Distribute a blank index card and a pen/marker to each person in your group.
Form pairs or small groups of up to 4 people.
By way of demonstration, instruct them to place the card on their forehead.
Carefully positioning the pen or marker on the card, invite them to write their first name on the card as best as they can, ie they cannot see what they are doing.
When ready, invite others to view, read and comment on the legibility of their partner’s name tag.
How To Play Narrative
This exercise was borne out of a deep desire to enjoy a quick ice-breaking exercise at the start of a virtual meeting that would not only be fun but could enjoy some getting-to-know-you benefits too.
First, distribute a blank index card and a pen to each person. Naturally, if you’re engaged in a virtual setting, ask each person to grab these materials before you start.
When gathered in person, I like to form small groups of two or more people before I get started, but this is up to you. I like the intimacy a small group offers, but it’s not critical to the success of this quick exercise.
Like many activities, I like to demonstrate what I’m about to ask my group to do. So, I place the card on my forehead as I instruct each person to do the same. Without giving too much away, I encourage people to use their non-dominant (writing) hands to hold the card.
Then, with my trusty pen or marker in my other (dominant) hand, I place its tip carefully and gently on my index card and proceed to write my name in big, clear, legible letters on it. In my mind’s eye, I start from the right-hand side of my card and scrawl to the left so that it can be read by others standing before me (which is why I start in small groups.)
The challenge of this particular name-tag is two-fold – write your name without viewing what you are doing and write the letters backwards or in reverse.
You can expect lots of Oooos and Ahhhhs as people start to write their names, and very quickly there will be a cacophony of delighted onlookers exploring, not only their own results but the results of others.
Now, in the context of groups that have never met before, this is a wonderful opportunity to engage in a variety of other experiences that will invite your group to break the ice.
For example, throughout the course of a series of interactive exercises – such as Ice-Breaker Question Exchange, Card Talk and Vortex – you could invite people to share the quality and legibility of their name tags with others.
Practical Leadership Tips
Got no index cards? Use any sheet of normal office paper and fold it in half twice (starting from portrait orientation) to produce a writing surface similar in size and firmness.
I recommend you only use non-toxic pens or markers just in case someone writes off the edge of their card and onto their skin.
For fun, when you lead this exercise as part of an in-person gathering, encourage your group to wear their name-tags somewhere prominent on their clothing for the remainder of the program.
You could integrate Blind Name-Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
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 wellbeing of engaging in a short burst of positive social interaction and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully write one’s name backwards without looking may speak to the benefits of being mindful insofar as it requires you to be very present to one thing at a time. Also, from the context of building interpersonal skills (refer to the Social-Emotional Learning tab,) you may also choose to discuss the benefits of embracing diversity from the perspective that no one is likely to be very good at drawing backwards, ie we can empathise with others who behave and feel the same way we do.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Blind Name-Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
All Responses: Adopt this technique to write any set of words or data on the card, such as the answer to a question someone poses. Frame the exercise so that the responses are short, such as Yes, No, Maybe, Left, Right, etc to keep the momentum high.
Partner Word Challenge: In pairs, ask the non-writing partner to verbally direct the person holding the index card on their forehead to write a secret word by following a set of instructions of how to use the pen/marker, eg “draw a short line from top to bottom, then move the pen upwards in a diagonal line to the left, etc…”
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Blind Name-Tag is purposefully designed to suit all virtual settings. You will need to ask each person to grab their own paper and pen, and when they have completed the task, ask your group to lean in (towards their webcam) so the screen will be filled with the video gallery of some dodgy-looking name-tags. Don’t forget to record a screenshot of this moment.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It is not uncommon when groups of new people gather to ask people to wear a name-tag. But I bet you have never worn a name-tag quite like the one we’re about to create…
Sometimes even the simplest of tasks, like writing our names, can become quite difficult when you add a quick twist to the task or remove a particular faculty. Our next task is going to call on your ability to think in reverse and perform in the dark. Do you think you’re ready?…
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 ice-breaking name-game:
What thought first crossed your mind when you first realised what you were about to do?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being awesome,) how legible was your blind name-tag?
What was the most difficult part of writing your name?
Do you think with practice you would get better?
What else are you working on right now in your life that needs more practice?
The inspiration for Blind Name-Tag was sourced in a moment of creativity during a typically boring Zoom meeting when I was challenged to do something “new and different” by my willing audience. And voila!