Feel free now to change position in which you’re seated. Your butt will still be on be on the ground perhaps, but if you’re comfortable I think it’s called like indian style. Whatever you need to do, it’s just so that your knees are accessible. So if this is comfortable feel free, otherwise this works well. Doesn’t really matter, but perhaps something like this.
Does anyone… Just first of all put your hands out like this with your palms facing down. And has anybody been part of a seance before?
You have? We’re not going to have a seance.
But now move your own hands apart so that they cross the arms of the people left and right of you. So you come on in there.
Now take your own hands and place it onto the knees of the people right next to you. Just their knees. Alright, okay. Adjust your position accordingly. There you go, beautiful.
Alright your hands should be on their knees. Beautiful, excellent! Here’s what’s going to happen…
(Knees, knees, knees.)
Just knees. Focusing on Steve’s right hand on my left knee we are going to create a series of impulses, and I’d like you to just practice the impulse of tapping. It doesn’t mean this looking at my right hand. It looks like that, but not GRRRR, not a slap. So it’s just a simple tap.
Just practice that tap for a second. Alright, beautiful, okay stop.
So Steve starting with your right hand on my left knee we’re going to create an impulse of taps going this direction in accordance of knees not hands. So this one gets tapped then this one, then that one, then that one, then that one, then that one, and away we go in sequence.
So when you’re ready Steve, Go!
(Group starts tapping the knees in order of Knee Impulse)
Keep it going.
(Group continues tapping around the circle as part of Knee Impulse)
Alright, good job. Try it again keeping it in sequence. See if we could just pick up the pace, but keep the sequence.
(Group starts tapping the knees in order.)
Oh, good start folks.
That’s the A Team. We’re now going to do the B Team going the other direction. This time starting with this hand on my right knee going this direction. Okay, you good to go? When you’re ready.
(Group starts tapping the knees in order.)
So it’s exactly the opposite now starting with Helen. Where’s it up to? If you’re not sure just start again.
(Group continues tapping the knees in order as part of Knee Impulse)
Okay now I’m not quite sure which one was quicker. There’s only one way to find out. This time both of them are starting at the same time. A direction, B direction, cross in the middle, come back. Whichever one returns first.
Moral of the story never sit right in front of the facilitator. But it will need to cross. So be aware they’re coming from both directions. Don’t concern yourself with just one, there will be two.
Alright, so it’s going to be on the GO we are starting here and it zips around and comes back. See who comes back first. You ready? And go!
(Each side starts tapping the knees in order.)
Oh, it’s gone through. Alright which way is it coming? I’ve got to look both ways now.
Oh! Clearly more knees going around the B direction. Alright it took a little longer. Well done.
How To Play Narrative
Form a circle in a way that brings everyone’s legs right up next to their neighbours. They can be seated in chairs or sitting cross-legged on the floor, so long as their legs (and knees) are visible.
To begin, ask your group to extend their arms out in front of themselves with their palms facing down. Then instruct them to take their left palm and place it gently onto the right knee of their left-side neighbour, and place their right palm onto the left knee of their right-side neighbour.
Each person should have the palms of their left- and right-side neighbours resting on their knees. Did you get that? There should be a tapestry of crossed arms as you look around the circle.
Now, starting with your own left hand, gently tap the knee on which it rests. This triggers an impulse, which is passed to the left causing the very next hand in sequence (of knees) to tap, and then the next, and the next, and so on.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
The ‘impulse’ is created by tapping the knees in sequence, not your hands. For example, there should be two taps (the hands of your left- and right-side neighbours tapping your knees) between a tap of your right hand and that of your left hand.
Send the impulse around the circle a few times, and then change directions.
Encourage your group to pass the impulse of taps as quickly as possible around the circle. Time how long one rotation takes if you feel so inclined.
Practical Leadership Tips
Notice the deliberate use of the word “TAP” and not “SLAP” in this exercise. A subtlety that makes all the difference between getting hurt and building trust in one another.
You can do this activity standing up. However, while this set-up is possible, I find that after about two minutes my back starts to get tired leaning over my knees, and I’m not the only one.
On occasions, I like to use a stopwatch to time how long it takes for an impulse to travel all the way around the circle. I nominate the clockwise direction as the A Team, and counter-clockwise as the B Team, as if there is some form of competition.
Clearly, consider the appropriateness of this exercise for your groups needs and abilities. Touching someone’s knees is a sensitive subject, and like all trust, must be managed with care.
You could integrate Knee Impulse as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
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 engaging in an activity that involves safe levels of touch and enjoying a good laugh.
That said, you could argue that the focus required to interact and engage physically with others (through touch) in this game may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Gently placing one’s hands on another person’s knees is not something we ordinarily do, nor allow in our day to day lives. As noted in the Leadership Tips tab, you must sequence this exercise carefully and appropriately to be sure that it lands sensitively for your group. If they are unprepared for the types of touch required in this game, you may set your group up for failure. To this end, you could consider using this activity to discuss a range of emotional competencies and social cues to develop your group’s emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
For example, and in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions in advance or at the end of this activity:
How do we know when others are feeling uncomfortable? What are the signals we should look for?
What forms of touch are typically considered safe? In what circumstances?
Which ones are often considered unsafe? Is this always the case?
Are there issues of consent involved?
What does a hand on someone’s knee mean? Do we all agree?
How can we navigate awkward social engagements?
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Knee Impulse could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Two Directions: Send the impulse both directions at the same time, by simultaneously tapping your left- and right-side neighbour’s knees. The impulses will have to cross somewhere near the half-way point of the circle before returning to you. The looks on the faces of those involved as they struggle to tap in sequence is priceless.
Table Top Impulse: Invite people to sit around a large table, or lie on the floor, and create the same cross-armed formation with palms face down onto the tabletop or floor. Works a treat, and minimises the discomfort some people may have to being touched by others.
Elimination Rounds: Regardless of variation, add this fun twist – when someone taps their hand two times in rapid succession – tap-tap – the direction of the impulse reverses. For elimination purposes, if someone taps in error (ie where they anticipated the direction would not change, but it did,) that person is asked to remove their hand from the game. The game continues with more and more hands being eliminated until you are left with only three contestants. Beware, the next knee or hand in sequence may be on the other side of the circle.
Playful circle game to generate energy, focus & laughter.
Down By The Banks
Playful elimination game for small & large groups.
Caught Ya Peekin’
Very playful energiser that generates lots of laughter.
Useful Framing Ideas
Let’s start by extending your arms out in front of you, like this, with your palms facing down. Oh, while we’re in this position, has anyone participated in a séance before? No? That’s okay, we’re not going to do that anyway…
The world’s record was set for this next activity in 1957 by a group of Russian students who, I am told, possessed exceptional eye-hand coordination. It’s doubtful that we’ll even come close to breaking this record, but let me describe what they did…
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 large group circle-based energiser:
How did you feel when you were first asked to place your hands on the knees of another person?
What thoughts raced through your mind when we first set up the activity? Why?
How difficult was it for you to maintain the correct sequence of hand taps? Why?
Where else in our lives do we find it difficult to keep to a sequence?
Fun ‘Community-Building’ Games Session
What You Need:
12+ people, 60 mins, sheets of paper, pens