Form into small teams of approx four to eight people.
Distribute one set of 52 Card Pick-Up cards, placed face-down, in front of each team.
On “GO” each team member flips a card, and performs the task as described on the card to the best of their ability, and then picks up another card.
An individual may not show or tell others what is on their card.
If an individual picks up a card they would prefer not to do, they may place it back in the pile.
The first team to successfully complete all 52 tasks wins.
Video Transcript for 52 Card Pick-Up presented by Mark Collard
So for this next exercise I need relatively even teams. So would you, particularly the summer group, would one or more of you move to a group maybe over here in the autumn?
They need a few more people. So one or two people over here. You’ve got four. You’ve got five. You’ve got six. Can I have one of you guys come and join this group here?
Would you like to go to different corners of the room now and have a seat? Form a circle so that you can all see each other. Same thing for you guys. Don’t touch the cards just yet.
Here is the objective folks, you all have the same activity. I have just divided you into four groups. We are about to trigger an explosion of energy, and it is all related to the cards that are sitting in front of you.
Here is what I invite you to do, is that for each of your groups there is a series of 52 cards. If you have ever played the game 52 card pick-up, it is that game, but it is not.
I invite you as a group to pick up the 52 cards that are in front of you one card at a time related to the card that is on top. You pick that one up first and then the second one and so on.
One person will pick up a card and they will read it. It will have an instruction on it for you. Your objective is to complete that task. Sometimes the task will be completed in five seconds, sometimes it may take a couple of minutes.
You all have the identical tasks they just happen to be in a different order in which you may find them. So when you pick up a card read it, and then you follow the instruction as successfully as you can.
When it is complete, and when I say that it’s actually done. You have actually done what it’s asked you to do put the card face up so it’s clear it is in a different pile, and then you go and get another card.
So in the beginning, for example, each of your groups will pick up five cards. You’ll all have a different one. You complete that task and then you put the card down when it’s complete.
If you happen to pick up a card and it asks you to do something that you either don’t understand or choose not to do, put the card back in the pile. Not necessarily on top just somewhere back in the pile. Someone else may pick up that card and be willing to do it.
There has never been a group where all the cards could not be picked up.
So, to repeat when I say go, because that works pretty well to start a game, I’d like you all to pick up a card. Complete the instruction as best as you can. Do not put it down until you have completed it. When you have completed it put it back down face up. Pick up another card. Keep going until all 52 cards have been picked up.
Got the idea?
(Do you have to read it out loud)
In fact, one more thing just before you go. You do not need to read it out because they are all doing their own things. Importantly, no one will ever see your card and you can’t read your card to anyone else. So part of the process of actually completing the task is, you cannot show your card to somebody else, but you will be able to complete your task.
Got the idea? Don’t think too hard about it. It’s as simple as picking up the card and following the instruction. Go!
I noticed that the rule if you pick up something that you don’t feel comfortable with, just put it aside. Even at the end of the day if everything is done, it doesn’t matter. So the point here is about developing energy, having good fun, interacting, and stuff like that.
And you can easily occupy 500 people with enough sets of cards to make that work. You just need a little bit more equipment I suppose.
How To Play Narrative
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, highly energetic and hilarious activity that will occupy everyone at the same time, you’ve come to the right place.
Divide your group into small ‘teams’ of approx four to eight people. Take a look at Getting Into Teams for some ideas.
As each team will need a set of the 52 Card Pick-Up cards (download a sample set from the Resources tab), the number of groups you create will depend on how many sets you have produced (the more the merrier.)
Ask each team to place the cards face-down on a table or the floor, within easy reach of every team member.
Explain that each team’s goal is to ‘pick-up’ all 52 cards, one card per person at a time, and perform the task as described on the card to the best of their ability.
An individual may only pick up one card at a time, and under no circumstances can they show or tell others what is written on the card (it’s a secret.) Only when they have completed their task successfully, may they pick up the next card on top of the pile.
Naturally, within each team, there will be many tasks in play at any point in time. However, explain that if someone reads a task that they do not understand, or would prefer not to complete, then they are permitted to add it back into the pile (hoping that someone else on their team will complete it.)
Your group will quickly discover that this is no ordinary series of tasks. Within moments of saying “GO,” all manner of action and noise will burst from the teams. Your only task now is to supervise the energy and answer any questions that may come your way (which is rare) – not to mention, be seconded to partake in some of the tasks.
Diligently working their way through the pile of cards, the first team to perform all 52 tasks wins.
Practical Leadership Tips
While it’s not important, suggest that all completed task cards are placed face-up in a separate pile, close to the face-down pile.
As one or more teams always seem to lag well behind the others, invite those that finish early to fill the time by flipping back through their cards and re-live some of the more memorable tasks with their fellow team members (who were too busy to notice.)
If possible, avoid teams of nine or more people, because not only will the activity conclude very quickly, but each person may only get to complete six or seven tasks.
Given the nature of some of the tasks, consider your sequence to ensure your group is both physically and mentally prepared. To this end, review every card in advance to ensure that most if not all of the tasks are appropriate for your group.
This is a great activity for introducing challenge by choice, comfort zones, risk taking, taking initiative, developing one’s voice and more. Be clear about why you might use it and process as appropriate.
Consider opening your program with this exercise, with a view to processing the group’s experience in regards observations about adventure, risk, having fun, self-consciousness, and challenge.
You could integrate 52 Card Pick-Up into a well-designed SEL program to focus on what it takes to manage and accommodate the varying emotions, thoughts and behaviours of group members in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
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 social engagement and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that one’s willingness to engage with the various (unknown) tasks speaks to the exercise of emotional intelligence, initiative and leadership. You could also explore the concept of accountability given that so much of the activity is not monitored by the group as a whole.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which 52 Card Pick-Up could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Time Challenge: Challenge your group to complete all 52 tasks in the quickest time possible.
Individual Challenge: Invite each person to keep each card when they complete the task. Challenge individuals to ‘collect’ as many cards as possible.
Penalty Cards: If you adopt the ‘collect’ version above, consider adding a series of cards which (a) require a person to return the card to the pile when finished, and/or (b) return half of their pile, or (c) all of their cards.
DIY: Create your own set of zany tasks to describe on the cards. Better still, ask your group to come up with some ideas.
Physical Movements: Distribute a pack of We! Connect Cards on the floor. Each card represents one of ten different kinds of physical actions which must be performed before another card can be turned over.
Do you remember your father or big sister or some other person you looked up to when you were young asking you to play a game called ’52 Card Pick-Up’ with them? In case your memory fails you, it was the activity that started with this person tossing a full deck of cards into the air, and then saying “Okay, the game has started, pick up all of the cards!” That is not what’s about to happen here…
As we move further into the program, keep in mind that your choice will impact your experience and the experience of others. Be aware of this as you participate in this next activity…
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 game:
What did you observe during the exercise?
What was the most interesting/bizarre/awkward task you chose to perform?
Describe a time in this game when you found it difficult to complete your task? Why?
Did you return a card to the pile you didn’t like? Why?
Was there a time your efforts were thwarted or impacted by those of another person?
What did you say to yourself when these events occurred?
What sorts of social impacts are we focused on here? How might these mirror behaviours in the real world?
How might this activity reflect certain elements of the program we are about to experience?
Large Group ‘Community-Building Games’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 60 mins, index cards, pen, multiple ’52 Card Pick-Up’ sets (Print+Play)
PDQ Test – zany audience-style activity that will generate bursts of laughter