Form a circle, including yourself, with people standing close to their neighbours.
Your group’s goal is to pass and receive an imaginary impulse (a “zhwoop”) around the circle as fast and as effectively as possible.
Sending and receiving an impulse involves using your index finger to make a big circle in front of your upper torso and finish by pointing to your left (or right.)
For example, to pass the impulse to the left, one must use their right hand and index finger (turning clockwise) to point to the left.
Or, to pass the impulse to the right, one must use their left hand and index finger (turning anti-clockwise) to point to the right.
To receive the impulse from the right, the receiver must use their left hand (turning anti-clockwise) to make a big circle in front of their body and finish by touching the pointing index finger of their neighbour (the sender.)
Or, to receive the impulse from the left, the receiver must use their right hand (turning clockwise) to make a big circle in front of their body and finish by touching the pointing index finger of their neighbour (the sender.)
Note, for the impulse to pass, the index finger of the sender must connect (touch) with the index finger of the receiver.
With each move, the sending and receiving will be accompanied by the sound effect “ZHWOOP.”
Once an impulse has been received, this person may choose to send the impulse in the same or opposite direction instantly, by making the appropriate action.
A person who does not wish to receive the impulse may hold up the palm of their receiving hand and say “BUZZ” to direct the sender to pass the impulse in the other direction.
Once started, the imaginary impulse will travel in both directions around the circle.
Continue playing until your group’s interest is piqued.
How To Play Narrative
I like to use Zhwoop as part of a program that is focused on the development of skills, but it is essentially a fun energiser and warm-up game.
Invite your group to form a circle and then introduce a few key concepts.
The first is that you are about to challenge your group to pass an imaginary impulse – or a Zhwoop – around the circle as fast as possible in one of two directions.
This of course brings us to the second concept – a Zhwoop – which is best introduced to groups in a graduated manner.
By way of demonstration, with your pointer or index finger sticking out, circle your arm in one big circle in front of your upper torso. Using your right hand, the circle is made with a clockwise motion, and then use your left hand to form an anti-clockwise motion. Practice this a few times, both sides, with your group.
Now, let’s add a sound, and you guessed it, it sounds like “ZHWOOP.” Instruct your group to utter this nonsensical sound with each clockwise or anti-clockwise motion they make with their hands. Again, practice a few times.
Now finally, it’s time to introduce the mechanism to pass the impulse around the circle. Explain that all official passes involve a sender and a receiver.
The sender will start by choosing to send the impulse to their left or right.
To pass to their left, the sender will use their right hand to form a big clockwise circle with their extended pointer finger (say “ZHWOOP”) and finish by pointing to their left-hand neighbour (about hip height.)
To receive this impulse, their neighbour will use their left hand to form a big anti-clockwise circle with their extended pointer finger (say “ZHWOOP”) and finish by pointing to the sender (on their right.)
But we’re not finished – for an official pass to have been made, the two juxtapositioned pointer fingers must touch ever so briefly (and gently.)
For example, and regardless of the direction, an official pass will look and sound a bit like this: “ZHWOOP – ZHWOOP (touch fingers.)”
Naturally, to send the impulse to one’s right, the sender will use their left hand to form the big anti-clockwise motion with their extended pointer finger (say “ZHWOOP”) and finish by pointing to their right-hand neighbour. And, their neighbour will use their right hand to form the big clockwise motion with their extended pointer finger (say “ZHWOOP”) and finish by pointing to the sender (on their left.)
As soon as pointer fingers have touched, the receiver becomes the sender and is entitled to continue to send the impulse in the same or opposite direction, by making the appropriate action.
At this point, it’s a good idea to practice the flow of the game. Now that we have continuity, play will look and sound a bit like this: “ZHWOOP – ZHWOOP (touch fingers) ZHWOOP – ZHWOOP (touch fingers) ZHWOOP – ZHWOOP…” etc.
When you sense that your group is ready for more, introduce the ability to block the sending of an impulse.
A person who does not wish to receive the impulse may hold up the palm of their receiving hand and say “BUZZ” to direct the sender to reverse its direction. In these circumstances, it is not necessary for pointing fingers to touch, ie the sender’s pointer finger stands ready to play, but the potential receiver blocks this move by showing their open hand and saying “BUZZ.”
Your group now has everything it needs to know to occupy itself with many mindless minutes of FUNN. Continue playing until your group’s interest is piqued.
Or, consider trying something new from the Variations tab to ramp up the challenge.
Practical Leadership Tips
It is entirely possible to enjoy this activity sitting down or in chairs (situated close to one another,) but it just seems more fun standing up.
This is a classic example of FUNN at work. There is little if any obvious intrinsic value to be found in the exercise of this game. But… when presented with enthusiasm, and energy, most groups will be more than willing to play. And this is where the value lies.
Naturally, your circle needs to be a circle-circle, not a square-circle, or another shape that makes it difficult for each person to see others clearly.
You could integrate Zhwoop 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:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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 well-being of enjoying a fun nonsensical game and a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to follow the impulse around the circle and respond accurately to the various actions may speak to the adaptability and resilient characteristics of individual members, but these would be considered minor attributes belonging to this game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Zhwoop could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
No Passing: If the neighbours on both sides of a sender do not wish to receive the impulse, ie they both block and say “BUZZ,” the dejected sender is invited to find a new position in the circle to continue play. In the interests of fair play, their next pass cannot be blocked.
Time Trial: Challenge your group to send and receive the impulse fully around the circle (360 degrees) and then in reverse and then back and forth for a second time. No buzzes and only three reversals. Attempt several times to record a world’s record time. Note, ensure that all passes and receptions are successfully connected.
Behind Ya’ Back: Instruct people who wish to reverse the direction of the impulse to move their arm/hand behind their back.
Inventive Passes: Create your own methods of moving the impulse around the circle, or invite your group to invent a series of interesting gestures and sounds.
Noodle Pass: Rather than touch fingertips, pass a small piece of pool noodle (or another small object) from person to person.
Multiple Impulses: Ideal for larger groups, introduce two or more ‘impulses’ for the group to pass simultaneously.
Championship Rounds: Introduce the game as an elimination, whereby anyone making a mistake or taking too long to respond is ‘outta the game.’
Playful & energetic circle game to fill-in two minutes.
Challenging, quick-reflex exercise for small groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
There are some things we just can’t plan for. How do we navigate challenges and expectations when things are slightly (or more) off? Let’s explore this idea in our next activity…
Tolerance for frustration can be a very helpful skill throughout life. There are going to be a number of situations in which you are working your hardest, and doing your best, and you are still not going to find yourself getting frustrated. We are going to spend some time practising with some low levels of frustration to see what we do with it now and to see if we can replace our current approach to frustration with something that allows us to be more tolerant of frustration…
We all know that a fast game is a good game, and this next game relies heavily on that principle. All you have to do is pass an imaginary object around and within the circle…
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 energiser game:
Was the game fun? Why or why not?
What was the hardest part of the exercise?
Did you ever make a mistake? On these occasions, what did you say to yourself?
What skills were required to pass the impulse quickly and accurately?
What was your process for developing and building on this new skill?
If you choose to challenge your group to the Time Trial variation, you may also ask your group to reflect on the following:
How did skill development impact play when you were asked to use the skill to navigate a more defined challenge?
What adjustments did you make when you developed strategies for navigating the more defined challenge?
The inspiration for Zhwoop was sourced from Floyd Hinman who developed this idea many years ago.