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.
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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.