Designate a playing space in which your group is permitted to walk.
Invite your group to mingle about the area and immediately respond to a series of random “STOP” and “GO” commands.
As the instructor, you start calling these commands as part of a ‘practice’ round.
When ready, announce that anyone in the group may now issue a command.
Either command can be called at any time.
Challenge the whole group to respond to these calls as quickly as possible.
Continue play for 1 to 2 minutes, then stop, or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
This is way simple. First, designate a general area where your group is permitted to walk about aimlessly.
I say ‘general’ because there is no need for boundaries to step outside, and even if there was, there’s no discernible impact on the game. So feel free to use boundaries if you feel that your group needs them. All that matters is that people walk, not run.
Next, explain that as everyone is milling about, anyone may at any time shout out either “STOP” to compel everyone to freeze immediately where they are, or “GO” to have them resume their walking.
To begin, I often assume the role of the caller, to help those who look a little confused to understand what’s about to happen. Normally, after 10-20 seconds, I allow the group to take control of the calls.
Announce that either command can be issued at any time, even a split second after the other. Clearly, the general idea is to challenge the group to respond to both commands as quickly as possible.
This exercise is a great warm-up and builds energy quickly.
Continue play for a few minutes, then stop, or try something new (see the Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Ideally, the group remains silent during the mingling, so as to make the two commands “STOP” and “GO” more prominent. But, of course, laughter is always permitted.
So, having given up the leadership, how do you end the game? You have several choices, but two of my favourites are to just step in and say, “OK, THAT’S ENOUGH,” or suggest that whenever five or more people remain frozen after the umpteenth call for “GO” is issued, the game is considered over.
I love watching my group as they trade their respective “STOP”s and “GO”s. You can learn a lot in these few minutes. Like most group activities, it’s up to the interaction of the group to make the game work.
Something to look for – often, after the group has been milling about for some time, two or more people will shout out instantaneously as if triggered by a peculiar chemistry! This always generates a lot of laughter.
Be sure to check Walk & Stop, a terrific follow-on exercise which will surely challenge your group to be successful.
You could integrate Stop & Go as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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
Resilience & Accountability
Consider introducing this exercise whereby you invite each person to be accountable for all of their errors, ie if they move when they shouldn’t and vice versa. You can expect a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but gradually, your group’s overall performance will improve. To this end, this exercise is ideal for exploring strategies that develop resilient characteristics. Help your group understand that all lessons take time to learn and this is just as true when it comes to building the muscles of resilience.
The focus and effort required to interact with others and respond effectively to each of the commands may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of commitment that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to their goal-setting efforts.
Different Actions: Introduce a variety of calls to mix it up. Try “SLOW MOTION,” “BACKWARDS,” “HANDS IN THE AIR,” “BABY STEPS,” and “CLOCKWISE.” Invite your group to come up with their own ideas as well.
Democratic Stop & Go: To encourage everyone’s participation, explain that each person is entitled to make one call only. After a few minutes, most people will have contributed.
Group Barometer: Take a look at Freeze Frame for a fun variation that will allow you to develop a powerful metaphor that may speak volumes about the health of your group.
Warm-Up: Take a look at Walk & Stop to really challenge your group after using Stop & Go as your lead-in exercise.
Invite your group to step back from their screens, with sufficient room to walk within an area approx 4 to 5 square metres, then present as described above. Clearly, encourage your group to keep their movements within the invisible boundaries of their screen perimeter. To this end, invite each person to explore an approximate boundary (with Self-View switched) first. That said, if someone steps outside of their screen, they typically walk back in very soon.
Limited bandwidth may wreak havoc with the latency of sound and picture, but this is generally not an issue to the success of the activity.
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Useful Framing Ideas
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Imagine if traffic lights only changed colour on a random basis, rather than providing equal time to both flows of traffic. I could imagine that this would be incredibly frustrating if I was in a hurry, but it could also be a lot of fun if I had the time of day to pass. I’d like you to imagine now that you have a meandering journey to complete within this space, but as a group, we get to play the role of traffic lights which have been programmed to change randomly…
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, energising game:
What cues did you observe and follow to stop during the course of the game?
What words would you use to describe the interaction of your group during the mingling?
What might these interactions say about your group?