Lay a set of We Connect Cards on a table, action-side facing up.
Invite each person to grab one card that reflects an action they would be comfortable doing.
Ask your group to spread themselves evenly throughout a large open area.
Invite everyone to walk aimlessly and silently about the area.
Announce that after approx 10 seconds has elapsed, any one or more individuals may choose to stop walking and perform the action on their card.
Anyone who spots a person performing or mimicking an action is invited to perform this action too.
The round is complete when everyone is performing the same action.
Record how long it takes for the whole group to perform the same action, ie from the moment the first person acts to the last person.
Repeat this interaction for multiple rounds, inviting the group to improve their performance (time.)
You can watch Chad Littlefield, founder of We and Me and developer of the We Connect Cards, present this activity to a small group of adults here.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of my favourite activities to demonstrate how powerful a simple interactive energiser can be in the context of group development.
Let’s focus on the generic form of the activity first.
Lay at least as many We Connect Cards, action facing up, on a table as you have people in your group.
Invite everyone to grab one card each reflecting an action that they would be comfortable performing.
Offering this level of choice may not be necessary for every group, but it is possible that if you distributed the cards randomly, someone may receive a card that invites them to act in a way that they cannot perform or are uncomfortable doing. You choose.
To begin, ask everyone to glance at the action on their card and then start walking around the area. No talking, no touching anyone, just walking around the others in the group.
Announce that after a nominated period of time of say, 10 seconds, any person in the group will be entitled to stop walking and start performing the action on their card. Then explain that as soon as any other person spots this happening, they too will be invited to copy this action. As a cascading series of mimicked actions occur, the whole group eventually ends up performing the same action.
The challenge for your group is to perform this task as quickly as possible, ie the time it takes for the first person to lead with their action until the last person copies it.
For those who don’t quite ‘get it’ on your first explanation, they will surely understand it after the first round. When ready, say “GO” to commence a new round.
Continue invoking more rounds for as long as there is energy and enthusiasm for the task.
Then, having boosted the energy stocks of your group, you can try something new (see the Variations tab) or invite your group to reflect on some powerful team-building and SEL metaphors.
To this end, be sure to check out the Health & Wellness Programming and Reflection Tips tabs for guidance.
Practical Leadership Tips
Unless you are simply wanting to raise the energy of your group, I recommend framing this exercise in advance to prepare your group for a subsequent conversation about goal-setting and cultural norms, for example.
Note, how curious it is that most people have no concept of how long 10 seconds lasts, ie almost without fail, someone will freeze much earlier than 10 seconds. Even after you make this observation (just for fun,) it will make little difference to the next attempt. Hilarious!
In the beginning, people are often focused on little else than themselves. This exercise invites people to look beyond themselves. It’s amazing what is achieved in such a short space of time, when a group of individuals constitute themselves as ‘community,’ focus on other people and agree to achieve a common goal (eg everyone is performing the same action as quickly as possible). Can you see any connections here to your program goals? If not, check out the Health & Wellness Programming tab for inspiration.
You can get your own set (or three) of We Connect Cards here.
If you can’t get (or afford) a set of We Connect Cards, no trouble – you can produce your own. Simply create multiple sets of up to 10 different actions (depending on the number of people in your group.) Either hand sketch these actions (think stick figures) or search online for a set of royalty-free images which feature the actions you are looking for.
You can watch Chad Littlefield, founder of We and Me and developer of the We Connect Cards, present this activity to a small group of adults in the Video Tutorial tab.
Health & Wellness Programming
As an interactive group exercise that invites people to achieve a common goal, Freeze Frame is ideally suited to programs that seek to build social and interpersonal competencies. At a minimum, it is possible to frame this activity as an opportunity to explore the benefits of teamwork, goal-setting, and responsible decision-making. You could also look at willingness to cooperate, conflict, and risk-taking behaviours, too. In addition to those asked in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on their response to the following questions:
If you were one of the first people to perform or copy an action, explain why?
If you were one of the last people to copy an action, help us understand why?
What encouraged you to stop and copy an action?
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
This exercise reminds me of a classic scene from the film Dead Poet’s Society in which a group of students are asked to walk in silence around the school courtyard. In the beginning, the students walk in a variety of random patterns but in time, the students adopt the same walking routine, walking together at the same pace with the same stride. This speaks powerfully to the concepts of compliance and behavioural norms. To this end, you could frame this exercise as an opportunity for your group to explore and discuss the impacts of adopting group norms. To get the conversation started, you could focus on the following questions:
Why did you choose to, or not choose to, copy the actions of other people?
If you chose not to comply or only did after the passage of time, describe your reasons why?
Were there any obstacles to compliance?
What would motivate you to regulate your behaviour?
In general, what was necessary to get everyone to perform the same action?
What beliefs and attitudes do you hold about compliance?
Change Action: After each round, instruct your group to swap cards (with another group member) to engage in a new round of mingling but (more than likely) with a different action.
One-Eyed: As above, with all group members observing the action through one eye., ie the other one is closed or blindfolded.
Take a look at Mirror Neurons to enjoy another fun energiser fuelled by We Connect Cards.
Take a look at Freeze Frame for a similar, more goal-focused, initiative.
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Useful Framing Ideas
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One of the most important ingredients of a successful team is having a common goal. Yet, simply posting this goal in a prominent place on the wall is not enough to make it effective. Several other key skills are also necessary, such as a willingness to contribute, and connecting/communicating with others. In a very simple manner, this activity will highlight how important each of these and other key skills are helping a team achieve its goals…
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 fascinating energiser game:
Was this a simple or difficult challenge to complete?
Did your group continuously improve its time with each round? How did this happen?
What was required to get the whole group to perform the same action? Be specific.
How might the lessons of this exercise relate to your work, school, sport, etc?
The inspiration for Freeze Action was sourced from the folks at We and Me.