So we’re now going to take those highly refined skills of walking and stopping again in the same space that we’ve been working with, but let’s just recap what you’ve already known.
So I’m going to now return to having the responsibility to saying STOP and WALK. So for your purposes it can remain silent other than for the sounds in the air and the rustling of leaves under your feet. So it’s walk, and stop, walk, and stop. And again you’re going to continue to freeze.
(people walking as part of Walk & Stop)
(people stop walking, and so on…)
Okay. Now while you are still stopped, let’s ramp up the value of this exercise. I’m now going to swap those commands. When you hear me say WALK I want you to stop, freeze. And when I say STOP I want you to walk. Remembering when you’re walking you’re not touching anyone, you’re not saying anything to anyone. So they are now exactly the opposite.
(people walking as part of Walk & Stop)
(people stopping, and so on…)
Alright, let’s add some more to this. I’m now going to give you two more commands. In addition to WALK and STOP as you now know them, I’m going to ask you to respond to two new commands.
One is NAME. When I say NAME you just simply call out your own name. That works much better. Does anyone need time to practise? And the other command, the fourth command is CLAP. The key to CLAP is that it sounds like just one person clapping. So synchronicity is like everyone clapping at the same time.
So the new commands are NAME, you call out your name, and when I say CLAP it sounds like one giant clap. Of course we continue to stop and walk as you now understand them to be. Let’s just practise that for a second.
(people calling out their names as as they play Walk & Stop)
(people clapping, and so on…)
So if you were able to do any one of the commands while another command is being performed, please do that.
(people following the commands)
Alright, are you ready for more? Swap those last two commands around. So when I say NAME we’re going to hear a giant clap. And when I say CLAP we’re going to hear you all say your own names out loudly. STOP and WALK continue as you already know. Got the basics. Are you ready? You’re lying if you said yes.
(people calling out their names)
(people stopping as part of playing Walk & Stop)
(people walking, and so on…)
Jump… So now we’re introducing a new set, final two commands. When I say JUMP it is as you say I invite you to jump. And then if I ask you to DANCE I want you to boogie on the spot. So you now have two new commands, the fifth and sixth command. It is now JUMP and DANCE in addition to what you already know about WALK and STOP, NAME and CLAP. Let’s just practise that for a moment.
So, Jump. Jump.
Boogie, or dance. Dance.
(people dancing, and so on…)
Alright, the final version folks to bring it all home. You can guess what’s about to happen. When I say JUMP I want you to boogie or dance. When I say DANCE I want you to jump.
How To Play Narrative
As soon as I saw this activity, I knew it was going to become a quick favourite.
First, locate a large open space in which you can ask your group to spread themselves.
Then, explain that you will issue a series of commands that will require the group to move or stop as quickly as possible. That is, when you say “WALK” you would like everyone to start walking, and when you say “STOP” you need everyone to immediately stop.
Practice this highly developed set of skills for 20 to 30 seconds.
Already, you can expect a lot of laughter, because, on many occasions, some members of your group will move or not move at the wrong time. And this is good.
Now, it gets interesting.
When ready, pause the action and explain that you would now like to swap the meaning of each of the two commands. For example, when you say “STOP” you want the group to walk. And, when you say “WALK” you want your group to stop.
I can hear the groans from here.
There’s nothing that can prepare for this moment, you just have to dive into it. Once again, you can expect lots of laughter and creeping amounts of frustration as some people get physically and audibly agitated when they make a mistake.
Ordinarily, I suggest that people simply tally the number of times they make a mistake. You could, of course, eliminate these people, which is a useful variation. But I prefer to keep everyone playing because this option keeps the energy higher.
Depending on the abilities of your group, you may now choose to issue your next challenge – two new commands:
“NAME” you want everyone to call out their name loudly; and
“CLAP” you want everyone to clap once simultaneously so that it sounds like one loud clap.
So, to summarise – the group is still walking when you say “STOP” and stopping when you say “WALK” and now, will need to call out their own name when you say “NAME” and clap together when you say “CLAP.”
Got it? But wait, there’s more…
After 30 or more seconds of responding to these four commands, you ramp up the challenge once more.
Yep, you guessed it. Explain that when you say “NAME” you want the group to perform one simultaneous clap, and when you say “CLAP” you want everyone to call out their (own) name.
Phew. This is easy to say or to read off the screen, but very difficult to respond to quickly and accurately – which is the whole point.
Once again, encourage your group to keep a count of how many times they may make a mistake.
As an energiser, Walk & Stop is guaranteed to do just that.
However, like many activities featured within this activity database, there are many more teachable moments that can be squeezed from this experience (take a look at the Reflection Tips tab for some starting points.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Don’t dwell too long on any one round. This is a very difficult, and mentally challenging exercise. Consider your purpose before diving into it. If it’s to have fun, a series of 20-30 second rounds will certainly inspire a lot of laughter and good energy. If you’re treating this more like a group initiative, then fewer but longer rounds may suffice.
As I said, expect frustration. Unless this is your purpose, to explore how individuals or the group as a whole manage these feelings, you are best to encourage your group to keep trying and keep focused.
In my experience, the larger the group the better. Naturally, you could do this with a small group, but generally small groups lack that certain level of contagion to make this activity super-fun.
Walk & Stop can be as powerful as a teaching tool as it is fun. With careful consideration, you can engage your group with the fun built into the exercise, and later discuss many pertinent issues such as integrity, quality control, self-control, language, comprehension, culture, etc. Check the Social-Emotional Learning and Health & Wellness Programming tabs for ideas.
You could integrate Walk & Stop 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:
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
Most groups will quickly discover how difficult it is to be successful as more and more revisions are made to the commands. There is no doubt that frustration will creep in quickly for some members of your group who consistently fail to respond accurately or in a timely manner. To this end, Walk & Stop is an excellent vehicle to not only discuss what it takes to build resilience but could also be used to develop this critical emotional competency. For example, invite some members of your group who appear to have adapted quickly to share what strategies they are using to be successful. Ask questions such as:
What did they do to not get distracted?
How did they rewire their brain so quickly?
What did you say to yourself when you ‘failed?’
What were some of your greatest distractors?
How did you commit to continue to be focused on your goal?
Check the Variations tab to learn one of my favourite versions of this exercise that focuses on one’s accountability, ie ask people to be accountable (to themselves, if not to others) whenever they make a mistake. You will note that few people will do this willingly in the beginning, but over time, more and more will become comfortable with this level of responsibility. The connection this framing makes to other powerful elements of group dynamics and the development of healthy relationships are many.
For example, you could invite your group to explore the impact of accountability and responsibility on individual and group wellbeing. You could also ask questions such as How does accountability relate to success? and How can our group cultivate this competency as part of its full valuebehavioural norms?
Other personal competencies such as adaptability and leadership can clearly be called upon in this activity, too.
Walk & Stop Plus: Add two more commands – “JUMP” which means everyone must jump on the spot, and “DANCE” which invites everyone to dance a little boogie for a few seconds. Then, of course, swap their meanings. Utter chaos, but oh so much fun.
Be Accountable: To squeeze extra value out of this exercise, invite each person when they make an error, to place their hand high in the air for a few seconds to acknowledge that they did not respond as accurately or timely as they would have liked. The parallels to success and healthy relationships should be obvious.
Musical Moves: Replace your verbal commands with a variety of distinct musical sounds, eg car horn, drum beat, flute, etc. Thus, when your group hears a particular sound, they react accordingly.
Jump Where? Take a look at Jump In Jump Out to enjoy another equally challenging mental energiser.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
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
Language is inextricably woven into one’s culture, it can be very difficult to separate the two. For example, a word or phrase in one culture may mean something completely different to another. From within one’s own culture this can often be a very difficult exercise to understand. That said, let’s give it a try…
Have you said something and have someone else interpret what you said in a totally different way? It’s almost as if you said ‘Stop’ and they heard you say ‘Go…’
There has been a lot of research about how the brain works in the past decade or so. We now understand that it is possible to change our brain because of neuroplasticity. Yet as powerful as our brain is, it still takes a lot of work to retrain our brain. This next exercise will help us understand how difficult it is to re-wire our brains…
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 dynamic energising game:
When the first switch of the commands occurred, what did you experience?
How did you react when you made an error?
How did others react, and what did you make this mean?
What strategies did you employ to respond as quickly and accurately as possible?
In what other areas of your life do you need to respond quickly and/or accurately?