Stand in front of your group, and get their attention.
Explain that every time your hands cross in front of you, you want the group to clap loudly once.
Test your group’s reaction by crossing your hands in front of you once, and expect a loud clap.
Continue to cross your hands in front of you several times, slowly at first, and then gradually faster.
Trick your group by making it look like your hands are about to cross, but stop just short.
Continue with a varied series of arm-crossing moves.
Continue for up to a minute, reach a crescendo, and move on.
How To Play Narrative
All you need is one person to stand in front of your group. Maybe that’s you?
Explain that you want everyone to watch carefully as you move your hands back and forth in a particular pattern. Perhaps alternating left and right, or up and down, it doesn’t matter much. Just make sure that at some point your hands cross during the journey.
The fun part is that you ask your group to clap every time they see your hands cross. It’s at this point, I rediscover how much I love this game, energiser, diversion, call it what you like. The intense focus and concentration on people’s faces is priceless.
So you start passing, slow at first, then in rapid succession.
And then, I suggest, you get tricky. Make out like your hands are about to cross, but you suddenly stop short of passing. Guaranteed, money in the bank, this lark will cause your group to clap, and then quickly realising their mistake, laugh out loud.
You need only present this Clapping game for a minute or so, and it will produce the desired effect. Your group will now be bubbling with more energy, and there will be smiles and laughter aplenty. Job done.
Practical Leadership Tips
You may not even need an introduction to kick-off this exercise. I often just enter the space in front of my group (or audience sometimes,) position my body, arms and hands to get everyone’s attention, and begin.
The key to the success of the clapping is to encourage your group to clap at the precise moment your hands cross one another. It should occur as one very loud clap. Do not progress into the funner parts of the exercise until your group has grasped this basic concept.
You could integrate the Clapping Game as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
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
It is possible to speak to many metaphorical connections between this quick energiser and the development of healthy and respectful group norms.
For example, you could invite your group to connect the feeling they got when everyone was clapping in sync to the possible results when the group is working together effectively. The processes to achieve the latter may be more complex than performing a series of claps, but the impact is the same. Or, focus on the impact of your leadership and how it helped your group achieve success, ie your sequence of progressively more difficult beats helped them be successful.
Another programmatic application could be to invite each person to reflect on their ability to regulate their own impulses to respond to each clapping pattern exactly as delivered, ie to keep in rhythm with the rest of the group or to be accountable. When one or more people do their own thing, the group and the results are out of balance. To this end, you could raise the question, in the context of the group’s overall effectiveness, what does it look like when the group is not (metaphorically speaking) clapping simultaneously?
Elimination Clapping Game: Structured as an elimination game, same rules apply. If someone makes a ‘mistake,’ for example, a person claps when they shouldn’t, or is late, etc, they are asked to step aside, sit down or whatever and enjoy the continuing action. Keep going until one person remains, and give them a round of applause!
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
First, instruct your group to switch to presenter view so that you appear as the primary screen on their device. Then, with everyone glued to their screens, play the Clapping Game as described above. Tip: play with sound enabled to get a sense of how well in sync your group is with your clapping.
For a bit of fun, advise your group that whenever they hear a particular word or phrase or sound, they should respond with a single clap as quickly as possible (or other response, such as typing something into the chat room facility.) Not only does this build engagement with what you’re presenting but it’s also a LOT of fun.
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Useful Framing Ideas
For the perfect opener, don’t speak. Simply get your group’s attention, and mime what you would like your groups to do. That is, indicate by way of demonstration that every time you cross your hands, you (point to your group) clap your hands.
Can everyone see my hands? [wave them around a bit…] There’s nothing special about my hands, but it’s important that you watch them. Because, in a few moments, I can guarantee that most of you will not be watching my hands at all, and get sucked up in the moment…
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 infectious energiser:
What makes you laugh in this exercise? Why?
Where else in our lives do we laugh like this? What’s an example?
What other types of laughter do we experience in our lives? What do these mean?
Metaphorically speaking, what is the impact when our group is not clapping together? Give me an example.
How can we work together more effectively?
The inspiration for the Clapping Game, and many more audience-participation exercises, was sourced from the following publication: