Form a circle, ensuring everyone can see and hear you.
Immediately transform your body into the form of an animal you have announced such as “I’M A CRAB.”
Repeat who you are several times, inviting the rest of your group to mimic your call and actions, eg move left and right like a crab, using your hands as pincers.
After a few moments, change into a new animal, eg “I’M AN ELEPHANT, I’M AN ELEPHANT…” etc.
After three or four animals, invite other group members to randomly transform into a new animal.
Continue process for several minutes.
Video Transcript for I’m An Animal Stretch
presented by Nate Folan
So this was inspired by a group of therapeutic, at a therapeutic setting, a reluctant few didn’t think they were going to stretch and they were racing one another to get to the stretch that I’m about to share with you.
The neat thing about it was that it carried a tradition of people wanting to get in and do something that was crazy, but it took one person to start that. You might think about P.A. in a way. Crazy enough to try something different and you look around the room in all the people that’ve joined in and have contributed to make it what it is, it’s pretty significant.
And I can tell you with this stretch that we’re about to do there’s a group of phys ed teachers out in Southern California that when I did this, I’m thinking maybe five, six, seven variations. Thirty variations, they just kept going.
So as I introduce this if you’re so inspired feel free to add your own twist to it.
So all you have to do is say what I say and do what I do.
(Say what I say and do what I do.)
I’m a starfish, I’m a starfish, I’m a starfish, I’m a starfish, I’m a starfish.
I’m a crab, I’m a crab, I’m a crab, I’m a crab.
I’m a rhino, I’m a rhino, I’m a rhino, I’m a rhino, I’m a rhino.
I’m a giraffe, I’m a giraffe, I’m a giraffe, I’m a giraffe.
I’m a puma, I’m a puma, I’m a puma, I’m a puma, I’m a puma.
I’m a hawk, I’m a hawk, I’m a hawk, I’m a hawk.
(I’m an elephant.)
I’m an elephant, I’m an elephant, I’m an elephant, I’m an elephant.
(I’m a cow.)
I’m a cow, I’m a cow, I’m a cow, I’m cow.
(I’m a snake.)
I’m a snake, I’m a snake, I’m a snake, I’m a snake, I’m a snake, I’m a snake.
(I’m a kiwi.)
I’m a kiwi, I’m a kiwi, I’m a kiwi.
How To Play Narrative
If you can see drama and acting teachers making this a standard part of their curriculum, then I guess you would be right. There is a certain level of self-expression that makes it useful to these folk, but the focus here is on the physical activity and movement (not to mention fun) this exercise promotes.
Perhaps having already completed an activity in which the group finished in a circle, keep them that way. The whole exercise is designed to invite your group to imagine what it would be like to be and look like an animal.
I like to start with a few classic creatures, and then, hopefully having inspired my group, open it up to them to come up with a few more.
Throw yourself right into it by announcing your choice of animal at the same time stretching and moving your body as if you were that animal. Introduce each one with the confident announcement of “I’M A [enter animal name]” and repeat this mantra several times until a new animal is introduced.
Here’s a few that I’ve enjoyed using over the years…
Crab – move side to side, with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent and hands out in front acting like claws.
Giraffe – one or both hands stretched way above your head, hands tilted forward, and take long lumbering steps In and out of the circle.
Kangaroo – arms curled up in front of your tummy as if it was a pouch, knees slightly bent, bouncing up and down on the spot
Monkey – jump around on hands and knees, scratching under your arms, and making monkey sounds.
Eagle – arms stretched wide on your sides, soaring in and out of others in the circle.
Start with a couple of animals, and then invite others from your group to announce and perform a series of new animals.
Continue play until some people start to get a little tired.
Practical Leadership Tips
This is a very playful exercise, so consider your sequence. People love to act foolish, but you have to create a fun and supportive environment within which this can occur. Otherwise, the activity will bomb.
A circle is not necessary, but given how much fun this exercise is to play, it is wonderful to look across the other side of a circle and see some pretty silly movements being played out.
You could integrate I’m An Animal Stretch as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Having A Growth Mindset
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
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 a short burst of physical activity to one’s wellbeing.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which I’m An Animal Stretch could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Birds & The Bees: The sky’s the limit when it comes to animal possibilities. Don’t neglect the insect, bird and fish world either.
Animal Stretch Waves: In a wave-like motion, start with one person transforming into their choice of animal, and then after ten seconds or so, the person to their left introduces the next animal, and so on.
Zoo Challenge: Challenge your group to create as many animal movements as they can in two minutes. All must be accompanied with fun, physical movements.
Take a look at Speed Rabbit to enjoy another fun, animal-infused activity.
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Useful Framing Ideas
What were your favourite animals when you visited the zoo? If you were to mimic one of your favourites, what would you look like? Could we guess what you were just from the way you moved, without sound? Who would like to transform themselves into an animal, and invite the group to guess who you are…?
When you consider the animal kingdom, what creatures can you think of that involve the greatest movements or stretches. Which would be the fittest do you think? Which animals would exercise or move the most in any given day? [enter discussion] Okay, what would these movements look like…?
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 fun and inventive stretching game:
How did it feel to perform an animal stretch or movement?
Which animal stretch or movements were your favourites? Why?
Were these movements and actions more fun than most gym class warm-ups? Why?
What do you think was necessary to be present in this group to help everyone enjoy it?
High Energy ‘Warm-Up’ Session
What You Need:
8+ people, 15 mins, basketball court with clearly marked lines, indoors or outdoors