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.
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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.