And we can have, we’ll have one team here, one team towards the centre, and another team over here. So just identify who you are in your team. You’ve roughly got five or six.
So the standard exercise as you would be aware with naughts and crosses, or tic tac toe. Is that you’re looking to get three in a row. Okay it’s either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
So what you already know is going to help you, but it’s going to be a team event. And each person in your team has an opportunity to actually place one spot at a time, but you only have four spots to use.
I’ll explain the impact of that in just a moment, but in your group of five or six quickly identify yourselves into two teams. So there’ll either be a team of three or a team of two people. Just quickly identify who those people are now in your group.
In a moment when I hand these out your red team will have four dots, your yellow team will have four dots. You both leave at the same time. Whoever gets there first gets to be able to place their spot in the spot they want to go.
You keep on going, but the next person on your team cannot race down there with the next spot until you’ve returned.
Keep going if you’ve ended up using all four and there is no win then the next person on your team gets to pick up your colour and move it. So there’s always a spot that’s empty. Keep going until someone has won.
Pick up all your dots, come back, see if you can get another win in the time that’s been allotted to you.
Got the basic idea?
Alright, my Grandma also told me that there’s some strategy. There’s some good spots to put a spot and maybe not so good spots to put a spot. So I am going to give you thirty seconds now in each of your teams, that is the red teams and the yellow teams, to identify where’s the good spot recognising this is a race. You may actually not get there in time to be able to use your spot so think about your strategies. Okay, take your thirty seconds now.
(Team discusses strategies.)
And your three minutes starts now!
(Teams race each other to place dots in Tic Tac Toe.)
Alright, so pick up all your dots once you’ve completed it, and return, and start again, and keep a tally of who has won.
Alright, pick up all your dots, keep a tally of who won.
Oh nice. Ten seconds!
(Game of Tic Tac Toe continues.)
It was highly competitive obviously, and again Grandma had taught me this. For this team here on my extreme left was it the red team or the yellow team that scored more than the other?
(We had yellow at three, red had two.)
Alright, so yellow three. So yellow won here by one.
What did you get here?
Yellow, so again yellow. So by one? One, by two, or three?
Okay, and over here?
Yellow! Yellow won across all teams. That’s pretty interesting, well done. You’re clearly very fast or very good at naughts and crosses, one or the other.
How To Play Narrative
This re-working of a classic kid’s game takes the essential simplicity, fun and strategy of Tic-Tac-Toe and adds a liberal dose of physical activity to make it even better.
Break your large group into smaller groups of 4 to 8 people. Take a look at Getting into Teams to learn a number of ways to do this in a fun, interactive manner.
Then, perhaps in advance, or directly in front of your assembled group, lay a series of four short ropes in the shape of a hatch on the floor, one set for each small group.
Ideally, lay these hatches at least 15 to 20 metres away from your groups. Finally, clearly assign a particular hatch to each small group.
Next, ask each small group to divide into two teams to represent the teams of Noughts and Crosses. Distribute a set of four coloured items – red and yellow, for example – to each group, to allow each team to identify with one of the colours to represent their mark.
You are now almost ready to start, but first, a few rules.
The game begins with you calling “GO” and inviting one person from each team, carrying one of their four coloured items, to race out towards their nominated hatch. It’s a race, so the first person to arrive earns the right to place their mark on whatever square they choose within their assigned hatch.
Having placed their item, each person races back to their group, and once they have crossed the designated line (behind which the rest of their team awaits,) each team may send out their next representative to lay their second mark. And so on.
The game continues until one team manages to lay three items of the same colour in a straight line, in any direction – horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
Most of the time, this round of energetic Noughts and Crosses will be over within the minute. However, on occasions, the two teams will reach a stalemate in which all eight marks will have been placed within the hatch without a winning result, ie no three items of the same colour in a row.
When a draw occurs, each team – taking turns – may pick up and move any one of their (own) coloured items and place it inside the only empty square on the hatch in an effort to align three of their items in a row. This shifting of marks (in addition to the regular running backwards and forwards) continues until a result is declared.
If, after a further minute of play, no winner has been declared, call an end to hostilities, and start over.
Continue playing several rounds, or try something new (see Variations tab.)
At the end of any round, ask the person closest to the hatch (often a representative of the winning team) to gather all of the items (for both teams) and re-distribute when they return to the starting line.
Practical Leadership Tips
Don’t have any short ropes on hand? No trouble – simply draw the hatch on the ground with chalk, or mark the hatch on large sheets of paper. Voila!
The further you lay your hatches away from your groups, the more energy will be expended. Also, there is the added challenge that the marks become more difficult to see from afar, precipitating the need for quick decisions when one approaches the hatch.
In case it’s not obvious, competing teams do not need the same number of members. Regardless of their number, encourage every team to rotate the role of running out to the hatch.
For the purposes of keeping everyone engaged as much as possible, keep your teams quite small – of no more than 4 people – lest people get bored.
If playing outside, consider using items with some weight to keep them in position, because the wind has been known to blow light-weight items out of the hatch.
You could integrate Tic Tac Toe as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
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
The focus required to interact and engage physically with others – especially in relation to one’s opponents – 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 safety consciousness that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others.
As noted above, this fast-paced game can amplify any issues in regard to the level of (physical) safety consciousness within your group. The most common flashpoint is those times when members of each team are passing or approaching one another because a greater focus is often given to pace and not necessarily one’s opponent. Consider relating this theme of safety to other areas of your group’s life, such as driving a car, sport and other recreational activities.
Most Wins: Continue play for 2 or 3 minutes inviting each team to record as many wins as possible in that time. As soon as a result has been declared, any one or both of the teams are responsible for clearing the hatch and returning all of the coloured items to the starting position.
Strategic Positioning: Each team takes turns to lay their mark inside the hatch, meaning there is only ever one person on the other side of the designated line at any point in time. The game takes longer, but each team has more time to consider their strategy.
Connect Four: Similar to the classic commercial game of Connect Four, create a large multi-squared area (eg 6 rows x 6 columns) and equip each team with many more coloured items. The first team to lay four items in a row – in any direction – anywhere on the area wins.
Rapid Steal: Take a look at Robbing The Nest to enjoy another fast-paced, competitive team event.
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Useful Framing Ideas
You thought you knew everything you needed to know about Tic-Tac-Toe, or Noughts and Crosses, right? Well, maybe until now…
One of the most enduring children’s games of all time is the classic game of Noughts and Crosses. This game has captured the attention of pretty much everyone of us at some point in our lives, and many of us still love playing it when we have a spare moment or two. But, it’s highly unlikely you ever lost your breath playing it, right….?
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 fast-paced, competitive game:
What are your first memories of learning or playing Tic Tac Toe?
Do you have any winning strategies?
What challenges did you encounter? Did you overcome them? How?
How might life reflect a game of Tic Tac Toe?
The inspiration for this energetic version of Tic Tac Toe was sourced from a video shared on the Voxer channel belonging to the Aussie PhysEd network – an online portal attracting enthusiastic physical educators from all over Australia, who freely contribute ideas and assistance to one another.