building facilitators. Any and all comments are welcome! (Be sure to check out the "Comments" at the end of Part 1 for some thoughts and learnings from other FUN Followers.)
(We just finished up the first official attempt at Name Card Return - everyone has stopped moving so I've stopped the time.)
15. I purposefully hold back sharing the time with the group until after I find out how they believe they did, and if they thought they were successful. This sense is more related to a "process" evaluation of how a task is done rather than the "product" evaluation of time. When I hear different answers about how they thought they did I like to point out that, "We will have differences of opinion during the program - this is part of being a diverse group of people." More often that not we talk about this for a while and why diversity can be a good thing and even why diversity could be a bad thing. Before sharing the time I also like to share other responsibilities that I have, '...provide activities that will challenge you and ask questions..." Again, letting my group know what they can expect of me is another way to build my relationship with them. Throughout the program I will often refer back to what I've told them about my responsibilities in order to curb any false expectations that might be showing up. Note: This step only takes a few minutes - I want to keep them in "action" mode but engage the mind a bit.
16. At this point, after our quick discussions, I share the time achieved and ask if this is the best they can do? Be mindful here of your voice intonation. I keep my voice neutral, I don't use my voice to imply that they can do better. The way we ask questions can be just as powerful as the question itself. In research interviewing terms, we don't want to "lead" the interviewee (group) into an answer we want to hear - we want to be as neutral as possible. Since it was only the first attempt at the activity most of the groups I've worked with believe they can do better. They want to try again. Now, be ready for one or more participants ready to voice their desire to move on. They, for any number of reasons, what to do something else. If this happens you have a wonderful opportunity to talk about, "How do we move forward when we don't have a consensus within the group?" Now, again, I don't spend too much time here at the beginning of a program to teach about consensus building or compromising. I like to put this on the group - what ideas do they have for moving forward? At this point I've done one of two things so far. I've asked those who do not want to try again if it would be okay with them if we could try again to see how it goes. This usually is okay with them. I've also proposed that it is perfectly okay to choose not to try again - those who do not want to try can step out to the side and observe the process and offer feedback during the discussion. This is an example of offering choice. However, I have yet to have any takers on this option. Think about it, what kind of choice is it? Most people will not choose to step away from the "safety" of the group even if they don't want to do what everyone else is doing. They will choose to stay with the group. (Now, if anyone decides to step out before the next round, ask everyone to look at their name card. The player(s) stepping out switch cards with the player(s) who have their card. Then, cards are turned back face down before the shuffle. Also, the perfect circle will include empty spaces left open by those who have stepped out - it works just fine.)
17. Before we begin the process of Name Card Return (and any activity in the future), I ask the group if they are "ready" to start the process again? The Ready Check is meant to "suggest" they can take time to talk about the activity - do some problem solving and planning. I don't tell them at this point what I'm suggesting. I want to see if anyone steps up and says, "No, we're not ready yet." Sometimes players will ask, "Can we talk a little before we start?" The answer is always, "Of course!" (Note: Be prepared for ready check responses from participants that might sound a bit rude - some "reactions" from the group/individuals come across in different ways. All good things to talk about.) In most cases, my group will tell me they are ready to try again without any discussion.
18. Here we start the process again with the Blind Shuffle. I simply repeat the directions again - "Exchange cards with five different people, then stop moving." Sometimes, I also need to remind the group that this shuffle part is not timed - some players tend to jump to this assumption, creating an environment that's not necessary. Another nice discussion topic if the behaviors show up.
19. After movement stops and before time starts I invite them to change cards with someone near them if they happened to peek at the card they are holding. I assure them that, "there is no penalty - it's just part of the challenge not to know what card you are holding." I what my group to know, again, that mistakes will be made from time-to-time. It's our responsibility to learn from them and do something about them if needed. (This is working on the "safe" environment aspect of the program.)
20. Here I start the second attempt of Name Card Return. (Don't forget to start the time once you say, "GO!") I personally follow the same steps from the first attempt - I want to stay consistent with my process. I hold up my card, showing the name on it to the crowd as I call out the name of the person on the card I'm holding. Once I get this card back to the person it belongs to I find a new place to stand on the outskirts of the crowd. Once I'm at my new spot I look for the player with my card - the player looking for me. Once I take back my card I quietly watch the group finish up their card returning and movement into the perfect circle. When movement stops, I stop the timer. Here I (still) quietly wait just a bit to see if anyone recognizes anyone out of order. If movement resumes I start the time again. When everyone believes we are all in the correct place, time is stopped.
21. Again, I ask the, "How did you do?" questions, keeping the process consistent for the group - they begin to know what to expect from me at this point, in this process. Hopefully, we begin to feel a bit more comfortable with each other and more participants share in the discussion. At this point my group realizes I will not "call" on people or expect any particular answers to the questions proposed - there is a degree of safety and freedom to participate. This tends to make people more comfortable and willing to share. After some brief sharing I tell them the second time they achieved.
22. When the group finds out their second time we will discuss their reaction to a better time or their reaction to a slower time. During either of these discussions, I let my group know that we will be experiencing these possible outcomes during the program. Then we might talk a bit more about how we might use these experiences throughout the program - "What can they teach us?" Then again, I ask the group if this is the best they can do? If they agree it's their best, we can recap the process and how it relates to the program ahead. Then move forward into the program.
23. If they choose to go for another attempt, I let them know we have time for one more try. Since we are still just getting started, I don't provide endless attempts - I want them to get into the program. This "last attempt" information tends to motive more problem-solving behaviors. At this stage of the process I change the way I suggest the Ready Check. I say, "Let me know when you are ready to start your final attempt." Putting it this way often leads them into the idea that they have space to talk about the activity. If someone in the group speaks up right away and says, "We ready!" I will actually ask everyone, "So, is everyone ready to begin?" This provides another opening for someone to step up and ask for time to talk.
24. I call out the Blind Shuffle here - reminding the group of the procedure. Again, being consistent, telling them the same information about the shuffle as before. I don't want to introduce the "concept" of change at this point in the program. Change behaviors might be part of the program later on, but this beginning is about an introduction to the program not behavior awareness or working on any of their other objectives. Once the group knows more about the structure of the process it will be easier for them to focus on the specific reasons for their participation in the program. (This is related to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - basic needs met before any complex learning can take place.)
25. After everyone has stopped moving and any final exchanges are made, I do add one more ready check. This opens up one more chance for the group to do any last moment problem solving. Be sure to let them know, they cannot move until "GO!" is called (part of the rules) - some players might consider solving a problem by moving before "GO!" is called. On another note, there have been times, for me, when groups have determined my movement is a "problem" to solve. Some have asked me to tell them where I'm going. Others have asked me to stay right where I'm standing so they know where I am. In either case I honor their request. This brings up a little discussion about another role I can take within the group. There are times when I can be a resource. As noted earlier - there are certain questions I might not answer, but in many cases I can be a resource. Interestingly enough, educators are often overlooked as resources in the learning process (don't get me started). So, when the group is determined and ready, I say, "GO!" and follow my same card return, move and look for my card procedure - unless I was asked to do something different. Once all the movement stops I stop the timer.
26. As before I ask how they did before I share their time. Since it was the final attempt I might spend a little more focused time here on the discussion points. I might also bring up some of the specific goals the group is here to work through and how they will fit into the activities ahead.
27. Before closing I'll do a little review of the program points - reiterating what the group can expect in the time ahead. Before answering any questions they have (the final point), I bring up the concept of challenge by choice, so, moving forward they have this at the forefront of their mind.
28. Finally, I remind the group that, "Questions are free." I make sure to spend some time answer any questions they have - if I can. I have been know to ask participants to, "Hold that thought - I'll be asking you to bring this up again soon."
For me, Name Card Return, as a program introduction, will take a total of 20 minutes! I know, we just went through a lot of reading for 20 minutes of programming. Consider how much activity thinking would be written out for an entire program!
Purposeful programming. This type of thinking is what purposeful programming is all about. Let me know your reactions to this process! Leave comments below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Last week I posted Part 1 (click or scroll down) of my first What? & Why? format of, what I've decided to call, for now, "activity thinking". In Part 1 I shared What? I do when presenting Name Card Return as a way to introduce a typical team building program to a group. This week in Part 2 I'm sharing the first half of the Why? behind the What? - next week I'll finish the process with the second half of the Why? [Note: I initially intended for this to be a two-part process, but the Why? part turned out to be so long I decided to share it in two pieces - for me it just seems too long for one sitting!]
To (quickly) recap. I'm trying out this format of sharing as a possible training application - providing more on the "purpose" behind my actions. Maybe this structure will catch on? Maybe this structure will help trainers and trainees? Maybe this structure is more work than needed? Maybe...? Help me out. Let me know how it works for you!
In Part 1 I numbered the steps of What? I do with Name Card Return. (Please know, this is one way I present the activity - there are other ways.) As I noted above, I use the steps shared in Part 1 for a particular purpose (in bold text above). Each numbered step below is the Why? (or purpose) of the same number in Part 1 - my reasoning/thinking behind the What? (Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.)
Suggestion: You might want to open the Part 1 post in a separate tab so you can tab back-and-forth between Part 1 and 2 - a faster way to go from number to number.
1. As participants are starting to gather I can introduce myself quickly and ask them to do something for me - creating an opportunity for them to help me out. This is one way to start building a relationship with my group. Most people are use to making name tags so the task is not new to them - they have prior knowledge. It's a bit different since we are making name "cards" but it's not to much of a stretch. I also provide and example and a simple expectation - "your first name nice and BIG, like the example on the table." As the leader (or educator) of the program I can take a role of "expectation setter" for the group - often associated with leadership (as a group may see me initially). Participants still have a choice, and some exercise the choice, of not making their name nice and BIG. This might come up later when in the problem-solving mode of the activity. If the name was written with smaller letters it's a bit more challenging to see the name on the card when others are looking at/for it. If this happens I can point out that I did share an expectation early on that, as an educator, I thought might help them in the future. Part of my role, I tell them, (as a "teacher" educator) could be to offer up some information that might help during the program. (If you are reacting to me "helping" my group, keep in mind, as I always say, "there's more than one way to peel an orange!")
2. I like circles. As we know, this formation allows for everyone in the group to see everyone else. It's also the best configuration to share your voice - sound waves move around within a circle much better than any other shape. I also remind everyone to have their name card in hand. There will be people in the group who will want to know what to do with the name card when they get done making it.
3. My participants (no matter what age) will want to know what's going on. I use this time to share a VERY brief introduction and logistical information (e.g., where are the restrooms - ease some anxiety of the environment when possible) - no more than 90 seconds. If you dive into educational theory, "short boughts of instruction" are preferred over long boughts. It's all about keeping attention. Before I move on (to Step 4) I note that we will be doing our first activity in a moment, something that will help them understand, even more, what will be happening.
4. When I change the topic to "challenge by choice" (or whatever you use to inform your group about choice), I get another 90 seconds of my group's attention. I use the example of making the name cards as a reference to some choices - I ask my participants to hold up their cards and look around (this engages some physical activity). Even with the expectation of making their first name nice and BIG, they made choices - I look around at the cards they are holding and point out the different choices made (e.g., color of marker, style of lettering, the position of the name on the card, etc.). In my "choice" presentation, I do ask everyone in the group to "stay" with his/her group in some way. "One of my responsibilities," I tell them, "is for me to know where everyone is. If you stay with your group it's easier for me me to focus on the other parts of my job so you can have the best experience as possible. So, thanks for helping me with this." (Again, I asked for their "help" - continuing to build my relationship with most of the group - some might not be engaged by my invitation to help me out. Before moving on I do ask if anyone has any questions up to this point - and, of course, provide the answers I can.
5. Again, I change the topic, letting them know we are going to do our first challenge together. Back to educational theory, I'm providing a brief "anticipatory set" (information) about what's to come. In adventure education we often call this "front loading". I want my group to know that what we're doing next is like what we'll be doing together for the program. Now, I don't say much here, I want to get my group moving by this time. [Note: We're only about five minutes into the program.]
6. In this step I emphasize that there will be times when we have to do some "skill development" before moving into an activity - "we'll need some particular skills to increase our chances of success." "For some of you, the skills might be easy to pick up, for others the skills might not be easy - they might be a challenge to work through. That's part of why we're here - to work through the challenges we'll be facing together." I want my group to know that there will be some unknown ahead and we're here to support each other. Before I move into Step 7, I remind my group of the perfect circle expectation, that they cannot move until I say "perfect circle". This is often forgotten when additional information is provided after directions are given - it's just how the brain works.
7. I've moved to a location in the activity space that allows for the same size circle to be formed (I don't need to add a challenge here of adapting to a smaller space - not the purpose for the activity), THEN I say "perfect circle". Again, I don't say anything else. I stay quiet (maybe look at them a bit with "questioning" body language), so the group has the opportunity to figure out what's next. I want to start transferring the "power" of decision making over to the group. At first, most (if not all) groups will look to the main facilitator (the person who often talks first) to lead the way. In our team building programs, we want the group to lead the way - right? So, again, I want them to start problem solving together. Every time I do this, no matter what age, at least one person will take an initiative to try something.
8. Once the circle is formed (so far, for me, it always gets there), I ask if anyone has questions about forming the Perfect Circle. I ask at this point, and not during Step 6, because I want the questions to come from experience and not speculation, and I want them to get moving. Then I add the new rule to the Perfect Circle. As often as I can, I like to provide directions in increments. When I can first anchor, with some action, one (or two) direction(s) it's easier for the brain to take in new information. Note: I added the, "I can only call perfect circle" after one of my groups decided to "overuse" the term - you know what I'm talking about.
9. Then, another call to action. This second attempt is always better (time and process) than the first. At this point I ask them how they're doing. I let my group know I will be asking this question throughout the program. I want to know how things are going for them. I tell them, "this helps me to know where to take you next - I want to give you good challenges, not overdo it." (You noticed, I asked for their help again - building my relationship with them.) With a little "group" experience under their belt, questions are easier to "see". This is the time where I often tell my group, "Questions are free today. So, ask away. Now, it's not my role to solve 'problems' that come up, that's your job. But, don't be afraid to ask, clarification might lead to solving a problem." With this information I let my group know a little bit more about my role and "officially" let them know it's their job to problem solve - a point I then get to reiterate during the program.
10. One more call to action - usually pretty fast this time. This physical action anchors some of the information we just talked about and opens the brain back up for the new information in Step 11. Some of you might not agree with my choice to congratulate my group. However, I believe "validation" is a good thing - validation is another way to build relationship. I am specific. I say something like, "excellent perfect circle - everyone is where they need to be." Or, I might say, "WOW, that was fast! Good job. As we move forward, this might be important." Again, EdTheory will say specific feedback can be internalized better. Then, I let my group know we have one more thing to learn before we play the game. This adds to the anticipation about what's to come.
11. Here I teach the Blind Shuffle - the first part of Name Card Return. I call it "skill development" because I'm pretty sure everyone is about to do something they've never done before (unless they have been in a team building program with me before). So, "when learning something new we want to be nice to each other and ourselves - this might be very important to remember as we work together today." When I teach the Blind Shuffle I let my group know that "part of the challenge" is not to look at their cards before I say "GO!" I set the expectation and tell them how it fits into the activity. I also let them know that if they "accidentally" look at their card after they stop moving, simply exchange it with someone. This lets my group know (or starts to anyway), that sometimes we'll do something we're asked NOT to do. "It's important to do our best, if we can, but know that mistakes are part of learning. Most mistakes are not done on purpose. The idea here is to recognize our mistakes and do something about it" - in this case, I've given my group the opportunity to fix the mistake - exchange cards with someone near them. Then we can move on - enough said. I also provide some time to clarify the expectation of "stopping" after exchanging with five different people. This is confusing for some people - somethings I give an example. I walk around the group, exchange with five different people (while everyone is watching me) and then stop. (I know this might sound silly, but it happens every time. Some get it. Some don't.) And, I make sure they understand they can continue to exchange cards with others even if they have stopped moving. I tell them they are "helping" others finish up their exchanges. (This information is also difficult for some people to understand - they believe they have to stop everything they are doing).
12. When I see everyone has stopped moving I give them one more opportunity to exchange name cards with someone if they accidentally peeked at the name on their card. Again, my purpose is to start/continue building a safe learning environment. Now, of course some people will not "admit" they peeked because of prior "shamed" experiences. If anyone does make an exchange I'm sure to thank them for doing so. I don't make a big deal out of it (like, "thanks for having integrity" - this qualification takes you down another relationship path), I simply say, "Thank you."
13. In this Step I've shared the directions to Name Card Exchange. This activity is what I consider to be an introductory challenge. It has only two parts (or, you might say, rules) - return the card to the person it belongs to and form a perfect circle in relation to where I'm standing. I also tell my group that the process will be evaluated by time. I then share that during the program there may be this or other types of evaluation processes. Here I open the floor to questions about the expectations. At this time I don't bring up anything more about "evaluation" unless they do. And if they do, I'll ask them, "at this time, please hold that thought. I would love to bring this up again in a little bit." In most cases we can forego this conversation. If needed, open up talks. So, once the group understands they will be timed, as you can imagine, the energy begins to change. There's something on the line. For some it's exciting, for others, not so much. (All good things that can come up during the program.) Here again I'll say, "Questions are free. does anyone need help understanding what's about to happen?" It's also good to note here that I don't ask the group if they want some time to talk amongst themselves before this first attempt. I want to give them an experience, get them moving, give them something to talk about. When it seems like the time...
14. Once I say "GO!", I first start the time - DON"T FORGET THIS PART! (You know why!) I usually don't know many of the names of my group members yet so I use, what I consider to be, a helpful behavior. I start calling out the name of the person on my card. By doing this, maybe I'm role modeling a positive behavior and maybe I'm continuing to build my relationship with the group - now, that is if anyone notices. (Here's the counter point. What do they notice if I'm standing off to the side? I like to "play" at first and then slowly step back.) As soon as I can hand off the name card I have I move to a place outside the clump of players who have, more often than not, mobbed together in the center area of the original circle. At some point between handing off the card I had and stopping the time, someone has found me and returned my name card. Since I am part of the solution I choose to move to my Perfect Circle spot instead of looking for my name card. I don't say anything during the "return" and "circle up" action. I just wait for movement to stop - then I stop the time. (Sometimes movement might start up again when players realize something is not right. I simply restart my stopwatch and stop it again when movement stops.
Let's stop here. What did you take notice of? What jumped out at you? What did you agree with and what didn't you agree with? Do you have the Why? for your agreement and disagreement? What would you keep and what would you change about the process? Why?
Next week we'll finish up. See you then.
Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Recently I posted about the activity Name Card Scramble. I mentioned that this Card Scramble is a variation of Name Cards - a simple introductory activity written up in my latest book Portable Teambuilding Activities. Recently, I've been using Name Cards in a more (different) purposeful way and I wanted to share the new details with you.
I also want to try something new. (Let me know what you think - maybe this What? & Why? format will be another category at my blog if it's useful to you.) In this "Part 1" post I want to tell you "What" I do with Name Card Return (or, in the future, a particular activity) and then, in "Parts 2 & 3" tell you "Why" I do what I did.
On one hand it's another way for me to document my thoughts. On the other hand, I'm thinking, maybe those of you who train team building facilitators could use this format as a training exercise. First share the What? (Not revealing 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 in this way. Then reveal the Why? from my (one professionals) particular perspective (as we know there's more than one way to peel an orange - I'm a vegetarian). Let's give it a try. (Buckle up, this one's a bit long - but, I hope, worth the ride.)
Okay, we made it through our first "What?" process. Over the next two weeks I'm going to share the "Why?" behind what I did/do with Name Card Return.
Please share any thoughts you have in the comments below - I'd love to hear from you.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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.
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.