To begin as a group your objective now is to go through this series of cards and to identify what each of these acronyms are.
For those who are not familiar with an acronym, it means each of these letters, the three letters, is the initial or first letter of a series of words.
So U.F.O stand for…?
(Unidentified flying object)
Bing, you move on to the next card.
Great, next one, P.I.N.
(Personal identification number)
It is personal identification number.
Now it is possible that you can think of more alternative uses for these acronyms. For example these might be the initials of your name, Peter Ian Newton, for example. So you get extra bonus points for the more creative answers you can consider for any of these acronyms.
(Automatic Teller Machine)
Automatic teller machine, yes.
(At the moment.)
At the moment. Now this card is very old long before we started texting and e-mailing, and so it has a new form now. Beautiful, excellent, I love it.
(International business machines)
International business machines, yes, absolutely. Or if you use Apple as your computing platform, I want to be a Macintosh is another version of it.
Yes, Catholic or Christian Boys College, there’s a whole lot for this one. Now we don’t often use it as an acronym, but you may also be familiar with this term and that is Challenge by Choice.
A big piece of any of my work, including the next 30 minutes, I get to share with you, operates under that philosophy. Of where you have the opportunity to choose for yourself your level of participation, and ordinarily in that environment people actually surprise themselves and step outside their ordinarily perceived comfort zones because they feel safe in that environment. That is again whole other conversation, but keep that in mind for the short time you are with me today.
P.H. Hmm you all know what it is, alkaline, acidic. What does the H stand for in the periodic table?
The P is for power or potential for hydrogen. Yeah, there you go.
F.U.B.A.R (Fouled Beyond All Recognition)
You notice how he is (mumbles). Fouled up beyond all recognition, or however you choose to say it. Big piece of the work that I do that I find is exciting and you know I am at the head of engaging people, that is not this session necessarily, but it is the same stuff. Is about adventure. There is something exciting and engaging about not knowing what’s going to happen. So a big part about any program, including today, is that realm of adventure.
Now this is not a right or a wrong. I am about to make a statement here, but if in your program your curriculum if you do this, you do this, you do this, you do a series of activities and you know you are going to get a particular outcome, you are not dealing with experiential education or adventure based learning. I am not saying that is a wrong or a right. I am making a distinction between that and maybe other forms of curriculum.
The piece that I am working with, because I find it the most exciting and the most fun, is adventure. Because it’s engaging, it’s fun, but it is also challenging. It involves people taking risks, making choices, and sometimes they will foul it up beyond all recognition and they’ll F.U.B.A.R it.
That’s a different setting where you do something and you don’t know actually how it’s going turn out. I’ve got a general sense of the boundaries of it. You need to in terms you know of managing risk, but that’s a different setting and that is the work that I am working with in particular.
F.U.N.N. Now a big part of what I do is and it is like the most important tool of my work is that we have fun, but note it has two N’s. If you have come across anything with PA you may know this acronym.
(Functional Understanding Not Necessary)
Yeah, functional understanding not necessary. What it means is that it’s okay to just have fun, but programmatically there is a really powerful reason why I inject a program with lots of fun because it’s attractive. It is really hard to stand away from, but you don’t have to understand what’s going on the have a great time.
So I can guarantee, although our time is short today, you are going to have an outrageous time. There going to be many moments, just like anything that you have done with me already in these last two days. You are going to have a fun time. People complain about sore jaws. But if you were to think in the middle of all that and go “hmm why are we doing this.” Don’t think too hard for an answer. Just simply enjoy it for what it is.
I know as a facilitator or an educator, like you, you’re not given many opportunities to play, and that is really my invitation to you for this session. Stuff happens as a result programmatically and we’ll see that shortly when we come to the end of our session. We’ll understand more about the power of the particular element.
How To Play Narrative
You know how it feels when the clock says it’s time to start, but it’s obvious that not everyone is here. I hate waiting, so I have developed a bunch of really simple, non-threatening activities that can occupy (think ‘reward’) those folks who are on time, yet not disrupt the group’s fun when the late-comers finally appear. I call this my ‘un-official start.’
In advance, grab a magazine, newspaper or both and start flicking through the pages spotting as many acronyms (you know, a word that is formed from the initials of other words) as you can. I’m sure you know many off the top of your head. Write these ‘words’ onto a set of index cards or sheets of paper. You’ll need at least 40 or more.
Can’t think of many, or any? Click the Resources tab to download some samples to get you started.
The basic idea is to present this series of cards, turning one card over at a time, asking your group to decipher as many of the acronyms as they can, in as little time as possible. Get it right (“BING”) and you show the next card. Can’t work it out, either tell them the answer, or put the card aside to work on later as you move onto the next one.
Continue flipping cards until you sense the energy is about to wane, or you have achieved your objectives.
And, hey, did you know that A C R O N Y M is really an acronym? A Contrived Reduction Of Nomenclature Yielding Mnemonics, or Abbreviated Codes Rarely Or Never Yielding Meaning? Or, how about Annoyingly Cryptic References Of Names You Make-up?
Practical Leadership Tips
This is a brilliant exercise when used as an ‘arrival’ activity. As soon as you have a quorum, make an ‘unofficial’ start by asking people to bunch on in, introduce yourself briefly and pull out the cards. Within a few minutes, having flipped a dozen or so cards, you will not only have fostered engagement and some laughter (encourage ‘creative’ answers,) but you will have successfully kicked off your program.
Purposefully integrate a series of useful acronyms into the larger pile which relate directly to your program goals, to introduce a key concept, or to provide a glimpse of what your participants can expect during the program. For example, I often include FUNN (Functional Understanding Not Necessary) to communicate to my group that they can expect to enjoy a fun time together, even if they don’t always understand what’s going on.
Encourage the group to earn ‘bonus’ points when they offer their own suggestions for any of the acronyms. Not only is this enormously fun, but it encourages an atmosphere of creativity in which people are more willing to make a contribution.
You could integrate Acronyms into a well-designed SEL program to inspire your group’s creativity and ability to embrace diverse ideas, not to mention, expand their vocabulary.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As discussed in the Leadership Tips tab, you can purposefully integrate a small number of acronyms (as part of a bigger pile) that relate to specific elements of developing healthy and positive relationships. For example, adding acronyms such as:
FVC – Full Value Commitment (or Contract)
CBC – Challenge by Choice
SEL – Social-Emotional Learning
ELC – Experiential Learning Cycle
As each of these acronyms are presented and solved, take a moment to discuss and explore what they mean in the context of embracing Full Value behavioural norms in the life of your group. For example, help your group understand that on occasions, you will adopt the ELC to frame a discussion on particular experiences to explore what full value looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
Small Teams: If you have a very large group, separate into smaller groups, and hand each a bunch of acronym cards. Their object is to correctly guess as many as possible, perhaps within a time limit.
DIY Acronyms: As above, but this time supply a number of blank index cards and a magazine or newspaper. Each small group is now challenged to find a variety of acronyms within the pages, write them on the blank cards, and challenge another group to decipher as many as possible.
Pop Culture: Use a series of common and humorous text/SMS abbreviations as your acronyms, eg IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), LOL (Laugh Out Loud, or Lots Of Love), ISO (In Search Of), etc. Click the Resources tab to download a list of 50 of the most common SMS/Text phrases to get you started.
Be Creative: Ask your group to invent as many made-up, zany acronyms (using real or nonsensical words) as they can in two minutes, eg YAHOO is Young At Heart Or Older. Then challenge each group to decipher another group’s acronyms. When kept above the belt, totally hilarious.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
If you have printed the cards in advance, simply present one card at a time in front of your video camera for all to see and invite suggestions typed into the Chatroom, or if your group is small, audibly with microphones switched on.
Or, prepare a series of slides with one or more Acronyms on a slide, and progress as normal.
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Useful Framing Ideas
This next activity can serve as a powerful metaphor of ‘adventure’ – that is, unanticipated outcomes. No one knows what the next card will be until I flick it over, and then you are invited to solve the ‘problem’ (acronym) and may be rewarded for your creativity…
How often do acronyms feature in our everyday lexicon? They especially pepper our online conversations, the industry in which we work, our culture, etc. This exercise is ideal for noticing how much of our language is filled with acronyms, and embarrassingly, how often we don’t actually know what the letters mean…
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 terrific team puzzle:
How many acronyms did you personally know? What did you make this mean?
What did you observe as more and more cards were flicked over?
How much of your language at [ at home, work, play, etc ] is made up of acronyms?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using abbreviated forms of our language?
The inspiration for Acronyms, and many more fun team puzzles, was sourced in the following publication: