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.
Recently I attended the ACCT Conference (Association for Challenge Course Technology) in Fort Worth Texas. I stepped into an activity workshop lead by Matthew Broda and Trevor Dunlop - their theme was, Doing A Lot with a little. (As many of you know, I like versatile props and equipment.) Matt and Trevor shared a wide variety of activities using a pack of 184 letter cards they call CrowdWords.
Another thing you might know about me is that I love word building activities, especially ones you can play with Jumbo Banangrams. Here's Word Building and 3 Down, two of my posts with the jumbo plastic letter set. Needless to say, I was excited about learning more to do with letters.
Mini Reflective Puzzle is just that, an activity we can use to reflect upon (or even frontload) an activity. This one, and several other activities Matt and Trevor presented, were new and FUN for me, so of course I have to share a little.
Note: Your whole group just participated in a team building problem solving activity and you're ready to move into some processing over what just happened. You have the Mini Reflective Puzzle activity ready to go.
Set Up: Place all 184 CrowdWords letters, face up, on the floor or on top of a couple tables (like below) in an open area within your playing space - in the center of the room is a really good spot, but anywhere can do. Divide your larger group into smaller groups of 3 to 5 participants.
If you have the space to do so, set each small group around the playing area in a circle pattern (with the letter pool in the middle) - like numbers on a clock, each small group positions themselves at a different number. If you don't have the space, find a nice spot for every small group and then number off each group.
Part 1: Two Words (Caveat: This is my rendition. Matt and Trevor have other nuances in their description found in their book, CROWDWORDS: Doing A Lot with a little.)
I will ask each small group to brainstorm (eventually two) words they would use to describe the activity they just completed as a whole group. You might even want to get more specific in order to focus your discussion (and being more specific might make word selection a little easier too). You might say, "Think of words related to leadership and what we just did," or "Choose words related to what was needed for you to complete the challenge you just did."
Here's part of the challenge for each small group. The two words they choose must fit together into a small crossword puzzle (or Scrabble-type if you prefer) formation (see pictures above with three words connected) - all words must be connected together, reading top to bottom or left to right.
As I would play it, when a small group decides together on a word, someone from the group can go to the "letter pool" and pick the letters needed for that word and bring them back to his/her group. I will ask my groups not to form the word on the floor. Simply keep the letters together in a pile after spell checking.
Then, knowing the letters the group has, they will choose another word that will share one letter with the first word they picked so the two words will connect together in a puzzle formation. When the second word is chosen, someone can go up to the letter pool for the letters needed.
Now, as Matt and Trevor note: "Depending on group size, it will almost be a guarantee that there will not be enough of the "right" letters to spell the words they selected. Prompt the individuals to start thinking creatively to find a way to represent their thoughts as closely as possible."
Once each small team has the letters they need (after spell checking) to make two words connected together, sharing one letter, they can shuffle up all the letters and place them in one pile on the floor. Be sure to give a little reminder to each group - remember the two words you chose in case other groups need an answer.
Note: Each small group has just spent some time "processing" their experience.
Part 2: Solve the Two Puzzle
Each group is now asked to move one spot to the right, gathering around a new pile of letter cards. (If you've numbered groups, each group moves up one number and the highest numbered group goes to the number one group pile of letters.)
The Challenge With this new set of letters, each group is challenged to figure out the two words that go together in the puzzle formation - two words sharing one letter - within five minutes. Remind the groups that the words are related to...(whatever the prompt was for picking the words). This reminder can reestablish the focus of the processing and thinking.
If a group can figure out the puzzle words before the five minutes is up, they can have a discussion about the meaning of the words in relation to the previous activity. If some groups are not able to come up with the solution to the puzzle, the group that created the puzzle can share the answer. Then, as Matt and Trevor suggest, "...take a moment to conduct a gallery walk so that all groups can see the work of their peers."
After a few minutes of roaming the gallery, you could take some time to discuss some of the words that came up for the small groups as a way to explore some of the key learnings they recognized.
Part 3: Three Words If there is time, and it seems appropriate, go through the same process asking each small group to now choose three words that can be connected into a crossword puzzle formation. (Or, conduct another team building activity and go through this Mini Reflective Puzzle in this way.)
First, have someone from each group return the letters from one of the two-word puzzles to the letter pool - face up - then return to his/her small group. Then, ask a prompt that will relate to something about the activity you (also) want to explore. Groups brainstorm and bring back their words, shuffle their small deck and place the pile on the floor.
Part 4: Solve the Three Puzzle As before, groups rotate, maybe to the left this time, and then attempt to solve the puzzle in five minutes. After five minutes solutions can be shared, if needed, and the gallery walk opens up. Follow up with some discussion about some of the key words that were noticed.
Here's what I like about this processing activity (or Reflect, as named in the book):
The one downside I see is that, as the facilitator, you will most likely not hear all the discussions going on when words are being considered and talked about. you'll have to "trust the process."
Playable Note: If you have a set of Jumbo Bananagrams (and you're not ready to invest in CrowdWords just yet), you can lead Mini Reflective Puzzle with a smaller group - maybe three or four groups of 3 to 5 players. There might be a bit more rethinking over word selection, because of less letters to choose from, but certainly doable.
Review in a nutshell:
Thanks Trevor and Matt! I'm looking forward to my new activities.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
Liner Quotes are a processing tool for team building activities. My first set of Liner Quotes: Challenge Cards (Blue Set 1) was developed a couple years ago to be used as a general after-activity set of prompts to discuss possible learning from recently completed activities (Liner Quotes is also one of the activities described in my book, Portable Teambuilding Activities).
The quotes are harvested from the lyrics of songs – the selected Challenge Cards lyrics, in my opinion, are related to group development topics. For example, No one else can speak the words on your lips, from Natasha Bedingfield, or Catch me if I try, from David Wilcox. (You can get your FREE copy of the first set of Liner Quotes: Challenge Cards by signing up with me at FUNdoing.com [Join the FUN form to the right] NOTE: If you’ve signed up with me and didn’t get your free Challenge Cards, let me know and I’ll get it to you right away.)
Liner Quotes: Growth Cards (Green Set, 1) are the second set of Liner Quotes. I collected these lyrics specifically for facilitators (and participants) involved in counseling and other “growth” and “intervention” settings. However, I’m sure this growth set can be used in general settings as well. Here are some examples from this second set:
There are 32 cards ready for you to download (below) and use right away. The download includes more specific directions and presentation ideas.
Let me know how they work out for you. If you have some “Liner Quotes” from some of your favorite songs, send them my way so I can add them to a future set of Challenge Cards or Growth Cards.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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.
On Sale Now!
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.