In advance, collect a number of different coloured items in a bag.
Assemble your group into a circle.
Announce that you have a bag with several coloured items inside it.
When the bag is passed around the circle, ask each person to randomly pull one item out.
Each colour represents a different topic of conversation.
Describe what each of the different colours mean, eg yellow means a highlight.
Pass the bag to the first person, and invite them to share their thoughts according to the colour of the item they pull out of the bag.
Continue passing the bag, inviting everyone to share.
How To Play Narrative
I love to use this technique because it’s creative and produces totally random results, ie you can never know what might transpire.
In advance, collect a number of different coloured items, such as balls, Lego bricks, bits of card, etc, representing two to five colours. Place them in a bag and shake them around.
Assemble your group in a circle, or other debrief structure.
Explain that you are holding a bag of items, and in a few moments, you would like your group to pass this bag around the circle and for each person – one at a time – to randomly pull one item out of the bag.
Explain that the different colours represent different topics of conversation for a particular person to share. For example, yellow means something positive, red means something negative, and green means an improvement.
Ask for a volunteer to take the bag, and invite them to pull out the first item and to share a thought according to the item’s colour.
Continue to pass the bag around the circle until everyone has shared.
Practical Leadership Tips
Take a look at Useful Debriefing Tips to learn about the benefits of processing your group’s experience, and how to run a successful debrief.
You can either collect one of each of the colours (meaning that the item is returned to the bag each time,) or a collection of objects comprising many objects of the same colour (in which case, pulled items stay out of the bag).
Consider the number of each coloured items in the bag. If you want your group to focus on a particular area, you may add extra items of that colour to the bag.
Sometimes, providing a demonstration is a useful way to start. To this end, pull an item out of the bag yourself, and model the kind of response you would like your group to make.
Coloured Ball Debrief is an ideal strategy to guide the conversation of your reflection exercise, lest it strays from your program goals or objectives.
To prevent distraction, I recommend that the bag is passed around the circle one person at a time, ie only when one person has shared does the bag get passed to the next person.
You could integrate Coloured Ball Debrief as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to identify and understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviours.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The process of reflection, especially when guided by a trained facilitator, is one of the most powerful ways to build one’s emotional literacy and social and interpersonal skills. In particular, this versatile reflection activity is ideally suited because it offers participants an array of choices. The presence of multiple options makes it much easier for some people to explore what they are thinking and how they are feeling, rather than respond to open questions.
There will also be many opportunities for compassion and empathy to be expressed and felt when you invite different members of your group to share why they are standing where they are standing. For example, when each person is invited to share their views, the rest of the group is afforded an opportunity to understand their particular emotions and/or perspectives, a key emotional competency.
Whole Group Response: Guided by the colour of the item pulled, direct your question for the whole group to answer.
No Passing: Hang onto the bag and pull the items out yourself, ie in cases where you believe that passing the bag around the circle may be distracting.
Always Return: Put the item back into the bag after each response, in which case you are happy for that item to be pulled out again.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like…
“IN A MOMENT, I WILL PULL A SERIES OF BALLS OUT OF THIS HAT. EACH OF THE BALLS IS A DIFFERENT COLOUR, AND EACH COLOUR REPRESENTS SOMETHING IN PARTICULAR ABOUT TODAY’S LESSON. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I PULL A YELLOW BALL OUT OF THE HAT I WANT YOU TO SHARE A HIGHLIGHT, IF I PULL A BLACK BALL I WANT YOU TO SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT TODAY YOU DIDN’T LIKE, IF I PULL A RED BALL I WANT YOU TO SHARE SOMETHING YOU SAW SOMEONE ELSE DO TODAY, OR IF I PULL A BLUE BALL, I WANT YOU TO SHARE SOMETHING YOU LEARNED TODAY. OKAY, OUR FIRST BALL IS…”
“INSIDE THIS BAG ARE THREE DIFFERENT COLOURED BITS OF CARD. SHORTLY, I WILL PASS THIS BAG AROUND THE CIRCLE, AND INVITE EACH OF YOU TO RANDOMLY TAKE OUT ONE CARD. IF YOU PULL OUT A GREEN CARD, I WOULD LIKE YOU TO SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY THE GROUP COMMUNICATED JUST NOW. IF THE CARD IS RED, I WOULD LIKE YOU TO SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR ROLE IN THE GROUP, AND FINALLY, IF THE CARD IS WHITE, SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT YOU FELT THROUGHOUT THE EXERCISE…”
The inspiration for Coloured Ball Debrief was sourced from Nate Folan who first demonstrated this exercise to me.