Announce that anyone is invited to stand whenever he or she wants to.
A person cannot remain standing for longer than five seconds before they must sit down again.
Challenge your group to have exactly four people standing at any point in time for as long as possible.
Play several rounds to record the longest time.
How To Play Narrative
Start with your group seated on the floor, or perhaps on chairs. You don’t need a circle, but it’s useful if everyone can see each other fairly well.
Explain to your group that anyone is invited to stand up whenever he or she wants to, but they cannot remain standing for longer than five seconds before they must sit down again. To this end, standing for only a split-second is totally okay.
But, here’s the kicker. The group’s goal is to have exactly four people standing at any point in time for as long as possible. Shoot for sixty seconds if you can, it’s tough.
And, that’s it.
A good game of Four Up normally lasts a couple of minutes, involving several rounds – but what pandemonium and laughter are generated in that time! Truly ridiculous fun.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you have a large group, you may be tempted to invite five, six or more people to be standing at the same time. However, in my experience, many more than five people can be difficult for people to count and keep a track of. See the Variations tab for a better idea.
Observe the popular halfway-up position which is neither sitting or standing. Encourage swift, committed moves one way or the other.
You could make this exercise into a serious problem-solving activity. It has all the elements of a good problem to solve – limitations, strategy, risk, collaboration, etc – but, in my experience, it is best used to produce two or three minutes of raucous fun. All this means is that your goal is key.
Ideally, Four Up works best if the group does not produce a pattern or some sort of system to indicate who and when certain members of the group need to jump up. However, if coming up with such a scheme reflects well on your group, applaud their creativity.
You could integrate Four Up 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 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
This activity is focused on a cooperative group effort so it is ideally suited for any programs that are looking to explore and develop positive behavioural norms. There will be ample opportunities to focus on topics such as cooperation, leadership, navigating social cues, responsible decision-making, empathy and compassion and understanding other’s perspectives. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, consider inviting your group to reflect on the following questions to help them build their social and interpersonal skills:
Describe a time that your group made a good/responsible decision?
Was there a decision the group made that concerned you? Why?
What goal did your group set for this exercise?
Can you think of a time when empathy or compassion was expressed during the experience?
In what ways did leadership – good or bad – show up in this exercise?
Can you give an example of when you or the group sought to understand someone’s perspective?
Introduced as a group initiative, this activity is tough for most groups to achieve success. Expect that within one or two minutes, there will be some in your group that will start to get frustrated at the level of difficulty. Frame this experience accordingly and encourage each person to be patient with the process. Discuss strategies for building resilience and ask those who can regulate their emotions what they do to remain focused and calm.
Hands-Up: Invite people to shoot a single hand (arm) into the air and down again. This version is less active than its stand-up-sit-down cousin and equally as challenging.
Success Range: Allow any four, five or six members of the group to be standing at any point in time. At first glance, this may seem a simpler task, but not always.
Multiple Groups: For larger groups, break into several sub-groups of about eight to ten people, and play several games simultaneously.
Take a look at Count Off for another fun, group problem-solving activity that involves randomness.
Ask your group to switch on their webcams and view the gallery of video thumbnails of the whole group. It is probably simpler to ask your group not to stand up/down and just place their hands on their head, raise their hands in the air or cross their arms on their chest to become one of the four people.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever noticed those moments in group situations when two or more people happen to do the same thing at the same time, like say something, or move a particular way? This next exercise is all about this interesting phenomenon…
Do you know the arcade game that you often see in amusement parks called Whac-A-Mole in which you use a hammer to smash a variety of objects that randomly pop up and down from a panel? I love that game. Often, four or more of the objects pop up at the same time, so you have to be really quick to get them before they pop down. Now, there’s no hammer involved in this next activity, but there will be a lot of popping up and down…
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, team-based game:
Was this group activity fun? Why or why not?
What did it take to be successful at this game?
Was there a turning point in the exercise? Exactly when and why?
What do you think was the purpose of this game?
The inspiration for Four Up, and many more fun, team-building problem-solving activities, was sourced from the following publication: