Pose a question to your group, eg What is something strange you believed as a child?
Ask each person to briefly write their response into the Chatroom, but not hit the Enter key.
When ready, invite your group to hit the Enter key at the same time to populate the Chatroom simultaneously with their responses.
Allow up to a minute for your group to scan the many responses.
Invite a volunteer to choose one response they are curious to learn more about and ask its author to describe the story behind it.
When this person has shared (audibly,) ask them to choose another response that they are curious about and invite its author to share their story, and so on.
If a nominated person chooses not to share, simply ask the current volunteer to pick another response they are curious about.
Continue sharing for 10 or more minutes.
Here’s a snippet of a video in which I led Curiosity Ping Pong with a custom client group.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those really simple, yet really powerful types of ideas.
While I learned it within an online setting, it absolutely works with in-person groups too – refer to the Variations tab for ideas.
Having gathered your group online, simply pose a question to your group that you would like them to respond to. Display the question on your screen, show a card with the question (We Connect Cards are great for this,) or describe it audibly.
Presuming you have a chatroom function embedded in your video conferencing platform, instruct your group to write their responses briefly into the chatbox. But, importantly, instruct them to NOT hit the Enter key until you say.
Allow a minute or so for people to type in their answers. Then, when ready, ask everyone to hit their Enter key simultaneously. Much like my email inbox first thing in the morning, you’ll love watching the chatroom fill with responses.
There’s a lot to scan, so give your group a few moments to read through the many responses.
When ready, ask for a volunteer to choose one response from the list that they are curious about and ask the author of that response to share a little more about their story. Typically, this will entail the nominated person switching on their microphone to share audibly with the rest of the group.
When their sharing is done, ask this nominated person to choose a new response they are curious about to start the process over again, and so on it goes. Back and forth, like a game of ping pong.
If the author of a response who is called on chooses not to share more of their story, honour that choice and ask the current volunteer to choose a new response (and author) to share the limelight next.
Judge the level of engagement as each story is shared but you should expect this process to continue for at least 10 minutes.
Practical Leadership Tips
As with most things, your framing is key. You are not asking people to write an essay in the chatroom. Encourage them to be succinct and limit their chatroom response to 1 or 2 sentences.
Hitting the Enter key is not critical to the success of the activity, but watching the Chatroom fill simultaneously with responses is fun to see. And, I think it’s also useful for people to not see what others are sharing so as to not influence their own thinking.
With thanks to Chad Littlefield for sharing this gem. You can view Chad describing this exercise here.
You could integrate Curiosity Ping Pong 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.
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
One of your primary goals as a group facilitator is to create an environment in which your participants can make appropriate choices (consistent with the goals of your program.) Inviting people to share openly and honestly and to honour their choices are two of the key ingredients of a positive learning environment.
The Full Value behavioural competencies of Be Safe, Be Honest & Care for Self & Others are linked directly to one’s ability to develop positive and healthy relationship skills. They are amply exercised in this activity, eg to respect someone’s decision to decline an invitation to share more details of their story, or to respect the personal boundaries of the group in regards to self-disclosure.
Curiosity Ping Pong provides opportunities to exercise all of these skills as well as demonstrate active listening, compassion, and empathy towards others. The questions referenced in the Reflection Tips tab may be useful to you as well as the following:
How do we know when someone is not willing or ready to share? What are the social cues?
What do we ordinarily make someone’s refusal to share mean? Why and what is the impact of this?
What must exist in one’s environment to invite people to willingly and safely share in a group context?
Specifically, how can we build respectful communities?
Random Pick: With each turn, invite someone new (other than those who have already been involved) to choose the next response they are curious to learn more about.
Face-to-Face: Invite your participants to write their responses on a sticky note and paste them on a wall. After scanning them all, ask one person to choose an interesting response to begin the conversation.
Illustrations: As above, with images or pictures (which have been posted to respond to your question.)
Testing: Use this strategy to test your group’s knowledge about a particular topic, especially those that do not typically solicit a right or wrong answer, eg philosophy, human relations, etc.
This exercise is purposefully designed to suit all virtual settings.
Innovative series of games involving people's full names.
Spot The Difference
Fun partner exercise to sharpen observation skills.
Useful Framing Ideas
Curiosity is one of my primary character strengths, is it one of yours? To be curious opens up so many new doors and windows to my learning, I am always excited to be presented with new ideas which is why I’m excited about this next exercise…
Have you played ping pong or table tennis? [ allow time for responses… ] I played it a LOT as a young person, spending almost all of my lunch and recess times at school refining my ping pong skills. It was a lot of fun especially when I played doubles. Our next activity will feel a lot like playing ping pong in doubles because we can expect a lot of back and forth…
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:
Was it hard to find at least one response that evoked a little curiosity in you?
What elements piqued your curiosity?
What process did you use to choose someone to share their story?
How did it feel to be selected to share your story?
Describe what it felt like after someone shared their story? Was this a positive experience?
The inspiration for Curiosity Ping Pong was sourced from Chad Littlefield in one of his numerous video tutorials on his YouTube channel.