You have 13 cards and there are 13 words on the cards. Your object is to pair them so that one card is paired to next to one left and right of it, but as you work around the circle, each of the pairs makes sense.
For example, “Christmas” would be followed perhaps by “Tree”, or is it “Top”? You need to work out what that circle is.
(people pairing Word Circle cards)
Create a circle, and each of the pairings of the cards makes sense. So can you go all the way around? Does it make sense? So let’s see. Chair, man. Man, power. Power, tool. Tool, shop. Shop, front. Front, door. Door, step. Step, father. Father, Christmas. Christmas, tree. Tree, top. Top, deck. Deck, chair. Brilliant. Fantastic.
(people using Word Circle cards)
How To Play Narrative
You can never have enough quick, passive forms of puzzles that you can whip out at a moments notice.
In advance, prepare one or more sets of cards that feature a unique series of words on them. Each set of words when correctly aligned in a circle will form a series of familiar phrases with every pair of neighbouring words.
For example (listed in correct order):
SHOP FRONT DOOR STEP FATHER XMAS TREE TOP DECK CHAIR MAN POWER TOOL
This 13-piece word circle is a good one to start with because it is relatively easy, ie most of the words only pair with one other word.
You can create your own set of word pairings, or to get you started, download the Word Circle set in the Resources tab. It’s a good idea to have several copies of each set of Word Circle cards to use with multiple groups at the same time.
To play, distribute a Word Circle set to groups of approx four to eight people. Ask them to start by spreading the cards out on a table or the floor, and become familiar with the words.
When they spot a familiar pairing of two words, instruct them to place them next to one another as if filling in the pieces of a circle. The group continues to spot pairings until all of the words have been placed in their correct order.
Once a group has solved their word circle, hand them another, more difficult set of cards to solve.
Practical Leadership Tips
From a practical point of view, I simply print the Word Circle set onto paper which I then cut up and paste onto index cards. This way, you can make multiple copies at the same time.
A wonderful group problem-solving activity on its own, this activity is also a terrific arrival activity, ie place a few Word Circle sets on tables or the floor so as people arrive you direct them to a puzzle to solve. It immediately occupies people, and attracts lots of interest.
Be prepared for the rare group that will argue the case that a particular sequence of words they have aligned is correct, even though it does not match the standard answer. Applaud their efforts, and don’t bother to argue who’s right. The point of the exercise is to invite people to work together and solve an interesting problem. It’s less about learning the correct pairing of words.
For history buffs, I am told that Word Circles were first introduced to adventure educators by Chip Schlegel. Later, Word Circle Puzzles were developed by Chris Cavert to keep the fun going.
You could integrate Word Circles 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
This fun group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to support and care for one another?
What types of leadership were exhibited during the exercise? Were they effective?
Generally speaking, how resilient was the group while solving this puzzle? What helped? What did not help?
Can you think of times when the group or an individual needed to be adaptable?
Nineteen Word Circle: Here’s another Word Circle puzzle (listed in correct order) which may be downloaded from the Resources tab: BOOK COVER LETTER HEAD STONE GROUND WHEAT FIELD MOUSE PAD THAI LAND MASS MEDIA REPORT CARD GAME CLOCK WORK
DIY Word Circles: Break your group into smaller teams, and challenge them to develop their own word circle puzzles. The basic idea is to take a ‘single’ word and combine it with another word so that they form a common phrase or word. For example, a familiar phrase from two words might be ‘Board Game’ or ‘Finger Food.’ Familiar words from two single words might be ‘infuse’ or ‘weekend.’
Picture Word Circles: Use images or pictures instead of words. This ramps up the challenge because you must first decipher what the word is the image is portraying, and then, of course, construct the circle.
Find Your Pair: Give one Word Circle card to each person. You may need several different-coloured sets to ensure everyone has a card. Instruct individuals to mingle with others until they discover the two words which pair to their left and right, gradually attracting more people and ultimately forming a circle.
Mathematical Circle: For the mathematically inclined, attempt to create a circle of mathematical equations which includes numbers and all of the regular mathematical parameters such as plus, minus, divide and multiply.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
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Take a look at Jamboard a clever software that forms part of Google’s suite of free apps in its Chrome browser. Read this blog post to learn more about the app and how it can be used to play Word Circles with multiple remote team members in real-time, all of whom can manipulate the words on a screen.
As an alternative, you could use any screen sharing software to permit one person in your group to manipulate the words in response to the requests of their teammates who are watching the action on their (remote) screens. Jamboard can certainly do this, but take a look at Flippity too, another clever and free piece of software. First, you enter a list of your words into a Google SS and then follow the software instructions to bring them alive on a screen, which is then shared with your team via Zoom or other video conferencing software.
Useful Framing Ideas
Words are fascinating, especially in the context of the English language. This exercise is a form of wordplay and invites you to consider how one word can be paired with another unrelated word to form a whole new meaning…
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 team puzzle:
What precise steps did your group take to start to solve this puzzle?
What challenged the group? Why and in what ways were these challenges addressed?
What skills do you think are leveraged in this type of puzzle? Were these skills present in your group?
Were there disagreements about particular pairing of words? If so, how did the group resolve this conflict?
This puzzle is all bout reading patterns and connections. How might our life or work be like this puzzle?
Small-Group ‘Team-Building’ Session
What You Need:
5-8 people, 45 mins, 5 sets of 2 identical items, hula-hoop, set of Word Circles (Print+Play)