Host an online session or meeting with your group.
Invite participants to switch on their webcams.
Pose a question to your group, eg identify one object within reach of your computer that you care about.
Allow 20 seconds for each person to grab an item.
When ready, invite a volunteer to show the object they chose in front of their webcam and share the story connected to it.
Allow up to one minute for the sharing of stories.
Continue the invitation to ‘show and tell’ until everyone has shared or your time has elapsed.
In conclusion, reflect on the results of this exercise if desired.
How To Play Narrative
One of the unique attributes of remote learning or working from home is that you may be afforded the opportunity to peek inside the homes and offices of your group. Never has this become more obvious than with the advent of Zoom meetings during the COVID19 health pandemic.
Think about it. As you peer at the video thumbnail gallery of your group, you can lean in and take a sneak peek inside the homes, offices and – let’s be honest – lives of our classmates and colleagues.
With this in mind, this wonderfully simple, yet potentially powerful sharing exercise was born.
It’s as simple as posing a question to your group that invites each person to share something about an object in their life (within their reach) that is related to your question.
For example, you could ask each person to identify one object in their room that they care about and has a certain backstory connected to it. Extra bonus points are awarded to those who can grab the item and display it in front of their webcam.
Give your group a little time to identify and grab their objects.
Then, invite a volunteer to get things rolling. Each person has 30 to 60 seconds to share their story, and if you have time, the opportunity to take questions from others in the group. When ready, move onto the next person.
This one simple task never ceases to amaze me how powerful the sharing becomes.
Choose a series of random people to share at any time, or create a prescribed order in advance, eg alphabetical by first name or the order in which your group’s video thumbnails appear on your screen, etc.
There are no limits to the questions you could ask. Here are a few to get you started, and then take a look at the Variations tab:
Find an object that…
Is very special to you.
Was given to you.
Is connected to a holiday or overseas trip.
Reminds you of someone.
You have held or owned for a long time.
Is one of your favourite things.
Is daggy / beautiful / rare / fragile / expensive.
Reminds you of an important lesson you learned.
You could probably imagine this exercise being perfect as a useful energiser to break up an online session.
Also, consider employing it as a form of reflection, not to mention, as a deeper icebreaker. No doubt, when facilitated well as part of a carefully sequenced program, this type of sharing can help build relationships and promote empathy within your group.
Practical Leadership Tips
Beware that some people may not (a) want to share anything about themselves and/or (b) switch their webcam on. In all cases, while I always work hard to create an environment in which my group feels safe and unthreatened, I will always honour the choice of any individual. For example, there can be some very good reasons why an individual does not want to switch on their video, eg too many distractions in the background or they may feel embarrassed to make their home/office space visible to other, etc.
If your group, or certain members of it, are prone to hogging the limelight, you may want to use a timer to keep the sharing equitable.
If one or more members of your group choose not to switch on their webcams, simply invite them to describe the item audibly when it comes to their turn to share.
If you happen to love stories, I highly recommend learning the skills to become a better story-teller. My friend and mentor Bernadette Jiwa has produced a number a wonderful short online Story-Skills course you can take to develop your story-telling skills. Storytelling is not a gift reserved for the chosen few – the professional journalist, screenwriter or novelist. It’s a skill you can learn and practice. I’ve completed the course and it transformed my understanding of what makes a good story work. We all need to learn how to tell better stories.
You could integrate Care About as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
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
The simple invitation to ask people to find something that they care about is the key to this exercise. Choice. Within the context of a carefully sequenced and well-framed introduction, you can expect people to choose an object that is not only meaningful to them (for whatever reason) but is something that they may be willing to share with their group. In advance, during or at the end of this exercise, invite your group to reflect on the types of interactions that occurred and the social cues that they picked up on.
For example, the gentle way in which someone talked about a person photographed in a photo they showed, or the initial reluctance to share in front of others, or the way someone waited until the end to share, etc. These are all teachable moments and can help your group explore and develop their emotional literacy.
Audio-Only: As above, but without video. Simply invite the sharing via audio.
Flash Story-Telling: Challenge members of your group to be the first to respond to your question by grabbing an object and displaying it in front of their webcam in less than 5 or 10 seconds.
Same Same: Challenge each person to leave their computer and grab one of a particular type of object, eg cutlery, in less than 20 seconds. For example, invite each person to visit their kitchen and grab a knife, fork or a spoon. When ready, ask everyone to display their item in front of their webcam at the same time and then identify which one type is the most common.
Whole Group Grab: Challenge every person in your group to locate and show an object that matches a particular attribute within a limited timeframe. For example, invite everyone to grab an item that is blue, transparent, sharp, can be worn, can be eaten, etc.
Take a look at Panic Picture for a similar fast-paced form of sharing.
This exercise is purposefully designed to suit all virtual settings.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Stories are some of our favourite ways to share important information to others. Have you ever noticed that when you think of a particular item or object, your memory is flooded with stories attached to that item? Well, that’s what this next exercise is all about…
Our homes and offices are filled with lots of memories, many of which are embodied in the objects and items we adorn our places with. Have a look around your space right now… no doubt, you can see at least one or two items that evoke a special memory for you. That’s what this next exercise is all about…
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 sharing exercise:
What did you notice as the stories progressed?
Did the stories of others stimulate memories of your own experience? Why does this happen?
Which story really stood out to you? Why?
Why do you think stories are important?
What makes a good story?
The inspiration for Care About was sourced organically during one of my many early webinars in which I was inviting my participants to share.