Drawing from a pile of many images/photographs, display one random image to your group.
Show this image for 5 seconds (and then hide it.)
Immediately invite one person to volunteer and respond to this image by sharing a quick story that is inspired by it.
Allow up to 30 seconds for their story to be shared.
Show your next image for 5 seconds, and again, invite someone to share their story.
Continue to show all of your images, or until you are ready to move on.
Here’s a short video I created that presents a series of 15 images with a quick explanation at the beginning. The context presumes a virtual setting, but it can easily be adapted for use in front of an in-person group.
You are welcome to integrate this video directly into your program, ie as if I was presenting to your group live.
How To Play Narrative
As I watched this fun exercise being presented to me (as a participant) for the first time, I knew it was a keeper. I trust your groups will love it too.
In advance, you need to gather a bunch of images, as large as possible to make it easy for a group to see them.
The simplest method would be to grab a deck of We Engage Cards, Photo Language images, Climer Cards or any pack of ready-made images. Of course, you can source your own from magazines, newspapers and the internet.
To get you started, I’ve created a short video featuring a series of 15 images ready to go, presuming an online context. Check the Video Tutorial tab to view it.
Gather your group in front of you, or perhaps if they are small in number, seated in a circle. Flash one of your images to your group for about 5 seconds, and then hide it from view.
Immediately, invite one person to volunteer and share a quick story that was inspired by the viewing of that one image. Your framing is key here and, of course, may reflect many directions.
For example, you could ask each volunteer to share a story that:
Evokes a memory of a real experience for you;
Inspires a dream you have had;
Describes how the scene in the image could be part of a made-up story; or
Expresses a feeling that you can recall.
Help your group understand that they can’t get this wrong. Focus on participation, sharing and interaction, and less on the articulation of their story.
To ramp up the panic, allow no more than 30 seconds for this person to share their story and then flash a new image and repeat the process. This is clearly where the panic sets in.
Display the image for 5 seconds, a new volunteer shares a story that is evoked by this second image for no more than 30 seconds before you flash a new image, etc.
Resist the temptation to allow more time for sharing, or to display the image for too long. Keep the action moving and the momentum high because this will engage your group more successfully.
In the space of 5 or so minutes, you will have displayed about ten images and been a part of ten different stories. Your group’s energy will be up and you’ll be ready to segue into your next project.
Practical Leadership Tips
Be sure to select a wide variety of images. You can’t get this wrong, but an overabundance of one type of image (eg happy and cheerful) may make this exercise less useful.
Any image will work, but photographs are often the most evocative. You know, a picture tells a thousand words.
If you’d like to see Chad introduce Panic Picture, click this link to view a short video.
You could integrate Panic Picture as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds & cultures.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Images evoke an endless array of emotions, thoughts and values in our minds, so Panic Picture is ideally suited for any program in which you are seeking to explore and develop critical emotional competencies. Beware that not all images will inspire positive stories. Some may in fact trigger negative memories or attributes so to this end, consider your sequence and framing carefully before diving in. If you sense there is the potential for trigger events, you may wish to start in small intimate groups first in which the group itself is responsible for flipping over the images. Take a look at the Reflection Tips tab to review a bunch of possible processing topics once you are done.
It may seem odd to focus on mindfulness when being present would appear to be the antithesis of this fast-paced activity. But, what if you slowed down the pace with which you swap the images? You could successfully invite your group to sit and be present with each image for a short while, and then invite a few volunteers to share something that is evoked by each one, before moving on to the next one. Consider also inviting your group to become mindful of the many and varied ways in which each image could be interpreted.
More or Less Panic: Vary the pace and level of intensity by changing how long you display an image and/or
how long you permit an individual to share their story.
Improv Story: Challenge your group to embed each of the series of images in one continuous story. That is, the first person starts the story by integrating the first image into it, and then 30 seconds later a new person takes over by integrating the next image to continue the very same story, and so on.
Competition 1: Challenge your group to involve a new person to share with each new image displayed. The ideal would be for every person in your group to have shared a story.
Competition 2: Divide your group into smaller teams. When you show an image, invite the person who raises their hand first to share their story and award the team they belong to a point. Continue play for many rounds, awarding points as you progress through the images.
Reflection Tool: Frame this exercise as an opportunity to reflect on a particular experience, whereby the image is intended to inspire thoughts that describe their experience, etc.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Manually display your series of images as cards in front of your webcam (for 5 seconds,) and then invite one participant to switch on their microphone to share. Thirty seconds later, show your next image, invite a new person to share, etc.
Or produce a quick video of you presenting a series of images (to your webcam) and when ready, hit play to show to your online group. Once you hit play, resist the temptation to hit pause – this really ramps up the ‘panic.’ FYI, I produced a short video using a series of We Engage Cards for this express purpose which you are welcome to steal and borrow – go to the Video Tutorial tab to access it.
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Useful Framing Ideas
We all know that a picture can tell a thousand words, but what about one story? Two stories, a dozen stories. Let’s find out…
Sometimes a picture or a reading can express something we are feeling better than if we try to find the words ourselves. Quickly now, when I show you this picture [ display photograph ] what story comes to mind for you? Any volunteers?…
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 energising story-telling game:
How evocative were these images for you?
Which images were the most impactful to you? Why?
Why do you think pictures evoke so many feelings?
How many different ways could you interpret any one image?
What do these different perspectives say about you and our group?
Did you hold back saying something at times? Why? What was your fear?
Where do images make a difference in your life?
The inspiration for Panic Picture was sourced from Chad Littlefield, a good friend and gifted group facilitator from We and Me!