In advance, create one or more posters (or slides) that display a series of movements and sounds associated with letters represented by the English A to Z alphabet (see Resources tab for example.)
When ready, show the poster (or slide) to your audience.
Invite everyone in your audience to stand.
Ask each person to ‘spell’ their first, last or full name one letter at a time by performing the action associated with each letter.
Allow up to 30 seconds for the names to be performed.
How To Play Narrative
I. Love. This. Activity.
So simple and so effective for the very purpose it was designed – to engage large groups, to invite them to move and, most importantly, have fun.
You need to get a little prep done first. Take a look at the two examples I have uploaded to the Resources tab to inspire you.
Naturally, you are welcome to use these two generic slides, but I’m sure you can do better if you have a little bit of time, and perhaps are more creative flair than me.
Your objective is to recreate the full English alphabet (indeed, any language) by associating a movement, action and/or sound with every letter or character. For example:
A may be represented by 2 x laps,
B could be a Star Jump,
C is identified as Stamping Your Foot x 3, etc.
When ready, you will want to spin some story about the advent of a very quirky language that is represented by a series of actions and sounds. Then, display your poster or slide to your audience.
Invite them to stand up, study this bizarre new alphabet for a few moments, and ‘spell’ out each letter of their name. By way of demonstration, you may wish to start by spelling your name.
On the basis of the sample alphabet, if my name was Pedro, I would perform:
P = 4 x right foot stomps E = 2 x thigh slaps D = 2 x right fist bumps R = 2 x bob-up and downs O = 2 x “yeehaa”s
Allow your group up to 30 seconds to spell their name. You can expect Pam to be done in 10 seconds, whereas people like Constantine, Jacqueline, and Maximilian will need more time.
In no time at all, your audience will be bubbling with energy and laughter, and your job will be done.
You could move on with your program from this point but I strongly recommend embracing one or more of the unique activities as described in the Variations tab to squeeze more value from the exercise.
Practical Leadership Tips
The larger your audience, the simpler and clearer you need to make your letters and actions on your poster/slide, lest the people at the back of your auditorium will not be able to read the instructions and that would suck.
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than perhaps introducing this exercise as a unique language in the context that emotional competencies could be viewed as a language too. Building emotional intelligence is nuanced and complex just like any language. To illustrate, discuss the skills required to read a variety of social cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Help your group to understand that emotional intelligence is akin to becoming fluent in another language that will help them understand and interact with others more effectively.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Active Intros could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Active Intros Statements: Display a new poster (or slide) that shares a unique message or sentence, perhaps relevant to your group. Invite the whole audience to spell out the message one letter at a time together. Repeat, if desired, to achieve synchronicity.
Special Theme: Create a couple of extra posters or slides which spell out one or more special messages. For example, if you are leading a conference, you may want to code the conference theme with actions and sounds. One of the samples in the Resources tab does exactly that.
Phone Numbers: Display a unique set of actions for all ten numbers 0 to 9. Invite each person to ‘dial’ their own mobile (cell) phone numbers, or home landline or work number, etc.
Cocktail Party: Ideal for large groups of strangers. Invite your group to mix and mingle non-verbally, and challenge them to greet others by ‘spelling’ out their names. Encourage each person to greet at least 4 people.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
While sharing your screen, display the alphabet slide. Invite your online attendees to stand in front of their webcam and perform their actions. If possible, take a Gallery View screenshot or short video of them performing their actions to enjoy later.
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Useful Framing Ideas
You may not know this, but I have studied a number of very ancient languages which are practically extinct, which is very sad. In an effort to try and preserve some remnants of these languages, I would like to share the unique letters of their alphabets with you know…
If it were not for the use of a common language, it would be very difficult to communicate with other people much less be understood. So, for the purposes of this conference, I want to introduce a common language for us all to use…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this energetic game:
What did you notice during the spelling of the letters and words?
Did you laugh? Why?
Can you speak more than one language? How long did it take to learn?
How fun is it to learn a new language?
The inspiration for Active Intros was sourced from the good people at Berry Street Education Model who first showed it to me at a conference, with thanks.