In advance, complete these tasks 12 to 15 times: write a zany group activity (click here for samples) on a small piece of paper, place it inside an envelope and write the answer to a question on the front.
Complete the above task for each small group you form.
Form small teams of 4 to 10 people sitting in a circle with the sealed envelopes fanned out in the middle.
Announce that you will soon ask a series of questions.
Instruct each team to open the envelope which has the correct answer written on it.
Award points for the first team to accomplish the task (written on the paper inside the envelope) or to the highest quality result.
Continue to ask all of your questions until all of the envelopes have been opened.
Acknowledge the team with the most points as the winner.
How To Play Narrative
Warning, this outrageously fun group activity takes some time to prepare, but it’s worth every minute.
In advance, you have three primary tasks to complete:
Develop a list of 15 to 20 questions, with answers;
Write these answers onto the front of an envelope, one set of envelopes for each team; and
Develop a list of zany activities (one for every question) for your teams to accomplish.
To get you started and stir your creative juices, click this link to view dozens of activity and tasks ideas. Here are three examples to illustrate:
Shake the hands of at least three people in another group.
Pick a partner in your group and waltz with them for 15 seconds.
Inflate a balloon and have everyone in your group touch the balloon, without touching anyone else in the group.
As for your questions, they can be as relevant or trivial as you want them to be. Looking back, I have asked everything from silly questions pertinent to the group I was working with to a set of mathematical equations.
The key is that your list of questions will produce an equal number of unique answers. That is, no two questions could be linked to the same answer.
Now, armed with your equal number of questions, answers and zany activities, you are ready to prepare your envelopes.
Your goal is to create a set of envelopes for every group that is identical, ie each envelope labelled with a particular answer will have the identical activity written on a small piece of paper inside of it. I admit, this is a tedious (and time-consuming) task but very important to get right.
As a quick check, if you have 12 teams and you plan to ask 10 questions, you will need to prepare 12 teams x 10 envelopes = 120 envelopes.
Once done, seal all of the envelopes to prevent sneaky preparedness.
Finally, to the play.
Separate your groups into small teams (of 4 to 10 people) and spread them randomly throughout your playing space. Ask the team members to sit in a circle and in the middle, fan out their set of envelopes with answers facing up.
Next, announce that you will soon ask a series of questions.
Instruct each team that their goal is to identify the correct answer (from those printed on the envelopes) and perform the activity listed inside the envelope.
Often, the measure of success is to identify the first team to complete the task, but sometimes, it’s a matter of judging the highest quality of performance.
Because no one knows the questions (or activities) in advance, everyone has to be prepared for anything.
If you have 15 questions, each team will eventually open all 15 envelopes and perform a variety of quick and fun activities to earn points along the way.
All going well, each team will open the correct envelope at the same time and perform the same task.
I tend to award nominal points to the team that ‘wins’ each round, accumulating team scores at the end. But it’s not about the points, is it?
Practical Leadership Tips
To prevent sneaky peeking, fold the paper (which has the activity written on it) several times and place it inside a thick envelope so that if it is held up to bright light, you can not see what is written on the paper inside.
In regards to awarding points, rarely can I tell which team actually wins a particular round. And that’s okay. For the most part, this game is all about enjoying a serious bout of spontaneous fun.
Don’t forget to check out this link to equip yourself with dozens of ready-made zany small group activities.
Clearly, if a group opens the incorrect envelope to reveal the wrong activity, they will benefit from a little advance knowledge of a forthcoming round. In these cases, you can either let it fly, or be more callous and eliminate them from participating in that subsequent round.
Note, you need to know in advance what activity will occur as a result of each question to prepare accordingly. For example, if points are awarded for pace, you need to be ready to watch the action. Or, if a certain prop or person is required to be involved, be sure they are prepared in advance.
Times Table: Ask a series of multiplications with the answers written on the envelopes.
Testing Testing: Use the format of Be Prepared to test your group’s knowledge about any particular topic, eg capital cities whereby you provide a sequence of clues in your question.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, produce a list of answers and matching activities (suitable for one person or small groups.) Form small teams of 2 to 5 people in separate breakout rooms and share the list with them all (yes, the teams will know the activities but will not know the order in which they need to be performed.) Starting in the large group, pose your question and immediately send all participants to their respective breakout rooms. As soon as a small team has completed their task, they click the button to return to the large room to share their answer. The quickest or best quality response wins that round. Continue until all rounds are complete.
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Useful Framing Ideas
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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 outrageously fun large group game:
What does it feel like to not know what’s about happen?
On a scale of anxious to excited, how did you feel? Did this change as the activity progressed?
In what ways can you prepare for unexpected events?
What are some examples of unexpected events in your life? How did you react? Did you feel prepared?
The inspiration for Be Prepared was sourced from one or more youth group leaders many, many years ago when I was a young person. I absolutely loved playing it, and have carried it with me ever since.