In advance, write four objects on a large sheet of paper.
Invite one volunteer to stand in front of the group.
Asking the volunteer not to look, pin the sheet of paper to a wall behind them so that the rest of group can see the objects written on it.
Challenge your group to help the volunteer correctly guess the names of all four objects in less than 60 seconds.
Explain the following three parameters to govern fair play:
– Only verbal forms of communication can be used, ie no hand gestures or motions;
– The group can not mention the name of the object, nor any part of it; and
– No ‘sounds-like’ or rhyming words can be used.
If one or more of these parameters are broken, issue an appropriate penalty, eg disqualify that round.
Play two or more rounds, with a new set of words and volunteer for each round.
How To Play Narrative
This is a wonderful re-working of the popular board game Taboo. Happily, this version is much easier and loads more fun with a larger group assisting the poor soul out front.
In advance, write the names of four objects or things in big letters on a large sheet of paper (flip-chart paper is ideal) on a whiteboard or easel-type thing. For example, FILING CABINET, FIRE, THERMOMETER, SPAIN, etc. Keep this hidden until required.
Ask one person from your group to volunteer and stand facing the rest of the group. Then, pin the large sheet of paper on the wall behind them. Naturally, instruct the volunteer (who has their back to the paper) not to turn around but the rest of the group can see the list.
You are now good to go. Challenge your group to help their unknowing team-mate to correctly guess all four objects or things in less than 60 seconds.
The words can be worked on in any order, however, there are three parameters to govern fair play:
The group can not mention the name of the object, nor any part of it, eg if the word is ‘PAINT-BRUSH’ the group can not say “PAINT” or “BRUSH” as separate words;
Only verbal forms of communication can be used, ie no hand gestures or motions; and
No ‘sounds-like’ or rhyming words can be used.
Typically, if one of these ‘rules’ is broken, you may issue whatever penalty makes sense in your situation such as disqualification, or add 15 seconds to their time, etc.
How the group conducts itself as it tries to communicate their clues is entirely up to the group. In the beginning, there’s often a lot of shouting over the top of one another, before the group slowly catches on to how it can be more effective.
As soon as 60 seconds has expired, record the results, and invite a new volunteer to step before the group to start a new round (in front of a new set of objects or things.)
Continue playing for as long as your group is having fun.
Practical Leadership Tips
Good preparation will equip you with many dozens of objects and things before you get started.
You do not have to write the words behind the volunteer. It works just as well if you list the words on a sheet of paper and hand it to your group. That said, it is fun watching the frustration of the volunteer resisting the temptation to turn around.
The most successful groups are typically those that work well together. To this end, you may consider reflecting on some valuable and/or teachable moments once the action has ceased.
Sometimes you may need to navigate a few grey areas when it comes to language and gestures. For example, many people find it very difficult to not talk with their hands, and sometimes an object can be known by more than one phrase, eg power/electricity and America/USA. You be the judge.
Wondering where the word taboo comes from? It refers to things that are forbidden to be discussed or mentioned, especially in a cultural or religious context.
You could integrate Taboo 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 ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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 fun problem-solving game and a good laugh.
In a small way, you may consider that the focus required to interact and engage with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the ways in which they encouraged creativity and contribution and relate these processes to the accomplishment of group goals.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Taboo could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Competitive Taboo 1: Divide your group into two or more teams. Provide a unique set of words (on one list) for each group, and award points to each correctly guessed word. Naturally, you can only permit one person to be the volunteer for each set or list of words you give to each team. The team that correctly identifies all of the words first wins.
Competitive Taboo 2: Divide your group into two or more teams. Challenge each group to work off an identical list of words for up to 5 minutes. One person (for each team) volunteers to be the guesser for the entire round. The team that correctly identifies the most number of words, wins.
What’s Possible: Challenge your group to correctly identify as many words as possible within, say, 20 minutes. As leader, you are responsible for feeding the list of words, one at a time, to your group. Encourage everyone to volunteer at least once to be the guesser.
Evocative Taboo: To really ramp up the challenge, use one or more feelings or emotions, eg rage, bliss, contented. You may need to remind your group that sounds and hand gestures are not permitted.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Share the list of four objects with your group (other than the nominated person) via a private chat message or email.
Owing to the issues of internet latency and single-channel audio, invite the volunteer (guesser) to enter their answers into the chatroom. It may help to limit the number of people in a small group to prevent too much talking over one another.
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Useful Framing Ideas
You may know this next exercise as something similar to a popular board game you have played with family and friends, but with one big difference…
We all know what it’s like when it seems that we are the only person in the room who does not know the answer, or can not see the bleeding obvious. Except in this next game, it will be your group’s sole objective to help you unlock the secret…
Our next task will challenge your group to really think about how you’re going to work together to help one of your team-mates solve a problem. Your communication skills will be important, but keep in mind, there is such a thing as too much communication…
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 large group game
What did you observe during the game?
When it was your turn to guess the words, what emotions did you experience?
What was the most effective strategy for your group to communicate clues successfully?
What didn’t work well for the group?
Did your strategies change as the game progressed? Why?
The inspiration for Taboo, and many more fun large group games, was sourced from the following publication: