Start by standing in front of your group, with your arms by your sides.
Announce that you are going to count to six as you move your arms in a particular pattern.
Instruct your group to observe your various movements with a view to copying them shortly.
Starting with your right arm, move it up (above your head) and down to your side three times quickly as you count “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX.”
Invite your group to practice this several times.
Switch focus to your left arm.
Start by moving your arm up (on “ONE”) then pointing to your left (for “TWO”) and then back down to your side (“THREE”) and repeat these moves as you continue the count of “FOUR, FIVE, SIX.”
Practice these moves with a consistent beat a few times.
Finally, instruct your group to combine both arm patterns at the same time, as they count to six.
Allow up to 10 minutes to practice this highly refined skill many times until they get it.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those awfully simple exercises to watch and enjoy, and yet so painfully difficult to accomplish when you first do it yourself. I do believe that with practice, you get better, so maybe I just haven’t practiced enough yet.
Start by standing in front of your group, with your two arms by your sides, palms flat against your thighs if so wish.
Announce that you are going to count to six and move your arms in a specific pattern for each and every number you call in sequence.
If you wish, instruct your group to follow along with your moves, or first demonstrate them and then invite your group to imitate your moves.
Starting with your right arm, raise it directly to the sky (above your head) as you say “ONE.” Then, drop your hand down to your side again and say “TWO.” Up again for “THREE” down for “FOUR” up for “FIVE” and finish with “SIX” as your hand rests by your side again.
In essence, you are moving your arm up and down three times on the count of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Demonstrate this pattern as often as required and encourage your group to practice it a few times.
Okay, pretty simple, right? It is, but wait, there’s more.
Instruct your group to now focus on your left arm. Again, announce that you are going to count to six, but this time, your arm will follow a different set of movements as you audibly call the numbers.
For the call of “ONE” you raise your left arm high in the air above your head, just as you did with your right hand (but it’s from this point everything changes.) Then, for “TWO” you extend your left arm perpendicular to your body so that it points directly to your left.
Next, you call “THREE” and bring your left arm back down to your (left-hand) side. And then repeat this triangular pattern by announcing “FOUR, FIVE, SIX.” In short, up, out, down, up, out and down.
Again, practice this pattern of six moves a few times aiming to keep a consistent beat. And then bring it home. Do both arms simultaneously as you count to six. Oooooweeeee.
As a quick check, this is where your two arms should be for each number (left arm/right arm:)
“ONE” – up / up
“TWO” – point left / down
“THREE” – down / up
“FOUR” – up / down
“FIVE” – point left / up
“SIX” – down / down
Got it? I doubt it. This takes a lot more patience, perseverance and focus to get.
My advice – start very, very slowly. The combination of both patterns will mess with people’s heads and make them laugh, guaranteed.
Practical Leadership Tips
Expect that some people will check out of this exercise very quickly because they will convince themselves that they cannot do it. With careful framing, you should expect most people to give this a go for a few minutes.
It really helps if you practice this stunt a LOT before you first present it. If you can make it look easy in the beginning, it will go a long way to encouraging your group to give it a go, and only then discover how difficult it is.
As discussed in the tabs below, there are ample opportunities to connect this silly little exercise to the benefits of patience, focus and goal-setting.
You could integrate Count To Six as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviours in different situations while achieving goals.
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 play and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully count to six with all of the correct moves speaks to the benefits of practice and focus. You could even connect these attributes to the benefits of building one’s resilience (patience) and being mindful.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Count To Six could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Swap Arms: Once you have established a baseline of success above, swap the patterns for each arm. Good luck with that!
Time Trials: Conduct a series of rounds in which small groups of individuals attempt to maintain the beat of the count and keep counting for as long as possible. That is when an individual calls “SIX” they start again and keep going until they make a mistake.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Ask your group to stand back a little from their screens to help you and the rest of your group see as much of the action as possible.
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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 crazy stunt:
When you first observed the pattern, what did you think?
In what ways did this activity challenge you?
Did you think about giving up? Did you and why?
What strategies did you employ (if any) to help you accomplish the correct sequence of moves?
Did practice make a difference?
Where else could we benefit from practice in our lives?
The inspiration for Count To Six was sourced from John ‘Jorgy’ Jorgenson from Camp Tawingo who first demonstrated this exercise to me at an international camping conference in 2017.