By way of demonstration, ask your group to form a set of ‘chicken-eyes’ using both hands, eg make two circles with each index finger and thumb, fanning all other fingers, and then place the circles over your eyes.
To start, pull one hand up to form one chicken-eye and place it over your corresponding eye, ie right hand forms circle over right eye.
Which ever hand is used (eye is covered) will indicate the direction of the initial impulse, eg if you place chicken-eye over right eye, your right-hand side neighbour receives the impulse.
Practice passing the impulse around the circle, in both directions, for a few moments.
When ready, explain that the impulse may now be passed, at any time, in one of three ways to elicit a particular response, for example:
– Same direction: place chicken-eye over same eye as your neighbour;
– Reverse direction: place chicken-eye over different eye to your neighbour, eg if impulse was running to the right, use left hand over left eye to reverse direction; and
– Same direction and skip the next person (ie your neighbour:) use both hands to form two chicken-eyes.
Aim is to respond to the impulse as quickly as possible.
When a person makes an error, eg responds too slow or incorrectly, the person to their left will resume the action.
Continue play for several minutes.
How To Play Narrative
To start, ask your group to practice what I call ‘chicken-eyes,’ where you make a circle with your index finger and thumb (on both hands,) fanning all other fingers, and then placing the circles over each of your eyes.
Check it out, you should be looking at a group of chickens all wearing gorgeous horn-rimmed glasses!
Next, form a circle – standing close to one another works best – and announce that you will initiate the first set of chicken-eyes.
Pull just one hand up to form one chicken-eye and place it over the corresponding eye. That is, if I use my right hand to form the circle, I place it over my right eye.
Next, explain that as a result of using my right hand, this will dictate the direction of the chicken-eye impulse. So, the neighbour to my right will now continue the action and perform a chicken-eye too. And so on it goes.
This is all cool, except heading in one direction all the time will soon get boring.
Explain that the impulse may now be passed, at any time, in one of three ways to elicit a particular response. To move the impulse in the:
Same direction – place chicken-eye over the same eye as your neighbour;
Reverse direction – place chicken-eye over different eye to your neighbour, eg if the impulse was running to the right, use left hand over left eye when it’s your turn to reverse the direction; and
Same direction and skip the next person (ie your neighbour) – use both hands to form two chicken-eyes at same time.
The key is to respond to the impulse as quickly as possible, sending the impulse of a chicken-eye or eyes around the circle at break-neck speed.
The most fun is allowing the action to swing this way and that for as long as you’ve got people’s attention.
When an error occurs – such as responding too slowly, incorrectly or when they shouldn’t – the person to the left of where the error occurred may resume the action.
Continue play until the energy of your group to starts to wane.
Practical Leadership Tips
I’ve pulled this short-and-sweet game in a variety of places: around the dining table at summer camp while my cabin of boys were waiting for their meal, in serious corporate team-building programs to enjoy a good laugh, and to fill-in a few minutes while my youth group was waiting for the bus.
Chicken-Eyes is clearly a silly game, so the level of enthusiasm and commitment you add to your presentation will make a huge difference to the level of engagement you can expect from your group.
Groups of up to 15 or 20 people work well. Much more, and you are best to introduce two or more impulses (see Variations tab.)
You could integrate Chicken Eyes as part of a well-designed SEL program to help establish and promote healthy and positive relationships in your group.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
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 playing and enjoying a good laugh. In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play Chicken Eyes speaks to the benefits of being mindful, but this could be a bit of a stretch 🙂
If you can think of more explicit ways in which this fun energiser could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Just Add Sound: Instruct people to call out “B’GAWK” (you know, the sound of a chicken) as they perform any one or more of the chicken-eye signals.
Elimination 1: Ask people when they make an error to depart the circle. Action resumes with the person to the left of the one who was eliminated. Play continues until one person remains, the winner!
Elimination 2: Invite people who make an error to run around the outside of the circle flapping their arms as if they were chickens and either (a) return to their spot in the circle after one rotation and rejoin the action, or (b) keep running until the next person makes a mistake, at which point they swap roles. Either way, the impulse resumes as soon as this person leaves the circle.
Large Group: Initiate several ‘chicken-eyes’ simultaneously. What happens when two impulses meet? Craziness and a lot of laughter. Perfect.
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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 quick and fun circle game:
Was this a fun exercise to spend a few minutes? Why?
What helped you respond successfully to the impulse?
What hindered your ability to respond accurately?
In what areas of your life are you expected to respond quickly?
The inspiration for Chicken-Eyes, and many more outrageously fun circle games, was sourced from the following publication: