Distribute a sheet of paper and a pen to each person in your group.
Instruct each person to write a thought on the paper in regards to a particular topic you wish to explore, eg what frustrates you, or causes you stress.
When ready, invite each person to crumple their piece of paper.
Ask a question in regards to the thoughts which were written on the paper, eg what would you like to do with these frustrations? For example, your group may respond that they want to remove these thoughts.
Invite your group to toss their collective crumpled papers around the room for 20-30 seconds.
Instruct each person to collect a random ‘snowball’ and in turn, read the thought written on it to the rest of the group.
Invite your group to reflect and discuss these thoughts, as appropriate/required.
How To Play Narrative
This is a quick and fun strategy that fosters open dialogue while at the same time offering the opportunity to release the pent-up energy of your group.
I think it’s a wonderful way to reflect on and discuss issues of stress in our lives, especially as the exercise invites people to (metaphorically) release or get rid of their stress in a fun way.
Start by passing out a sheet of paper and a pen to each person.
Then, within an appropriate framing of your choice, ask each person to (privately) write a thought or a response to your question on the paper. Here are a few examples:
What is one thing that you wish you could remove from your life?
Describe one behaviour you have observed in this group that you do not think is healthy.
How could your group get better at [… enter attribute …?]
If there was one stress in your life that you could eliminate, what would it be?
Describe a unique quality about one other person in the group.
When ready, ask each person to them unceremoniously crumple their piece of paper. Then, comes the fun part.
Instruct your group to toss their collective crumpled papers (which now look like snowballs) into the air, across the room, whatever. Stray snowballs are permitted to be picked up and tossed right back across the room. Invite lots of movement, noise, whatever, if channelling or releasing pent-up energy is useful to you or your group.
Allow this pandemonium to continue for 20-30 seconds. Have fun, but as described in the Leadership Tips tab, beware the other impacts this part of the exercise may have on your group.
Then, curb the enthusiastic tossing of your group by asking each person to pick up any random snowball and hold onto it, but do not open it (yet.)
Again, perhaps within the context of the framing you opened the exercise with, pose a question to your group. Then, taking turns, ask each person to un-crumple the paper they are holding and read the thought (written on it) to the rest of the group.
Ordinarily, the thoughts which are shared do not belong to the person reading it, which is useful for several reasons. First, this process builds empathy for others. And second, it also provides a random mechanism to share the thoughts of people who feel less comfortable sharing them out loud (or in front of a large group.)
Stop, pause, reflect and discuss this thought, as appropriate, and continue around the group. For example, if your primary focus was to discuss stress, then your facilitation from this point may be to invite your group to discuss how one can identify stress and how to cope with it.
In a sense, the activity up to this point is the warm-up or unofficial start to prepare your group for the primary purpose of the exercise – sharing.
Practical Leadership Tips
Clearly, there is one element of this exercise as described that could get out of control, so consider what the impact of the tossing may have on the levels of trust and empathy that exist or you have nurtured in your group. If there is a risk the tossing could result in a negative outcome, take a look at the Variations tab for alternative or ‘safer’ options.
There’s something really powerful about writing thoughts down. For most, it helps us to organise our sometimes messy or confused thoughts. For others, it can make what they are thinking more real because it has left their head and appeared on paper in front of them. So, while at first glance the Snowball Toss may appear a frivolous activity, there can be great value to be revealed when appropriately framed.
Note, this exercise does not have to focus on difficult subjects or negative elements. The Snowball Toss is simply a mechanism to invite your group to share in a fun and engaging manner. So, it is equally useful at reflecting on positive attributes as much as it can be a powerful way to lead into more difficult topics.
Pull Out & Share: Rather than toss, collect all of the crumpled snowballs of thought into a container and then, taking turns, invite each person to randomly pull one out to share with the group.
Deeper Writing: Take a look at Journalling to explore another powerful reflection technique that invites your group to express their thoughts on paper.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like:
“WRITE DOWN ONE THOUGHT ON YOUR PAPER WHICH REPRESENTS A QUALITY OR CHARACTERISTIC OF HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAMS THAT YOU THINK IS MISSING FROM THIS GROUP…”
“THINK ABOUT ONE MOMENT OF STRESS IN YOUR LIFE. WE ALL EXPERIENCE STRESS, BUT SOMETIMES IT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO IDENTIFY WHEN WE ARE FEELING STRESSED. WRITE ON YOUR PAPER ONE OF THE SIGNS YOU HAVE NOTICED WHEN YOU ARE FEELING UNDER STRESS…”
“IF YOU HAD ONE WISH AND COULD ELIMINATE JUST ONE THING FROM YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? CONSIDER THIS CAREFULLY, AND THEN WRITE IT DOWN BRIEFLY ON YOUR PAPER…”
The inspiration for Snowball Toss was sourced from the video library of Edutopia, a wonderful online resource for teachers and other professional educators. Definitely worth a look.