Assemble your group within hearing range of one another.
Group aims to count from one to twenty, with three conditions:
– Each person is entitled to only call one number at a time;
– Any time two or more people call out a number at the same time, the count returns to zero; and
– No pattern, sequence or directions may be given to indicate whose turn is next.
Start by calling “ONE” yourself, inviting your group to respond.
Allow many attempts over the course of 1 to 2 minutes, or until interest begins to wane.
Very relaxed. As long as you can hear me and perhaps other people who may contribute, here is your task as a group while we’re sitting on the ground.
I am going to ask you now to count to twenty. Someone will start with a one then someone quite randomly will be taken to say two and someone else will say three, and we keep on going until we get all the way through to twenty.
The keys are, one, when you say a number you must commit. You actually give a really good solid number like (yells) “FIVE” for example. Not a (softly) “five” doesn’t work quite so well.
So really commit to the number. Our object is to go number by number all the way up to twenty, but most importantly at any point two or more people should speak we have to go back to zero.
We’ll have several rounds, and importantly it’s got to be completely random. No one can indicate like (whispers) “sppt it’s your turn,” it just happens.
So you can’t say two numbers in a row, and whoever would like to start. Maybe I will give you a start.
(Two people say three)
Ooh our record is three. Start again.
(Two people say three)
Ooh good. Remember to commit and make it real loud.
(groups continues to play Count Off)
How To Play Narrative
Invite your group to get comfortable wherever they are (on the ground, in seats, etc,) and explain that you would like them to count to twenty, starting from one.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But, of course, there’s a catch. Actually, there are three catches…
In an effort to count from one to twenty, explain that each person is only entitled to call out one number at a time, ie they can’t call out two numbers in succession, but they can call another number later.
Also, critically, any time two or more people call out a number at the same time, as if by osmosis, the count goes back to zero.
Having grasped these two parameters, further explain that the group is not permitted to establish a pattern, nor is anyone allowed to indicate/gesture /motion to another that they should call the next number. The sequence of calls is purely determined by chance. That’s what makes this game so contagiously fun.
Kick off proceedings by calling “ONE” yourself, inviting your group to respond. Allow many attempts over the course of a minute or two, or until interest begins to wane.
The glee that strikes a group when two (or more) people speak at the same time after a long silence is what the game is all about. Within a few minutes, you group may not have reached twenty, but some spontaneous fun was had, and you successfully filled in a few moments.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you happen to observe that one or more people are beginning to establish a pattern of sorts, spoil their fun by calling a number somewhere in the middle of their sequence.
While you could present this activity as an initiative, there’s not much to be gained by insisting that your group completes the task. Groups rarely get to 20 quickly, and besides, the whole point of the exercise is to have fun, fill in time or both.
If it works for you, allow people to lie down or lounge or arrange themselves however they choose, so long as they can hear everyone clearly to participate. Many group activities often require compliance to some sort of group structure (eg a circle) in order for its members to participate, so it’s refreshing to be casual for a change.
You could integrate Count Off as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships in your group.
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
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of working together to solve a problem and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play Count Off speaks to the benefits of being mindful insofar as it requires each person to focus on one thing at a time. There could also be a lot to learn from a conversation that focuses on the benefits of managing one’s impulses in the context of accountability and its impact on the group’s objectives.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Count Off could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Blind Participation: Ask your group to close their eyes as they count off during the activity.
Wait Your Turn: Each person is entitled to call one number only towards the count off of 20. If you have less than 20 people in your group, allow two calls per person.
Alternate Lists: Choose any list to recite, such as the alphabet, chemical tables, months of the year, and numbers of seven (eg 7, 14, 17, 21, 27, 28, etc.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
If possible, ask your group to switch to ‘gallery view’ so that they can see as many smaller video screens of their group members. Then, start by calling “ONE” and play as per normal as if everyone was sharing the same space. Note, owing to the lag that sometimes besets online communication, you may not enjoy a perfect real-time sequence of numbers being called out by your group. If this is an issue, consider this next option.
Set-up the exercise and ask individuals to type the next number into the chat room facility. Provided no two numbers are typed (appear) in a sequence, the count may continue. Because each number can be viewed, it is very easy to know when the same number is “called” at the same time.
Ensuring that all members of your group can be viewed in ‘gallery view,’ explain that every number will be announced using the visual cue of extended fingers on one’s hand(s.) Naturally, one random person starts by placing one extended finger in front of their camera. If they are the only one, the game continues waiting for a new person to extended two fingers on the screen, etc. Note, this variation works well provided no one in your group experiences a significant video streaming lag.
For very large groups, consider dividing into smaller groups of 10 to 20 people per breakout room.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever noticed that after a prolonged silence, two or more people in a group simultaneously decide to speak up, and end up talking over each other? It’s as if they were all wired together and when the button was pushed, they all spoke at the same time. This next exercise celebrates this rather common, human experience…
Next time you’re in a group situation, observe the way the group often unconsciously knows who is next to speak up. Notice that somehow mysteriously, attention will naturally focus on another person in the group, before they have said anything, but often because the rest of the group believes they have something to say. If you haven’t noticed this rather strange phenomenon before, heighten your awareness of it during 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, energising group game:
How did you feel as the count off got closer to 20?
Do you think this task is possible? Why or why not?
What signs do you look for to know that someone is about to speak?
How easy was it to control your urge to call a number? What stopped you?
What does this exercise remind you of in ‘real-life?’
The inspiration for Count Off, and many more fun, energising group games, was sourced from the following publication: