What are you doing with a 50-foot (more or less) activity rope?
If you've been facilitating team building programs for a while, I will bet you have an "activity rope" in your gear bag! Could be a retired climbing rope, a haul rope from your local big-box hardware store or even a 3-mill utility cord.
Please Share! (In the Comments section below)
I'm "gearing" up for Fall programs and want to learn some new activities with a long rope. It doesn't need to be a super detailed description (share in the Comments below or email me), I'm pretty sure I'll get the idea and can go from there. (I'll reach out if I have questions.)
Here's A New(er) One from Me
Below is a description of one of my newest activities with a rope; Knot Around Here. The full details can be found in my, Portable Teambuilding Activities book (now available for purchase at the: FUNdoing.com/store). I give you the basics here so you can give it a try.
Knot Around Here was one of those activities that popped in my head one day and as soon as I could I tried it out. If it wasn't for the first (adult) group I tried it with, I might not have included this one in my book. It came down to, "asking for what you needed".
Some people in the group were not comfortable spinning around very fast (Knot Around....you can imagine what the group is going to do!?), they got dizzy and even nauseous. But, instead of asking the "group" to slow down, they chose (to the person) to step/challenge out. The first debrief I had for this activity was a meaningful discussion about asking for what was needed in order to stay a part of the group/community.
Since that first group, it has been hit-or-miss for the specific "asking" facilitated objective. But, overall, it's always been a fun and creative activity. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.
Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Procedure: Tie the ends of your activity rope together with a good knot – one that won’t come out until you want it to. Have your group circle up. Distribute the rope circle throughout the group so each participant is holding the rope in front of them and everyone is equidistant from each other. Then, ask everyone to carefully step forward bringing the rope up over their heads down behind their backs resting the rope behind them about belt level or a bit higher in the small of the back. In the end, you will want the group to back up enough to produce a tight rope circle. WARNING: Caution your group to be careful during this process. Tugging and pulling on the rope could cause unnecessary complications. Once the rope circle is set behind the group there are a couple possible challenges I have presented.
Ask your group to specifically “roll” the rope around the circle moving the knot 360 degrees as quickly and safely as possible. Rolling involves each person turning in place (or as in place as possible) causing the rope to move like a chain moves around a sprocket. You can provide multiple attempts to produce the best possible time.
Safety & Facilitation: What I like about the timed dynamic of this activity is the concept of voice – especially during the rolling movement. For some, spinning around quickly is not comfortable and for most of us unstable. When time becomes a factor I have found participants more willing to step out of the activity (challenge by choice) than speak up for what they need – “keep it slow so I can keep up without losing my lunch.” The challenge is “quickly and safely” not specifically lightning fast. The question presents itself, “Will people ask for what they need?”
Keep an eye out for those pushing themselves into an uncomfortable place. This behavior could lead to safety issues. If needed, stop your groups for a mid-brief in order to explore what is happening. As always, safety first!
Have FUN out there my friends!!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about Take Two (Face Down) using Jumbo Bananagrams. Please head over and read through this post to get all the directions of play for this engaging game.
In Take Two (Face Up), I basically turned the game upside down - just to see what would happen. Here's how I set this one up before playing. (Again, all the additional rules you need are over at the Face Down post.)
Set Up Place all the Jumbo Bananagram letters face down in the center of the playing area - all the small groups you formed are sitting around the letters. Have one player from each small group go out into the letter pool to retrieve seven letter tiles and bring them back to his/her group - no one looks at their letters until the game begins.
Now, ask all the other players, the ones that did not choose the group's seven letter tiles, to go out into the letter pool and turn all the tiles face up - so all the letters are revealed. When this is done, all the players return to their group area.
Play The game, Take Two, as described in the Face Down post, is played the same. The difference being (obviously), players can see what's available.
Potential The next time I try this one, I'm going to be the only one that calls, "Take Two". Each group will still have a runner and builders, but no caller (roles are described in the Face Down post). Instead of the caller, I'll introduce the role of "looker" - this player has an eye on the letter pool to inform the group about what is available.
I'll call, "Take Two" when at least one group, maybe two, has used all its letters. But I won't call right away. I want to give the group(s) time to determine what they could use from the pool. So, the idea (in my head), is to slow down the pace a bit and let the groups be a little more intentional about their process.
I'll let you know how it goes. (And, hopefully get some film.)
BIG THANKS AGAIN to Kim and her Crew for helping me capture this game on film!!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
DETAIL NOTE: Jumbo Bananagrams are 3.5 inch vinyl squares (tiles) with letters on them - about 140 tiles. Keep an eye onAmazon, they often have them on sale. (If it's not in your budget to get the Bananagrams, make a set of 140 index card letters - be creative with colors and the numbers of each letter. Think, more vowels)
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I don't often include competitive games in my team building programs (so many other things to do), but I like the design of this one (e.g., lots of teams) and the learnings I can speak to (e.g., roles and responsibilities - this comes up in the video). And, once the basic (competitive) version of the game is understood, I can move into a couple other versions to spark some other learnings - stay tuned for more posts on these!!
Set-Up Place all the letter tiles, face down, on the floor. Then, divide your larger group into smaller teams of 2 to 4 players. Using one set of Jumbo Bananagrams, you don't want more than eight teams and, I would say, no less than four - just to keep things interesting.
The first team to find a way to use all their letters (in one or more words, following the Scrabble-like puzzle format), shouts out, "Take Two!" (this is shouted by the "caller" - more on this below). When this is called, someone (the "runner" - more on this below) from each team must go to the letter pool and pick up two more tiles (without looking at them), and then bring them back to his/her team. Once back to the team, they can look at the letters on the tiles.
NOTE: There have been games I've facilitated where three or four minutes have gone by in the first or second rounds (teams are working with only seven or nine letters) and no one can use all their letters. When this has happens, I call, "Take Two!" so teams can get more resources to work with. So, if a round is going on too long, go ahead and call it.
Now, each team must incorporate these two new letters into their Scrabble-like puzzle. Maybe they can be added to the words already in their puzzle (e.g., adding an "S" to the end of a word). Maybe they will have to rearrange their full collection of letters to form all new words. In the end, the objective is the same. Each team must use all their letters to form words into a Scrabble-like puzzle formation.
As the game goes on, any team that uses all their letters calls out, "Take Two!" until all the tiles in the letter pool are gone. At this point, when a team uses all the letters in their possession, they call, "Done!" Done means that all word building must stop - it does not mean "game over!" Players may not touch any letter tiles when done is called, but they can still focus on their puzzle. The team that called "done" must have their words checked by the facilitator. If all words are acceptable (in most cases I play by Scrabble rules, in some cases I'm more flexible), then the call is, "Game Over - the winner is...." If there is a mistake in the puzzle, the facilitator calls, "Game On" and word building can continue until someone calls, "Done!" again. When a team can present their puzzle with acceptable words, they are declared the winners of said game. Of course, when there is time, a new game can be set up to play.
So, those are the basics!
Take Two Team Building
In the video (below) you'll be able to pick up a team building (learning) aspect of the game that I've recently incorporated. I learned this from my CrowdWords friends (see post HERE) Matthew and Trevor (noted above). When they are playing their version of Take Two (using CrowdWords cards), they assign roles and responsibilities to players. There are "builders" - players that focus on building the words in the puzzle. There are "callers" - a player who is responsible for calling out "Take Two!" with gusto. And, there is a "runner" - a player who is responsible for going to the letter pool and picking up two letter tiles and bringing them back to his/her team after "take two" is called.
As in any team task, roles and responsibilities can be shared or they can be exclusive - if you are assigned a role, that is your only responsibility. Depending on the number of players on a team, there might be enough people for each role and there might be players who take on more than one role (e.g., anyone can be a builder).
Processing When you use roles and responsibilities, you can talk about how this played out and where else this plays out for team members. What role did you take in the game and how did it influence your level of participation? Did you chose your role or did someone else choose it for you? Did players stay within the boundaries of their roles? Why? Why not? Was your role clear to you? If it wasn't clear, what did you do about it?
I also like to talk about the concepts of winning and losing - What do we learn from each concept? How do we treat our opponents? Can we have a game if we don't have competitors? What is the role of competition in our lives? Is it useful? Is it damaging? What if all competition went away, what would our lives be like? Who likes this type of (spelling) game? Why? Who does not like this kind of game? Why? What choices do we have when we're playing in a "game" we don't want to be in?
Stay Tuned for More!
In my next Blog post, I'll share a little wrinkle I tried out with Take Two right after the Crew in the video learned the basics.
Big Thanks Again to Kim the Crew for letting me film this adventure!! You're the BEST!
Keep me posted my friends.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out in the shadows (literally) and observe Nate Folan (he's in the light colored hat) facilitate a day-long training for a summer camp staff (I was facilitating the next day). Nate was featured a while back in a Top 10 Blog - lots of fun details and activity links.
During the training he led one of my favorite tag games, Popper Tag. Over the years I have called this one Flashback Tag. I use soft tossables or crumpled up paper (snow)balls. The idea is to toss your tossable at the backs of other players. If you hit a back (between the shoulders and the waist - no arms), you get a point. First one to 10 wins.
Add a Transformation Part of Nate's focus with his trainees was to emphasize different aspects of facilitation. Using Popper Tag (PT) as his experiential pathway, he introduced players to the idea of "being silly" and how this (or these) behaviors fit into building a fun caring community of learners. So, he invited each participant to "transform" into the chicken of their choice once they obtained 10 points playing PT. From a group of players to a flock of chickens. Brilliant!
Players were given a challenge and a choice to "chicken" or simply move around amongst the flock of chicken as players, one-by-one transformed. For me, it was a fabulous way to step right into a fun, crazy space. Magical! (Now, I'm not sure all the players would agree with me, but I got the lesson.) Ready to smile? Check out the action.
Have FUN out there my friends. Let me know how the transformation goes!
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
I'm saying this is my favorite icebreaker because I use it with almost every group I work with. It's super easy to set up, I can play it with 10 or more participants (if I have enough cards), it's a great way to get people talking (if they want to), and I can pull some good discussion points out to get the brains working and thinking about the team building ahead.
Set Up: Out of one deck of standard playing cards, I use the aces, twos, threes, fours, fives and tens. If you have more than 24 players in your group, pull out more decks.
Here's the ratio to consider: You want to include one of the tens for every five cards you use (and you can add in more if you want - just my ratio). For example, let's say you have 16 people in your group. Use 14 of the lower numbers and three tens. Okay! Ready to play.
Directions: Deal out one card to each person in your group. Yes, they can look at their card, but I will always say, "You might not want anyone to see your card just yet."
Players will be pairing up with others in the group. To do this just raise a hand and look for someone else raising a hand - this is the signal for, "I'd love to talk with someone." (There is some Challenge by Choice in here. I say, "If you really don't feel like talking to anyone at this time, simply keep your hand down. You are free to mingle around and listen to the sharing going on so you can learn about others, but don't bother any of the conversations.)
When players pair up they are going to share facts about themselves equal to the number on the card they are holding. (If I'm holding a four, I say four things about myself.) After one person shares, the other person gets to share. After both players share, the two exchange cards and then go off to talk with another person in the group (if they choose). All they have to do is...you guessed it, raise a hand.
Challenges: Here are a couple more Challenge by Choice opportunities. When you get an ace, say 11 things about yourself. And, the "Double Challenge" - do not repeat anything about yourself over the length of the game (about three to five minutes - less time for smaller groups, more for bigger.)
Questions: Here are some things I like to talk about after What You Say
Have FUN out there my friends.
Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
The Video Initially I was going to cut my footage down enough to simply understand the game. As I was editing it occurred to me that keeping all the footage would allow for more analysis of the way I worked with these middle schoolers. So, if you want to watch enough to get the idea, you only need to stay in through my introduction. Otherwise, catch as much of the 17 minutes as you can - lots of interesting interactions (you might need to turn up the volume to pick up some go the voices).
NOTE: The only part I cut out was dealing the cards. To save time, I dealt out three cards to each person, then single cards around (to the right of me) to finish up the deck.
LIGHTNING 156 As this activity unfolded for me, my first mental model was for groups to play all the cards in 156 seconds (this is what I tried with my conference captive audience). I found this task to be pretty challenging - out of six groups trying it, one got within four cards after 156 seconds. Possible? I believe so. Now I'm thinking, Connections will be a good way to lead into Lightning 156. Once a group has time to practice the game and work out some of the cooperative behaviors they will need, they should be able to beat the Lightning clock. (I'll be working towards getting some video of this level in the future.)
Keep me posted my friends.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Recently I was preparing for a conference presentation on processing. I needed to collect a handful of activities that didn't take too long and involved enough interaction so we could practice processing the experiences. I was traveling, so my props needed to be small and light weight - easy to carry around. One of my favorite props is a set of 25 numbered tags. As I was considering some of my old favorites with the tags, I came up with something new for me. I call it, Your Numbers Up. I brought the idea with me to the conference - I didn't try it out before my presentation.
I had 18 participants in my workshop. We were all seated in chairs in a big circle after a fun game of Have You Ever...?. As the energy from the game's processing practice was winding down, I scattered around 12 numbered spots on the floor inside our circle of chairs for all to see. (Numbers were about two feet away from each other so there was room for people to walk through and around them.) After sitting back down in my spot in the circle I presented the challenge like this:
The following task involves touching all 12 numbers once, and only once. If you choose to complete the task you are required to touch the numbers in some sort of logical way - you must be able to prove you touched all 12 numbers once, and only once. After you've touched all the numbers, once, and only once, please sit back down in your chair. The task will start when I say, 'GO', and end when I say, 'The task is over.' I will call the task over when I see that everyone is sitting in their seats. Are there any questions?
Here are the two questions I remember my group asking: 1) "So, do we touch the numbers one through 12 in order?" My response was, "That is one way. As long as you can state some sort of logical way you have touched all the numbers, once and only once, you are good." 2) "Must we touch the numbers with our hand?" My response was, "That is one way to touch the numbers. I'll leave that choice up to you - as long as you make contact with each number, once and only once, you are good."
After I said, "GO", most of the participants stood up and moved through the numbers. Some people chose not to stand up and touch the numbers. The group completed the task in under three minutes. The following are some of the discussion questions I remember from our practice processing session:
This last question was one of mine. And it turned out to be an interesting conversation (processing discussion) about how much goes into even simple tasks - there is always something we can reflect upon in order to consider how and why we make the choices we do.
I'm thinking Your Numbers Up might be a nice activity during the beginning of a program in order to model some of the dynamics of team building activities. Especially the expectation of, activity followed be some discussion about possible learnings.
Help me out with this one. Try it. Let me know how it goes.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Grand Prix Racing is an activity found in, The Revised & Expanded Book of Raccoon Circles by Jim Cain & Tom Smith (pick up your copy from Training Wheels). If you don't know, a Raccoon Circle (in the Adventure Ed biz) is a length of tubular webbing around 15 feet long (see picture below) that can be used for dozens of community building exercises and discussion activities. I first learned Grand Prix Racing from Jim Cain (and he attributes his knowledge of the game to Tom Heck). I really like this one as a large group energizer. In most cases it's set up as a competitive experience, but each of the rounds are fast and fun so the competition part seems to take a back seat (and it's always something good to talk about).
A NOTE ABOUT WEBBING Tubular Webbing is recommended for Raccoon Circle activities. Flat webbing can be found as well, the kind of webbing used for belts and straps on packs and such. Flat webbing is not as friendly on the hands as tubular webbing. Yes, tubular webbing does cost more per/foot, but for team building activity use, it lasts forever (unless you expose it to toxic chemicals!). You can pick up Raccoon Circle webbing precut from Training Wheels, or at sporting goods stores that sell rock climbing gear - they can cut the webbing off the spool for you. (I'm guessing you can also find tubular webbing online.)
At the most recent National Challenge Course Symposium (NCCPS) in Boulder, Colorado, my good friend Cindy led Grand Prix during a Raccoon Circles activity workshop. With permission from the crowd (and Cindy) I was able to capture the fun.
Needs & Numbers: You'll need a little room for this one. Each small group will need enough space to form a circle around their (15-foot length) tied webbing circle. So, if you have a lot of groups, you'll need a lot of space. (You will notice spacing needs in the video.)
Set Up: Ask 6 to 8 players to stand around one of the webbing circles you've placed on the ground in the activity area (indoors or out). Then, have them pick up their circle holding it with both hands about waste level.
WARNING 1: If your group is new to webbing (or rope) circles, you might have to frontload some safety points before picking up the rope (e.g., please be mindful of others on the webbing/rope - we're not going to be pulling or tugging on the webbing/rope just yet.)
WARNING 2: Make sure your webbing pieces are all the same length - a 12 inch difference can influence race results. (Sorry Yellow team!!)
Process: Cindy does a great job preparing the group for the races - so, refer to the video for more details. I do want to add a couple more option I like to use (not in the video).
The Pit Stop: Races are a sequence of Left, Right, Left, Right patterns (which you will see). After a few races, I add the Pit Stop. For example, Left, Left, Right, Right, Pit Stop, Right, Right, Left, Left - CHEER! When a group gets to their Pit Stop, the webbing circle is set down on the ground, all the players in the group turn in place 360 degrees then pick up the circle again to complete the remainder of the race.
The Figure Eight: (The idea is credited to Tim Borton.) Add one or two races into the mix with the webbing configured into a figure eight. Consider a slow warm-up lap or two to get the dynamics of the webbing.
BE MINDFUL: Don't make the race sequences too long, it's easy to forget the requirements if there is a lot to remember.
For me, five or six races meets my energizing objective. Then, if you know a couple other webbing activities you can transition right to them.
Have FUN out there my friends, Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
(NOTE: Pressure Play Too, was written up for the first time in my book, Portable Teambuilding Activities. In the original version I use a few props, as shown in the diagram above - I needed some sort of image to catch your eye. In this version I want to let you know how to play using only playing cards.)
Here's why I really like this activity. Using only a deck of playing cards (of any size), I can run this one with 16 to 56 players (However, I have yet to have 56 players to try this with.) It's also a very adaptable activity. I can play it with an even or odd number of participants in a small (or large) space. I can have two, three or four small groups playing at one time - all interacting with each other. This versatility leads to (Facilitated Objective) discussions around focus, planning, resource management, anticipation, collaboration, mental models and innovation.
Card Set Up: First you need to prep your cards. Order them from Aces to Kings - it doesn't matter how you order the suits. Aces will be on top of your deck.
Play Set Up: Ask four volunteers to stand in the center of your playing area and touch right shoes together - four sets of toes touching each other. Now, deal out the cards (Aces first), to all the other players - one card each. (The toe-touching players do not get a card.) Ask the players not to look at the face of their card until you direct them to do so.
Let's Play: (For this description there will be four suits in play and 24 players)
The Let's Play rules above are for one round of play. After a round you can share the time the whole group achieved and then lead some discussion over the topics related to your group's program objectives (some Facilitated Objectives are listed above). Consider talking about how the group defines success. Will they want a better "time" (product), a better process, or both?
Another reason I really like this activity. You are already set to start the next round. After your processing discussions you have your four toe-touching players in the center from the last round (if they have untouched, have them re-touch their toes). The players with cards hold the card faces down towards the ground and begin the Blind Shuffle (exchanges). After five exchanges with five different players they stop moving. Ready to play!
Facilitation Note: Your group is free to plan their process before each round if they ask you for time. Keep an open mind with possible processes. If they are playing "by the rules" I let them run with their ideas. For me, three or four rounds have led to some great discussions.
Adaptations: If I have 16 to 18 players I use two suits. If I have 19 to 23 players I use three suits.
Let me know how this one goes for you. Leave a Comment below.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
My friend Barry and I put out the book, Cup It Up: Teambuilding With Cups in 2017 (paperback and digital versions) - and we're not done coming up with more. My Crew friends helped me work through my thoughts and get some video (below) on this activity, so a BIG THANKS goes out to them!!
FYI: If you haven't seen it yet, there is another cup activity (not found in the Cup It Up book), Flip Flop Tower (with Video) I posted here on the FUNdoing blog back in 2016.
Over the Top can be played indoors or out - as long as you have a stable surface to place the 9-Grid set of cups. I developed this activity with the mind-set (facilitated objective) of focusing discussions around "roles and responsibilities". Of course, there can be other objectives planned. I also wanted to see what would happen with limited directions (listed below). Also, of course, you can add more directions to make the expectations clearer. (One of my mantras: More directions, less creative freedom.) Okay, let's go!
Needs: For every small group of 5 to 7 players, you need 1 Small Bowl, 9 Ping Pong Balls, 12 Cups and a timing device.
Set Up: Divide your bigger group into smaller groups of 5 to 7 players. Give each small group the needed equipment.
At this time, these are the only directions I provide (what I consider to be the fewest directions needed). You are (as always) free to add, subtract and change things to meet the needs of your groups.
Notes: I give myself enough time on this activity for groups to make at least three attempts in order to improve their process (i.e., get a better time). I will start each attempt so each group begins at the same time - each group's timer starts their time when I say "GO". Then, they are responsible for stopping their time when there is one ping pong ball in each of the nine cups in the 3 by 3 grid.
After each attempt, I lead a discussion about the different roles and responsibilities taking place in each group and what's important to know about each of the roles. We also talk more about the responsibilities of each person (in their role) and how they are able to manage their time - what can save time and what they focus on in order to save time. In general, we also talk about what's been working for the group and what they might want to do differently before the next attempt.
When appropriate, I also will graph the times for each group so that we can collect data from the process. This data could lead to some collaborative sharing of ideas.
Finally, before each attempt, I will encourage players to change roles if people want to experiment with other responsibilities.
Things to Consider:
Let me know how it goes out there my friends. How do we make it better?
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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.