This post was inspired by my new friend and adventure educator (and FUN Follower) Katie. Her situation is a common tale - she wants something different.
In a recent email she told me:
My favorite name game is Group Juggle because it seems to be the most helpful in actually learning names. But, after you facilitate it for the hundredth time it's time for something different.
Then she asked,
Do you know of any [other name games] that are as helpful and active as Group Juggle that work with youth and adults?
In my response to Katie (along with some suggested Name Games) I said that I know "Name Games" in two ways. Activities that use names as a helpful behavior within a task, and activities that are used to learn and practice names. When names are used as a helpful behavior the task is the focus (e.g., Group Juggle - get the object through the pattern as quickly as you can). Learning names is not the goal, but again, it's helpful to the task, and yes, some participants might actually learn some names
I also told Katie that if the facilitator actually takes the time after an activity (like Group Juggle) to go around and ask for volunteers to call out as many names as they can, then we're practicing and learning names (and offering a "challenge" as well). A win-win in my book. (But, in my experience, I don't see this happening very much with activities that use names - it might not be necessary or it simply might not seem important enough. Learning names important enough - don't get me started.)
Activities that are used to learn and practice names are different. The goal is to learn names, any other outcomes are secondary. Below is one of my all-time favorite Name Games. It's purpose is to learn names in a fun way. Here's how I facilitate it:
Toss-a-Name Game & Testing Out Toss-a-Name Game comes from the first edition of Silver Bullets (Rohnke, 1984). You need a bunch a safe tossable objects (safe enough to hit the cranial regions without damage - not that we're doing this on purpose!) for your circle of players - I have at least one tossable for every two people.
One object starts the action. The person tossing the object is asked to first, 1) say the name of the person s/he is tossing the object to, then 2) make a connection with this person - in many cultures this is eye-contact, finally 3) toss the object. This is called "Proper Tossing Procedure" (or PTP). Following this procedure leads most groups to successful tosses and catches (not that catching is even required). The next person to possess the object (since the intended person might not get the toss) follows the same procedure - name, connection, toss. This one object goes around the group in any which-way - no pattern required. Once the process is understood, after a minute or so, I stop the action and tell my group about Testing Out.
Now that you understand how PTP works I would like to give you a challenge - remember, it's your challenge, your choice around here, so it's up to you if you want to try "testing out." We're going to continue the activity, following PTP. After a few minutes I will stop the process and ask who would like to test out. If you are up for the challenge, the first thing you will need to tell me is what grade you want to go for - this means, getting 90% or more names correct gives you an "A" grade. (For an A+ you need to get all the names correct.) A "B" is in the 80th percents, a "C" is in the 70th percents, and so on. If you don't get the grade you want, you can try again after another round of tossing play.
Adding the "test" challenge has been a great success for me. Even though there is no real grade given (nothing is written down), the "grade" motivates the learning process and influences (most) participants to focus on practicing names as they toss objects around the group (and noticing other names when they are not tossing anything). If a person doesn't know someone's name they can ask, "Hey, you in the red shirt, please help me out. What is your name?" Once a name is given, then it's practice time - name, connection, toss.
Now, something else is happening in Toss-a-Name Game. More objects are being added to the process when the facilitator feels the group can handle more - all following PTP. All the flying about creates a little anxiety and fun (now you get the cranial reference) while the learning is going on.
After every couple of minutes I'll stop the action and ask if anyone wants to test out. In the beginning I might simply ask, Who thinks they have 50% of the names? Maybe 70%? How about 80%? (You get to see if there is some learning going on.) Okay, who's willing to try the test? I'll take two or three volunteers. I ask for the grade they want then let them have at it. We all celebrate their attempt, whether it was a success in their eyes or not - because they can try again another time. One of the secondary goals of this process is to show the group how you are creating a safe learning environment - if you take a "risk" we will support you. With that said, I am always one of the first to "test," and I usually have to try a few times before I get my A+. (I show my group I'm willing to take the risk as well - and willing to "fail" and learn from the process.)
Now, you might be thinking, "Testing is the outcome Chris! I thought you said learning names was the outcome?" Again, I see testing as the motivator - something of choice is on the line. Each person chooses her/his own grade (goal) if s/he even wants to test out, does their best, and celebrates the attempt knowing they gave it a shot. Often times just like the activities coming up in the program. There will be some risk involved, but if you support each other and take a shot, you will find success. All this from a Name Game.
Katie, thanks for letting me share your question. If any of you out there want to share your favorite Name Game, leave us (Katie and me) a comment below. Thanks!
Have FUN out there!
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.