Michelle Cummings is the "Big Wheel" behind Training Wheels - the best and most comprehensive (in my opinion) team building equipment resource site on the planet! Michelle is a well-know author (see Playing With a Full Deck - one of my favorites on how to use a standard deck of playing cards for team building activities), trainer, and adventure education entrepreneur.
I met up with Michelle at the last AEE Conference where she shared with me (over a cup of coffee) her Top 10 Activities (at that time). THANKS MICHELLE!! Here we go....
Simon Says - Michelle (and Scott Gurst) take this age old favorite elimination game and turn it into a "teaching tool". Check a video of the process HERE.
Handshakes with Questions - When introducing the different "action" handshakes, add some questions with each one in order to connect the players in a more meaningful way. For example (if you know these handshakes) when do the "Lumberjack" handshake partners share things they look forward to (in the program of in the future) as they saw the log. When doing the "Salmon" handshake partners share at least one thing that challenges them (like the challenging swim up stream the Salmon make every year). When doing the "Cow" handshake, partners share something that would be out of their comfort zone. (Here's a VIDEO of Nate Folan doing "Five Handshakes in Five Minutes" as an example of some action handshakes.) Any handshakes can be incorporated with questions.
Switch, Change & Rotate - I fun interactive challenge for small teams of three or four (any large group can be divided into small teams. (I learned this one from Mike Spiller years ago. I use it all the time. Here's a write-up I found in my files:
Needs & Numbers: No props are needed of the basic variation. Any number can play (maybe no more than 100 people)
Set Up: Divide your large group into smaller groups of 3 or 4 people.
Directions: Here’s the summary – have each of the small groups form a single file line in front of you with enough space between each other to move around. You will be teaching everyone to do a certain action based on a word that you give them. When you say "Switch" the player in the front of the line (in each small group), moves to the back of the line – have the group practice this a couple times - after saying "Switch" a couple times. When you say "Change" each line turns 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. In turn the person who started in the back of the line is now the new head of the line – have the groups practice this a few times until they are facing you again - say 'Switch" a few times. When you say "Rotate" the person in the front of the line goes to the back and the person in the back moves up to the front. Practice this a few times along with the other two words they know. All of this practice is done with all the lines staying in the same place.
To up the challenge add the word "Go" - This means each line is tasked to move forward together around the area. Then, be sure to teach them that when you say "Stop" all lines stop moving.
After some stationary practice, start the small groups moving forward on 'Go" – meaning, the person in the front of the line is leader who walks around the playing area while the rest of the group follows him or her. Now, use your signal words get the group to change people around – keep reminding them to keep moving if you haven’t said "Stop".
About 5 or 6 minutes of play works well. If the group is willing, have all the players put their bumpers up while in their line and then have everyone close their eyes for some moving and changing around. Be mindful to call "Stop" if you anticipate any danger.
Ubuntu Cards - HERE's a link to information and activities for the cards. One of Michelle's favorites with the cards is having the pairs of players find something they have in common with each other after they discover the common image on their two cards.
Body Parts Debrief - HERE's a link to this popular prop-based debriefing tool. A really fun and engaging way to lead a learning discussion.
Shuffle Left, Shuffle Right - This is an interactive group processing activity found in the book, A Teachable Moment by Cain, Cummings (Michelle) and Stanchfield.
The 'process' involves the group circling up and connecting together (or not if it's not a good idea) - like arms over shoulders or linking elbows. Everyone begins to, slowly, shuffle to the right (the circle turns) until someone says "STOP". This person then shares something they learned (or whatever you set up) during the day. When this person is done they call out the direct the circle will move next - "Shuffle left!" This process continues with "Stop" and "Shuffle" until it appears everyone is done sharing. You can then call "Stop" to share a final closing thought and thank you. (Of course, more detail are provided in the book.)
Seven Up - This is an activity Michelle and I both learned from Karl Rohnke (now, I think it can be found in his book, FUN 'N' GAMES - I can't put my hands on the book right now. I'll update this post when I can). Here's my version called:
Needs: A number of tossable objects and one “final” tossable – a Star, a Roll of Tape, a Rubber Chicken. Numbers: Works well with 8 to 14 players. Process: Circle up your group with players starting out about one arms length (both arms stretched out) from each other. To begin with, using a star (or Roll of Tape or….) as the final object, say something like:
This activity will be played in a number of steps – this number will be determined by you. The objective of the activity is to ultimately catch this star [I hold up the star for them to see]. Now, the entire group, by consensus, must agree to when the star will be tossed and ultimately caught. Before each step I will ask you, ‘Do you want to go for the star or another object?’ [At this point I hold up one of the other objects in my other hand.] The challenge level of this activity increases as more of these objects are added to the process.
Once you’ve introduced the activity (with still a bit of mystery to it) you can deliver the remaining stipulations as needed. I often just get started and add the rules to the process when the group needs to know them.
After asking which object the group would like you to use, you will always toss the object chosen with a nice high arch on it and an aim of landing in the center of the circle. Before you toss the first object, tell the group what it will look like (i.e., a high toss into the center of the circle) and let them know that someone from the group must catch it if you want to move ahead. Ask them, “Are you ready for the toss?” If the group tells you they are not ready, give them some time before asking again. If the group does not stop you, say, “1, 2, 3, toss” – then send the object out into the circle. If the object is not caught, have someone pick it up and toss it back to you and start the process again. Ask which object they want you to use, then ask if they are ready, and then toss.
If someone catches the first object you can now add more rules. The group must always start each step of the process (before a toss) in the large circle formation. Every object held by a player in the circle must be tossed at the same time when you call “1, 2, 3, toss” (all objects tossed on the word “toss”). Each object, including the one tossed by the facilitator, must be arched up at least three feet above the tallest player in the group and must be caught by someone in the group other than the person who tossed it. (Will you, the facilitator, be allowed to catch an object? This would be something interesting to consider.) If, at any time, any object touches the ground after the toss, all the objects are given back to the facilitator and the game starts over with one object. Also, if there are any unsafe situations (close calls) that occur during the activity (deemed by the facilitator) all the objects are returned to the facilitator and the game starts over. You might have to explain what a close call is if you think your group needs this information.
So, now that there are two objects out there, “Which object would you like me to toss? Okay. Are you ready? [if you don’t hear anything to the contrary…] 1, 2, 3, toss!”
Poker Face - This one is found in the book Playing with a Full Deck - noted above. If you SIGN UP for Michelle's weekly (Wednesday) newsletter you will receive an ebook with some of the activities from the Full Deck book - one of them is Poker Face.
"As If..." Greeting - This is an energizing ice breaker that Michelle uses to role play some of the group outcomes that are possible during a program. The activity can be found in Michelle's book, Setting the Conflict Compass. The book includes "hands-on activities that held address the issues of conflict resolution, prevention and diversity."
Key Pad 2 - One of my Top 10 favorites as well - I call it Corner-to-Corner (named by Frank Fry and his students). You can find the full description of this one in my newest activity book, Portable Teambuilding Activities. It's a great one for learning about sharing resources and considering the needs of others beyond yourself. The Key Pad 2 is written up in one of Sam Sikes' books (I'll come back here and put the reference in when I can get my hands on my books.)
Thanks for sharing with us Michelle!!
Have FUN out there my friends! Keep me posted.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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.