In advance, tie two ends of a long rope together to form large circle.
Gather your group around the rope circle.
Ask each person to grasp the rope in front of them with both hands.
Pose a question for the group to consider.
Instruct the group to slide the rope between their hands clockwise.
As the knot passes through an individual’s hands, invite that person to respond to the question.
Allow the knot to travel all the way around the circle, inviting a response from everyone.
Continue as appropriate.
Video Transcript for Pass The Knot
presented by Nate Folan
As you look at the circle of rope and where you’re standing in the round of applause there was that moment that perhaps could indicate that you have had success in this activity. Would you agree with that?
At some level. And what we’re going to do is just take a brief moment to reflect on this using an activity called “Pass the Knot”. So you might notice there’s a knot in the rope here. I have it on me. It’ll be sort of like a talking stick, right?
The opportunity is when the knot is on you that you would respond to a question I’m going to ask you. If you have a response, share what you have to say then pass the knot. If you don’t just let the knot pass you as we shuffle the knot to our right or left. Is that making sense?
So looking at this you had the opportunity to have some success and very simply the question is what was it that allowed for your success? So I’m going to pass the knot starting to the left. Go ahead and shuffle it. If you want to respond stop the knot on you. Share what allowed for your success.
(Giving up control.)
(Followership, Tone of voice)
And we’re going to send it around one more time just for anyone that passed. So if you passed…
Great. I’m going to send the knot back the other direction to the right this time. This time if you have a response feel free to stop the knot on yourself, share what you have to say then pass it on. You can also let it pass you’re seeing it too. Either way it’s fine by me.
This time though is that certainly those… the terms that you mentioned are significant. They might be a little bit bigger picture of what allowed for your success and that perhaps individually each of you did something that allowed for success.
So the question to you now is what did you do individually that allowed for your group success undoing this knot in the way that you did resulting in this full circle here.
So what did you do personally? Again if you have a response, stop the knot, share. If you don’t have a response simply let it pass.
So moving to the right, what did you do to allow for this group’s success?
(Just followed one’s lead.)
There you go. Smooth. I think everyone shared at that point, right? Great.
Just to show a variation of Pass The Knot, what we’re going to do is a bounce back. So what we’re going to do is we’ll bounce to the right and then to the left and it’ll bounce back and forth.
And coming back to the values that you created, those behaviours, if you were to say I saw someone do this, someone demonstrate it, so what person in this group demonstrated a particular card or value that we had created earlier, and what we will do is we’ll bounce it to Mel back to Alejandro, back to Dom, and so on. Does that make sense?
(I saw Dom listening very well.)
Dom was listening well. Nice.
(I saw Sean for caring for Ngaire)
Great. Bounce it back to the right. To Dom
(I saw Alex had the courage to contort himself through…)
(I got good leadership on Hannah untwist)
How To Play Narrative
If you’re looking for a reflection strategy that allows everyone an equal opportunity to share, then this is it.
In advance, tie two ends of a large rope (approx 10 metres or 30′) to form one large rope circle.
Lay the rope circle on the ground, and ask your group to stand around it before grasping a section of it with both hands.
Explain that, in a moment, you would like each person to start sliding the rope between their hands so that the tied knot gradually rotates all around the circle.
Then, pose a question and ask the person who has the knot pass directly through their hands to respond, one at a time.
Depending on the sort of responses you are seeking, you may need to ask your group to slow down or hasten the pace of the passing.
Continue until everyone has responded, and/or repeat by posing more questions.
Practical Leadership Tips
This debrief technique is perfect for quelling dominant personalities because the structure demands that one person speak at time in turn.
If it will help your group to focus or be more productive, consider having more than two circles. Or, if they will not be able to self manage, have everyone gather around one rope.
If a question does not draw a response, go on to another.
This is the ideal processing strategy straight after your group has solved the group initiative Knot My Problem.
You could integrate Pass The Knot as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample 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 to one’s wellbeing of engaging in a short episode of self-reflection.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to actively reflect on an experience may speak to the benefits of being mindful because it invites pairs to focus on being present with just one other person for a period of time.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Pass The Knot could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Substance: Allow the knot to pause for a short while to give time for more substantive responses.
Speedy Loop: Ask for the rope to be passed very quickly around the circle, which will require each person to provide a rapid and short response to your question(s.) Ideal if you have limited time to reflect.
Same But Different: Take a look at Hula-Hoop Debrief to enjoy a very similar technique using a hula-hoop.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like:
“YOU WILL NOTE THAT THE KNOT TIED IN THIS ROPE CIRCLE SITS CLOSEST TO ROSEMARY. IN A MOMENT, I WOULD LIKE YOU TO START PASSING THE ROPE SLOWLY THROUGH YOUR HANDS, AND WHEN THE KNOT PASSES THROUGH YOUR OWN HANDS, YOU ARE INVITED TO SHARE A RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION…”
“EACH TIME THE KNOT PASSES THROUGH YOUR HANDS, I WOUDL LIKE YOU TO OFFER ONE WORD OR A PHRASE THAT RESPONDS TO THIS NEXT QUESTION…”
The inspiration for Pass The Knot Debrief, and many more inventive reflection techniques, was sourced in the following publication: