Invite everyone to extend the pointer finger of their dominant writing hand.
Instruct each person to write their full name, using their finger as if writing on a wall in front of themselves.
Then, instruct your group to repeat this task by using the pointer finger of their non-dominant hand.
When ready, instruct your group to write their name in the air with their right elbow, and then their left elbow.
Nominate any other part of one’s anatomy to complete the task, or try something new as described in the Variations tab.
Here’s a snippet of a video in which I lead Air Names with a custom client group.
How To Play Narrative
If you’re looking for something rather silly, fun, and quick, this is it.
With your group facing you, ask them to hold up and extend the pointer finger of their dominant writing hand in front of themselves. They are effectively mimicking your actions.
Then, by way of demonstration, use the space in front of you as if it was a wall to write your name using your finger in the air. First or both names, it’s up to you.
Instruct your group to follow suit, writing their own name in the air in front of themselves.
At this point, I often empathise with those who have very long names, such as Constantine, Evangelina, and Maximilian. For further moments of levity, I may also suggest that if they make a mistake, they are welcome to rub out an error and try again. As if 🙂
Having mastered this task, I then ramp up the challenge and ask everyone to write their name again but this time using the pointer finger of their other hand.
From this point, you have many paths you can lead your group on.
Typically, I will next instruct my group to use their right elbow to write their name, and then their left elbow, etc. You get the idea.
If your group happens to be standing, then you have knees, feet, and bottoms just begging to be nominated.
Or, to try something new, check out the Variations tab.
Practical Leadership Tips
This is clearly just a silly, fun game. Like most things, do not expect everyone in your group to immerse themselves fully into the silliness but you should expect enough people will to make it worthwhile.
Sometimes, I first invite people to imagine a large sheet of paper in front of them, to give the task a sense of scale. When in doubt, go big.
Take a look at the Video Tutorial tab to view the game in action online.
You could integrate Air Names into a well-designed SEL program to focus on the development of effective communication skills as much as promote a common experience that is fun and builds connections with others.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
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 wellbeing of enjoying a few moments of frivolous fun.
These moments could segue into a conversation about mindfulness because it clearly requires the participant to focus on one thing at a time. Even better if you adopt the tracing variation as described in the Virtual Adaptation tab (applicable for both in-person and virtual sessions.)
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Air Names could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
By A Nose: As above, use one’s nose as if it was a pencil to write one’s name in the air.
Wall to Wall: Challenge your group to write their names as large as possible, perhaps using letters as wide and tall as they are.
Who Is It? Taking turns, instruct one person to face the rest of the group and write the name of another person in the group. Challenge your group to identify who was named.
Take a look at Space Counting for a similar finger-writing exercise for pairs.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Ask your group to switch to Gallery View on their screens. By way of demonstration, write your name in front of your webcam (keeping within the boundaries of your frame) using your dominant hand and then invite everyone to complete the same task.
Ask your group to switch to Speaker View so you are the featured display on their screens. Challenge each person to trace the writing of your name as you use your dominant pointer finger to slowly spell it out in front of your webcam. Invite everyone to swap hands and try it again. Bonus points for accuracy.
Fun variation of the classic thumb-wrestling contest.
Train Station Greetings
Zany, interactive game to inspire slow-motion moves.
Useful Framing Ideas
When I was young, there was a TV show that featured a puppet called Mr Squiggle. He had a very long nose that was actually a big pencil which he used to draw all sorts of illustrations on flipchart paper. He often drew his creations upside down, so it was fun to try and guess what the image was as he was completing it. Today, we’re going to take a feather out of Mr Squiggle’s cap and draw our names in the air…
We’ve all seen our own names misspelled by others. Have you ever made the same mistake with your name? Yeah, me too. Well, today, I’m going to give you a free pass – no one is going to know if you misspell your name or not…
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 quick energiser:
Was this exercise fun? Why or why not?
What approach did you take to writing your name? Small or big letters? Block or cursive, etc?
We don’t often show our silly sides to others in public. Why do you think this is?
What did you notice about those around you?
The inspiration for Air Names is unknown. I’ve been using it for years as a very quick energiser and I have no idea how it first developed.