Gather your group around a large pile of toy ABC blocks on the floor/table.
Pose a question (or two) for your group to ponder.
Challenge each person to use a bunch of blocks to spell at least one word which reflects their response to your question.
After several minutes, invite some (or all) of your group to share their words.
When ready, challenge your group to incorporate and intersect as many of these words to create one large crossword puzzle.
Allow ample time for your group to achieve this task, using as many of the blocks as possible.
Video Transcript for Crossword Debrief
presented by Nate Folan
We just want to provide a brief moment to reflect.
And this reflection or this debrief is if you look back at what we’ve done so far, and you might have these conversations in your smaller groups that you’re in right now, and if you could start thinking about a word that describes your experience to this point.
And the invitation for you… and that word might come from one person, it might resonate with others in the group saying yeah, definitely that word.
And the goal here is to take this word and form that word with the blocks that you have.
And you can be literal with each letter needing to be accurate. There’s sometimes where some groups might use the letter “3” as an “E”. They might incorporate the animals or the shapes that show up on the blocks as well.
Or if you decided to use something like “fascinating”, in there there’s an “-ate”. You might choose the number “8” rather than the letters to spell it out. Is that making sense? So be creative.
Each time you get a word, the invitation is to take that word and bring it into the middle of the room. And what we’re going to do is essentially create a crossword. So as one word is out here, you might find your way to actually connect to that word, which might mean one of the letters that you brought or one of the blocks you brought is moved out to then connect.
And ultimately the goal is to have a connected crossword of words describing our experience together. Good?
Let’s give it a go and see what shows up.
(people playing Crossword Debrief)
How To Play Narrative
This exercise is ideally suited as a novel processing activity on its own, or as a seamless segue from an activity involving a set of toy blocks.
Presuming you are looking for the former, a tactile strategy to invite your group to reflect on a recent experience, tip a big bag of toy ABC blocks onto the floor.
Ask your group to stand around the blocks and pose a number of questions that will spark some thinking and reflecting on what just happened.
For example, you may ask them to think of a word which describes how they felt during the experience, or a word to reflect what strengths they saw demonstrated during the exercise, etc.
When ready, invite individuals to start grabbing a bunch of blocks to spell one or more words which reflect the thoughts they were pondering.
At this point, it is common for people to start sitting on the floor and lay their blocks in a line as they build their words. Encourage lots of sharing and discussion if this occurs organically.
Once it appears that most if not all of the blocks have been used (and perhaps present/share these to the larger group,) challenge your group to incorporate and intersect as many of these words to create a large, inter-connected crossword puzzle as such.
Take a look at the Video Tutorial to get a sense of what this means and looks like.
Some groups will be satisfied to incorporate most of the words, while others will not stop until every block is involved to form one or more words. So time this experience appropriately.
Completing a crossword can be fun, for sure, but remind your group that they should continue to create an intersection of words which reflect their response to your question(s) and not just any word to utilise a block.
Practical Leadership Tips
One of the beauties of this reflection tool is that it’s playful and tactile. It’s also possible for the props utilised in one activity to be used to reflect on the same exercise afterwards. To this end, I give thanks to Nate Folan, who demonstrated this reflection strategy as we segued from a group initiative involving a set of toy blocks – take a look at Ice-Breakers, Block Party and Bust A Move as three examples.
Another interesting outcome of this technique is that in an effort to utilise all of the blocks in the crossword, your group continues to reflect back on their experience to find words that are not only fit, but are relevant.
Beware that it is difficult for every member of a large group to feel involved when you use small props, especially when placed on the floor. If this reflection tool seems like a good idea, and you have a large group, you’d be better off breaking into smaller teams and giving each a bunch of blocks to play with.
It can be useful to challenge your group to create words that have at least 4 letters. This provides many more opportunities for branching and intersecting.
It’s okay for your group to use numerals to help them form some words, eg R E W A R D may look like R 3 W 4 R D. Or not, it’s up to you.
You could integrate Crossword Debrief as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence their behaviours.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of sharing in an engaging reflection experience.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully manipulate the blocks to spell out certain words and cooperate effectively speaks to the demonstration of healthy behavioural norms.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Crossword Debrief could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Scrabble Letters: Grab your Scrabble set and deploy all of the letter tiles in the same manner.
Unlimited: No props involved. Simply ask your group to write one word at a time on a whiteboard/paper (in response to a question you have posed) and continue to add words which intersect with those already established.
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Simple & powerfully emotive processing strategy.
Fun reflection exercise that fosters open dialogue.
Purposefully reflective experience for individuals.
Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like this:
“THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF LETTERS AVAILABLE TO YOU IN THE PILE OF BLOCKS IN FRONT OF US. I INVITE EACH OF YOU NOW TO BEND DOWN AND GRAB A BUNCH, AND WORK HARD TO CREATE AT LEAST ONE WORD WITH A SELECTION OF THESE BLOCKS THAT CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THE SUCCESS YOUR GROUP JUST ACHIEVED…”
“I’D LIKE YOU TO TAKE THE WORDS YOU HAVE CREATED IN FRONT OF YOU, AND WORK TOGETHER WITH THE REST OF YOUR SMALL GROUP TO JOIN OR INTERSECT AS MANY OF THEM LIKE A CROSSWORD, USING ALL OF YOUR BLOCKS IF POSSIBLE…”
The inspiration for Crossword Debrief, and many more novel debriefing strategies, was sourced from the following publication: