Imagining that on your right hand, I’d like you to place on your right hand a silver tray of the most delicious lunch that could be served today. Okay. So for example I can see some wonderful slices of vegetable lasagne. So Roe what’ve you got?
(A bucket of KFC.)
Simple needs isn’t it? Very simple needs. Jason how about you?
Oh nice, okay very good. Georgia what’ve you got?
(I’ve got some smoked salmon and some fresh oysters.)
Beautiful, excellent! So regardless of what you’ve got on your plate you’re so excited by it. I’d like you to move it into the direction of the person on the right hand side so they can get a good look at it.
And then look to your left and place your left finger into the food. You’re one of those people who when no one’s looking comes tastes it. So your fingertips should just be touching the palm.
Great, now you’re all inextricably linked. When I say the word GO, because I find that works pretty well to start a game, you’re going to try and catch the finger of the person on your right hand side at the same time avoid being caught by the person on your left.
Now if you’re not quite sure what is about to happen it will soon become plainly evident.
Are you ready? GO!
(The group tries to catch each other)
And you’ve got to say “gotcha!” Try again. Excellent, alright, very good, okay.
Remember you’re holding a tray not a bowl Gary. Nice and flat. Let’s just say I was watching you before. Alright, GO!
(The group tries to catch each other)
Very good. Now It’s fair to say that I was very close to two for two. I did miss the very first one and it’s because I know when I’m going to say the word GO. So I’ve got a good chance at getting it. So we are going to share the love around now.
So Pam if you would like to be the person who gives us the magic word when you think the group is ready.
(The group tries to catch each other)
Fantastic! Now there’s so much fascinating research out about how the brain works, but importantly how it’s shaped as a human. And I’m not going to go into all that sort of science, but I think we appreciate that there are two hemispheres to the brain.
So I’ve now invited you to use one side. We are now going to swap it over. Place the left hand tray, so the tray into the left hand and do exactly the opposite. Fantastic.
It is tricky, tricky. Alright so, let’s see, Rick when you think the group is ready you may say the magic word.
Well done. I like it. Excellent!
So over to you I’m going to invite you to consider keeping the basic integrity of the activity intact. That is trying to catch a finger inside a palm. What other ways can you vary this up?
I’ve just shown you by putting it in the left hand it changes it a little bit. And in my experience with all of this play and adventure based learning stuff just this one small thing can have a big impact on the outcome you can achieve.
So over to you. What are some different ways you can now keep the basic integrity of this intact, but changes it up? So Pam either that or you are stretching, but show us what…
(We just about need a Velcro Circle to do that.)
Well try, then why don’t you lead us through that and tell us which hand is doing what.
(Okay Velcro Circle. Left hand across your body and right hand behind your back. And right hand…)
You might have to turn a little bit.
(Yeah you have to turn a bit.)
Oh yeah so that works. So you’re facing the person on your right.
(Left hand finger in the person’s hand in front you you.)
Oh so it goes the other way. There you go. So right hand is flat. Very good.
(This is really tricky.)
Alright so you can say the magic word.
(Laughing and trying to catch finger.)
Very good, okay. So what’s another way you can vary it folks?
(Change the finger, maybe.)
Yup, sure yup you can do that. Other ways?
(Stand on one foot.)
Oh, okay. Lead us through that, that sounds a little different.
(Alright, so you’ve got two. So pick your left one and just stand on it, and then just the same thing.)
Same thing, so just the basic flat right hand.
Pointy left hand. Okay, you’ve got the magic word then Gary.
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to form a circle, including yourself, facing inwards and standing side by side.
By way of demonstration, hold your right hand out to your right hand side (about shoulder height) with your palm flat and facing upwards, extend the index finger of your left hand, and place it into the flat and open palm of the person on your left.
Look around, and your group should be inextricably linked.
Next, explain that on the command “GO” – which, incidentally, works pretty well to start a game – everyone should attempt to catch the finger of the person on their right, that which is pointing downward, touching the centre of their palm, while at the same time, avoid being caught by the person on their left.
Of course, jocularity prevails in one instantaneous trigger of energy – it’s my favourite part, and never fails to produce plenty of excitement and laughter. Ask people to shout out “GOTCHA!” when they happen to catch their neighbour’s finger.
Now, you could try to move on, but I doubt you will want to. Not only will your group want to do it over and over again, but there are oodles of different ways to tweak this wonderful energiser (see Variations tab below.)
My biggest Gotcha group? Two-hundred and fifty! Spectacular.
Practical Leadership Tips
There are ample moments of humour here. Observe the way in which the palms of some people that started out as flat are slowly curling with each successive round. Or the proclivity of folks to not want to touch their finger tip on their neighbour’s palm, lest they get caught!! It’s all so funny.
Before presenting Gotcha, take a look at Velcro Circle to help you form a circle in a fun way.
This is one of those fail-safe group activities, that just works, always. Classrooms, training sessions, conference auditoriums, the beach, wherever.
You do not even need to say anything to introduce this exercise (I know this is true because I have often presented this to groups that do not speak English.) Model the position of your hands and fingers, and the group will follow. After the first “GO,” your group will quickly catch on.
You could integrate Gotcha as part of a well-designed SEL program to
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
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 to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully catch your partner’s finger (not to mention, avoid having your own finger caught) speaks to the benefits of being mindful, but I wouldn’t push this too far.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Gotcha could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Alternate Palms: Try this again several times, switching palms from the right to the left (to benefit our left-brained friends,) ie the left palm is facing upwards, and a right index finger is extended.
Crossed Arms: Cross your arms as you play, ie extend the right palm towards the person on your left, and place your left index finger into the waiting palm on your right.
Upside-Down: Try all variations with your palms upside-down, and index fingers pointing up.
Impossible Feat: Regular set-up, but this time each person attempts to catch the finger sitting in their right palm with their left hand. Try it. Hilarious.
Quad Challenge: Original set-up, add a further challenge. Instruct people to place their right foot directly above, but not touching the left toes of their right-hand side partner. On “GO,” you try to tag the foot of your partner, whilst trying to avoid being tagged and performing the usual finger and palm routine.
Two, Four, Eight: Start with pairs, try a few variations as described above, and then combine with another pair to make a group of four. Then four becomes eight, and so on until everyone is part of one large circle.
Playing Card Gotcha: Everyone holds the base of a single playing card between their thumb and forefinger of their left hand. Then, each person hovers their right-hand hand over the card of their right-hand neighbour. When ready, each person attempts to snatch the card from their neighbour.
Take a look at Circle Clap to introduce a fun, circle-based problem-solving activity after Gotcha has warmed your group up.
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Useful Framing Ideas
I’d like you to imagine that when it comes to lunch, we will all be seated in a five-star restaurant, and served from silver trays and cloches. Hold out your right hand as if you are holding a tray of your most favourite, gourmet lunch you can think of. Hmmm mmmm, my tray is vegetable lasagne. What’s yours? Now, move your tray in the direction of the person on your right-hand side so that they can see your lunch. At the same time, I’d like you to extend your left pointer finger and place it into the tray of the person on your left…
Although most of the time, as human-beings, we tend not to live our lives as if everything is connected, the truth is, the world around us is. This exercise celebrates the connection we have not only to our neighbours, but to everyone in the group…
It can be a tough lesson to learn, but we are all responsible for the consequences of our actions. As young people, this is one of the most important lessons we learn, and as adults, we continue to be reminded of its importance. Sometimes we can’t see the direct connection between what happens here to what happens over there, both in terms of actions and consequences, but also time. Yet, there is no denying that there is a connection…
To be successful, it is critical that any group is connected in some way to one another. The connections need not be physical or indeed, visual, but there will always be some form of connectedness between a group of people that fuels their success. On many occasions, the link will be as simple as their shared values. What are the most important values of this group?…
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 hilarious, energiser game:
Was it easy to do two things at the same time? Why or why not?
What skills do you think are sharpened or developed in this exercise?