To begin, this first activity is referred to as Wordles. You can use whatever name you choose, but the object here as a group, you could do it on your own but more often than not it’s easier if you do it with a group, is to identify what the word or phrase is from the way in which the letters or otherwise the symbols appear on the card.
And we have many cards here. The object is to identify it, then you can just move it off to the side, keep working on the others.
So can anyone by looking in on what you see at the moment recognise any of the phrases or the words by just looking at what’s already here?
(People make suggestions for Wordless in front of them)
Okay. This one says “crossroads”. Notice that the two words are crossed. Every single time there’ll be something about the way the words or the letters appear on the card that give you a clue how to say it.
So we’ll put that one to the side. Anyone happen to know that one?
(Two under par.)
Two under par, because the word TWO is under the word PAR. Okay, you’re probably getting a clue now.
(people playing Wordless.)
So these are the ones you’re down to. Excellent. Remember there’s always something about the way in which the words or letters appear that give you a clue how to say them.
(people solving Wordless.)
Yes, good. These… So stepmum I think is acceptable… And maximum. Mini-mum. Maxi-mum. Beautiful. Excellent. Alright, then your last three.
Now these two have the same solution, this one’s completely different. So in each of these two cases they are missing a letter at the front and missing a letter at the end.
Okay. Let’s work on this one. SHOPPING is the word but it’s not the phrase we’re looking for. Why is the S and the G missing? What’s the phrase it’s trying to tell you?
(Are you out shopping? people guessing the Worldes)
What do the letters H-O-P-P-I-N represent in the word SHOPPING?
What’s another word for that?
There it is.
(In the middle of NOWHERE.)
How To Play Narrative
First of all, you need to prepare a set of ‘Wordle’ (ie WORD puzzLE) cards in advance.
I have provided a bunch of my favourites in the Resources tab, but here’s three to whet your appetite.
SNOW WIND RAIN OHOLENE HOROBOD
The object is to invite your group to decipher the hidden word or phrase as quickly as possible, or simply to reward creativity. It’s a good idea to help solve a sample Wordle up front to establish the type of lateral-thinking required.
For example, the middle Wordle shown above is ‘Hole in One,’ ie the word HOLE is situated in the middle of the word ONE. The other two are ‘Feeling Under The Weather’ and ‘Robin Hood.’ Get it?
In a typical set-up, simply ask your group to gather around a stack of Wordles you have placed on the floor or table. Flip one card over at a time.
Naturally, some Wordles are easier than others, so feel free to offer a clue or hint to assist your group to solve the more difficult puzzles.
If measuring success is necessary, ask your group to solve as many Wordles within a prescribed time frame.
Otherwise, continue flipped over cards until all are complete, or it’s time to move on.
Practical Leadership Tips
Personally, I love using this exercise as an arrival activity, or to stimulate creative-thinking and brainstorming before a complex problem-solving activity.
In your presentation, do not describe these puzzles as ‘abbreviations’ or ‘Acronyms’ because they’re not. Wordles are simply intriguing little puzzles formed by the use and juxtaposition of various letters and words.
My personal set of Wordles are printed onto business-card sized cards for one very important reason – people are compelled to move closer in to see the cards and participate, which subtly breaks down barriers.
Arrival Activity 1: As people arrive for your program, direct the first few over to a stack of face-down Wordle cards, inviting them to turn one card over at a time and ponder its meaning. Suggest they put the cards that they solve to one side, and those they cannot (yet) to another side, in the hope that a new-comer may be able to solve these later.
Arrival Activity 2: Stick a series of Wordle cards on the walls of your room (or hall, trees, etc,) and invite your group – either as individuals or small groups – to brood over the cards in any order they choose. Great for mixing and building energy, and for really large groups.
Team v Team: Separate into small groups, and supply each with a set of ten Wordle cards face down. One card is turned over at a time, and as soon as the Wordle is deciphered, the group can turn over the next card. I recommend that the group stay with a card for no longer than two minutes, at which point they can put that card to the side (to keep working on it,) and turn over a fresh card.
Invent Your Own: Give a set of blank cards to a number of small groups, and ask them to invent their own set of Wordles (to challenge other groups.)
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.
Or, prepare a series of slides with one or more Wordles on a slide, and progress as normal.
If competition is your thing, divide your group into smaller teams of 2 to 6 people and allocate them (randomly?) to their own breakout room. Supply each ‘room’ with a sheet of multiple Wordles and challenge the teams to solve all of the puzzles as quickly as possible (without the aid of a search engine!)
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Useful Framing Ideas
The English language is a curious language to learn. Even for native English speakers, the meaning of a particular word in its written or verbal form can be understood in many ways. Take for example the words THERE and RIGHT – each can be interpreted in several different ways depending on the context. Well, this next exercise amplifies the many different ways in which words can be used, especially cryptically…
Some people love solving puzzles, others don’t. Either way, one of their most enduring features is their ability to inspire lateral-thinking and to think outside the square, so to speak. For example, when you see the letters HOROBOD, what do you see? Can you see the famous mythical legend of Robin Hood? Look again, the word ROB is situated IN the middle of the word HOOD. Rob in hood. Now, apply this same level of curiosity and intrigue to these other letters and words…
Words are much like people, in that they often have established relationships with one another. A word viewed in one context will have one meaning, but when viewed in another, will have a different meaning altogether. This next exercise is all about identifying relationships between the letters and words written on a particular card, and exploring its intended 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:
How difficult was this exercise to complete? Why?
What did you say to yourself when you struggled?
What processes or strategies helped your small group unlock the hidden meaning of some of the puzzles?
What sort of thinking is required to solve these types of puzzles?
Where else do critical thinking skills become useful in our lives?
The inspiration for Wordles, and many more fun team puzzles, can be found in the following publication: