Form small groups of 6 to 8 people standing in a circle.
Ask one person in each circle to volunteer to start by turning to the person on their left and initiate the following sequence of responses:
– Volunteer – “DID YOU HEAR WHAT HAPPENED TO MRS O’GRADY?”
– Partner – “NO, WHAT HAPPENED?”
– Volunteer – “SHE DIED!”
– Partner – “HOW DID SHE DIE?”
The volunteer responds with “WITH ONE COCKED-EYE” and closes one of their eyes tightly.
At this juncture, their partner turns to the person on their left and initiates the exact same set of responses, eventually closing one of their eyes tightly.
This sequence continues all the way around the circle until everyone has one of their eyes closed.
Keeping one’s eye closed, this sequence of partner interactions continues around the circle a second time with the added embellishment of “… WITH HER MOUTH AWRY” in which case each person twists their mouth to the side.
On the third rotation, the response is “… BREATHING A SIGH.”
On the fourth rotation, the response is “… WITH HER LEG HELD HIGH.”
On the fifth and final rotation, the response is “… WAVING GOODBYE.”
The challenge is to maintain all of the progressive series of physical gestures at the same time – all the way around the circle – for as long as possible.
As soon as physical fatigue sets in – or the hysterical monotony gets too much – conclude the activity.
How To Play Narrative
If you’re looking for a very silly exercise that is packed with ample unselfconscious activity, this is it.
First, you want to form one or more groups of 6 to 8 people, all standing in a circle. Do not involve more than 8 people, the reasons for which will become quickly apparent.
By way of demonstration, stand as a part of one of your circles and turn to the person on your left and initiate the following sequence of questions and answers:
You – “DID YOU HEAR WHAT HAPPENED TO MRS O’GRADY?”
Partner – “NO, WHAT HAPPENED?”
You – “SHE DIED!”
Partner – “HOW DID SHE DIE?”
If it helps, you may want to practice this routine a few times with your whole group first because very soon, everyone will be expected to know the routine. That is to say, there are several rounds, but this part never changes.
As soon as your partner asks how did Mrs O’Grady die, you respond by closing one of your eyes tightly and saying “… WITH ONE COCKED-EYE.”
Importantly, you will keep this one eye closed for the rest of the game.
Next, you invite your partner to turn to the person on their left and initiate the same sequence of responses. They conclude by saying “… WITH ONE COCKED-EYE” and closing one of their eyes.
This routine continues all the way around the circle until everyone has one eye closed.
And then it begins again, but with a slight difference. You lead the person to your left with the same sequence of questions and answers and finish with “… WITH HER MOUTH AWRY” while also twisting your mouth grotesquely to one side (and keeping one eye closed.)
You can probably guess what happens next. Yep, this sequence of responses and gestures rotates all the way around the circle until everyone has one eye closed and a deeply twisted mouth.
There are at least 3 more rounds to go, but honestly, you will continue for as long as your group has the requisite energy and enthusiasm for Mrs O’Grady and her curious predicaments.
If you have the energy, the response on the third rotation is “… BREATHING A SIGH” while you express a wildly exaggerated sigh of your own.
On the fourth rotation, the response is “… WITH HER LEG HELD HIGH” as you hold your own leg high (and aim to keep it there!)
And finally, on the fifth and final rotation, the response is “… WAVING GOODBYE” as you wave your arms madly in the air, and more than likely fight the urge to collapse on the floor with exhaustion.
Challenge your group to maintain all of the progressive series of physical gestures at the same time all the way around the circle for as long as possible.
Poor Mrs O’Grady.
Practical Leadership Tips
Mrs O’Grady is unashamedly a FUNN activity. If you see any intrinsic value or benefits flowing from this zany game, please let me know.
I don’t think I need to say this, but you must pick your moment before presenting this ‘theatre in the round’ game, as Karl Rohnke likes to call it. Your ability to enrol your group in the nonsensical movements, not to mention their longevity, is critically aligned to its success. If you go into it with only half-hearted enthusiasm, you’ll wreck it. I have the (emotional) scars to prove it.
As Karl Rohnke tells me, did you know that a good laugh is so strong you can break ice with it? So true, and while I understand what Karl means when he says this, I would not consider this exercise strictly speaking as an icebreaker, ie it could be very threatening to some folks.
You could integrate Mrs O’Grady as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
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 to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical activity and a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to commit to each progressive gesture, not to mention, for long periods of time, may speak to the benefits of developing a mindful attitude and a resilient mindset. These outcomes would certainly not be the reason you would present this exercise (look up FUNN) but it would be possible to relate certain elements of this zany game to the benefits of being present in the moment and patience.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Mrs O’Grady could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Any Ailment: Naturally, you can vary any or all of the physical gestures to suit your group’s needs or abilities. For example, Mrs O’Grady could have died “… DANCING A JIG,” or “… POKING OUT HER TONGUE” or “… WIGGLING HER BUM.”
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Explain the game and practice the question and answer routine. When ready, form small teams of 6 to 8 people and allocate them to a unique breakout room. Ask each team to establish a particular sequence, eg alphabetical by first name, and then invite the person with a name closest to A to start. Be sure everyone switches to Gallery View on their video conferencing software (eg Zoom) and stands back a little from their webcam to allow as much of the action to be viewed as possible.
Admittedly, this exercise does lose a little in the translation to pixellated vision – rather than face to face – but with the right amount of energy and enthusiasm, it can work.
You Might Also Like...
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Five Lives
Fun variation of classic partner elimination game.
Leaning Tower Of Feetza
Quick problem-solving game for large & small groups.
Breathe & Stretch
Guided group stretching exercise to relax & have fun.
Useful Framing Ideas
Did you know that a good laugh is so strong it can break ice? Well, it can and this next exercise may prove the point…
I have this friend who knows a woman named Mrs O’Grady. You won’t believe the number of most amazing ailments this poor woman suffers from. Would you be interested to know more…?
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 zany group game:
When the activity first started, how did you feel? Did this change as the activity progressed?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how conscious were you about what you were doing in front of others?
What makes it fun, or perhaps, not fun?
Why do you think we get very self-conscious about what we do in front of others?
What’s the impact of being too self-conscious?
The inspiration for Mrs O’Grady, and many more zany fun group games, was sourced from the following publication: