I’m going to share with you an exercise now that I frequently use with groups to frame the experience before I often commence a program or maybe even before the program starts just so they get a sense of what’s about to happen.
Again I’m going to set it up first of all using the whole group, but your activity will be just with your pair.
So with groups it is often very easy to actually invite them to think of play in three ways and that is to play fair, to play safe, and to play hard. There’s just three things they need to consider.
So most of the managing of their behaviours falls under one of those three categories.
Ordinarily with the group, and I won’t do this today just for brevity of time, but ordinarily with the group I will invite them to consider what does all that mean. What does play fair, play hard, and play safe mean?
But real quick, play fair basically respecting other people, you know willing to play by the rules whatever that might be.
To play safe is not just about physical safety, but the emotional and mental safety as well and we’ll talk about that looks like and what that doesn’t look like.
And then finally to play hard, basically to give it a go, to make appropriate decisions to actually basically participate in whatever form that might take.
So play fair, play safe, play hard.
Again I would invite the group ordinarily to create these next three things. For purposes of time let me just give them to you. Play safe physically when we see this we know what it means and that is safe. Just practice that gesture right now.
(Safe with gesture)
And we’ll turn up the volume on it. So do it again but give it like a definite compassionate or a passionate safe. Ready.
(Safe with gesture)
Beautiful. Okay. Alright so when we know we are talking about safety that’s the anchor that we use.
The other one is to play hard, and that’s basically to give it a go, to participate.
(Jumps into stance)
It’s more getting into it. So make it look like you’re ready. So just do that.
(Yes and jumps into stance)
Yes and it comes with the “YES” I’m going to give it a go. Whatever shape or form that participation that might take.
Finally to play fair. Let’s consider it in terms of a set of scales or balance, and it looks a bit like this. It doesn’t really have a sound but feel free to do a shh shh shh to it.
Alright let’s just repeat all three.
And play fair
(Shh shh shh)
Alright, excellent! Remember this is all on video.
No, no it’s focusing on me.
Hey could I ask for a volunteer to step forward, I want to show you what now is going to happen with each of your pairs. So who would like to step forward?
Congratulations you’ve won a trip for two to Hawaii, well done.
So we are going to be standing back to back, you’ll all be doing this in a moment just watch what we’re doing first of all. So Matthew back to back.
So if we were partners we already know what those three things are. Through the natural process of ESP, Extra-Sensory Perception, I’m going to count to three, we are both going to turn around a hundred and eighty degrees to face each other, and our object is as we’re turning to do one of those three physical gestures including the sounds. And our hope, our aim, is that we match.
Now it would be very easy for me to say “I’m going to do play safe you ready, okay.” The thrill of the chase will have gone. It’s all about do we happen to match. Do we need to repeat what the three are, or can you remember them?
(I remember them)
Excellent Matthew! So it’s on three you turn around, do it as your turning don’t wait to see me before you decide. Are you ready?
One, two, three
(Both do the play hard, yes!)
Thank you for coming. We can call it a day now.
So that’s a match. We are going to have five rounds of this, and I’m going to invite you with you and your partner to tally how successful you will be over the course of those five rounds. Remembering it is about the ESP, but how many times might you match. So you are looking to match. If you don’t match that’s okay there is always another round. Got the basic idea?
Matthew thank you very much.
Go back to back now with your partners folks. Now wait for me, I’ll give the counts.
Do you not have a partner Jillian?
(Oh no she is coming back.)
Well okay, alright, because you can be partner with me if you like in the meantime because I love to play.
So we’re just going to practice what the threes things are. No need to turn around I just want you to practice what they are. Are you ready? So the first one will be play hard.
Okay great and then play safe.
And then play fair.
(Shh shh shh)
Alright, great one of those three things you will do as you turn around hoping for a match. Here we go one, two, three.
(Each pair turns and picks a gesture)
Yeah, nicely done. Alright so Jillian and I are on the same page here we got a one for one match so far. We’ve still got four more rounds so here we go back to back. Remember you can do the same thing or you can change it up it’s up to you.
Are you ready? One, two, three.
(Each pair turns and picks a gesture)
Awe, so close, so close. Alright try again.
Real quick I’m going to do a quick survey and then I’m going to move this on, but ordinarily this conversation would have some substance to it in terms of groups I work with, but real quick. Quick survey out of what we’ve just done, out of your tallying, who got five out of five matches?
Not today, okay great. Four out of five?
Eight out of…I thought you said eight there. I was like how did you get eight out of five?
A students great.
Three out of five? Okay
Two out of five? There’s a lot of people there.
One our of five?
What about zero out of five? Alright congratulations! Nice.
At this point from a Physical Education point of view you’ve all raised some heartbeats, a little bit of physical activity passively, and you could just move on.
You’ve done some little bit of you know working together, but there is a great deal more that can also connect to this as well. And this was picked up a lot in the conversation that I did yesterday and in my literature, but quickly.
From that perspective let’s say if I had to average out what your group results were let’s say it was a two maybe out of three, two out of five. Would that be a fair estimate? Maybe three, two to three. Okay, great.
In the world of high performance it would be about getting five out of five or certainly more than three out of five. So four out of five, five out of five.
Here’s a quick answer do not think too much about it or add any meaning to it. What would be necessary for you as a group or you as an individual couple to get five out of five? What would you need to do?
And you’ve just added meaning to it. What do you need to do?
You could communicate. So if Matthew and I was like “Hey Matthew I’m going to do safe you got that.” We would guarantee five out of five. You’ve just added a judgment to it because we don’t allow that at school. Except in the real world that’s actually expected. Not to cheat you added value to that.
You are expected to communicate. That is, how many of you, and maybe this does exist for you in your own workplace, actually exist as if you don’t have to communicate with them and it’s all ESP? Come on, didn’t you know I meant that? Didn’t know this was the goal of the activity, or the purpose of our school, or the mission of our project, or whatever?
We kind of expect people to just get it. Yet, through the task of communication we can all be on the same page.
So no I am not saying cheating is okay. My point is that here is an example of an activity to move a group from one point to another, benchmarking it, involving a task such as communication to make it more effective.
So there you’ve had a fun activity, you’ve now got permission to talk about. okay where in our life of a school group, in your school assignment, your sporting team, your family, or a faculty could we actually value that simple skill of being able to communicate more effectively so that we actually improve our performance.
Now you could just sit down at your desk in front of a white board open up a textbook to chapter number three that says how to work together as a team, or you can actually make it fun and engage people. Because now I’ve got your attention, I’ve engaged you, you now understand what it means to actually work together, through a very simple exercise.
And in this case all you had to do was, and I know you called it cheating, but it was like hey that we just simply judged that based on other things.
How To Play Narrative
Move your group into pairs (see Getting Into Pairs for some fun ideas) and then conduct a whole group discussion that will result in an agreement of three definable, unique physical gestures. Your program goals will dictate what style of gestures they will be.
For example, a recreational program may settle with three popular sporting movements such as a golf swing, swimming and horse-riding (to save space, you’ll just have to imagine what these movements look like.)
Alternatively, for programs of a more intrinsic nature, you could come up with happy, sad and shocked featuring commonly accepted gestures for each of them. It doesn’t matter too much, but I encourage you to involve your group to develop the gestures, with you as the final arbiter of what is appropriate, of course!
Practice these gestures, one at a time, to ensure that everyone has got them locked in. Now, we’re ready to start.
Ask each of the pairs to find a little space to play, and stand back to back with their partners, ie so that they can’t see each other. Whilst waiting for the countdown, each person is silently deciding which of the three gestures he or she will choose to do. No talking or giving of clues is permitted during this period.
Then, on the count of three (often announced corporately by you,) each person turns around swiftly to face their partner whilst demonstrating/performing one of the three gestures. A clue – instruct people to be gesturing as they turn around, to prevent a little sneaky cheating.
Each pair aims to match gestures, eg a swimmer faces another swimmer. Strangely, wild screams of delight emanate from the pairs regardless of whether they match or not. Invite those pairs that do match to offer a little ‘high-five’ action with their partner to celebrate.
Repeat this procedure five or six times, suggesting that each partnership tally their results.
Upon the final round, survey your group for the most perceptive couples!
Practical Leadership Tips
It’s not rare to find that some partnerships earn a perfect record, but it is certainly not common. What does this mean? Hmmm, I’ll leave that to your debrief. But a high degree of success among many of the pairs may reflect a high level of connectedness within the group. Or, just plain luck!
In the context of framing this exercise (see Framing Ideas tab below,) a useful option is to introduce the concept of bench-marking. That is, to acknowledge where the performance of the group is now, and compare it to a desired standard. To illustrate, if you surveyed the tally results of each pair, you could calculate a rough average (it’s likely to be somewhere between 2 and 3 if you conducted five rounds) for the group. Now, ask the question – what could be done to improve the average score? Although most people may say this is ‘cheating,’ a very effective response is for each person to inform their partner what gesture they are planning to do, ie communicate. It’s interesting to note that in school we call this cheating, but in the real world, this is called ‘required.’ At this point, it’s time to move the discussion from the game to the ‘real-world,’ ie how individuals and/or your group could improve their performance.
Clearly, this activity lends itself to the application of ESP or extrasensory perception, in that it would help people match their partner’s gesture in every round if only they could read their mind.
You could integrate ESP as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships in your group.
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
I have often framed ESP as a fun exercise to spark a conversation about three critical group norms for my groups. For example, I ask my group to create a distinct physical gesture for three particular elements of their full value agreement such as safety, setting goals and having fun. We discuss what each of these elements means in the context of developing and nourishing positive relationships and then we play the game. At the end, I like to survey the results of the group and estimate an average which often comes to something like 2 or 3 out of 5 matches. The most powerful part comes next when I invite my group to consider what would it take for the group to raise this average to 4 or 5 out of 5. Their attention often turns to the necessary role communication has on our group’s ability to be successful, which morphs into a conversation about what our group norms could look like.
Alternative Icons: Introduce any three connected ‘things’ such as Hollywood icons, emotions, objects, seasons, etc.
Trio ESP: Use groups of three people; tougher to match, but same deal.
More Gestures: Introduce four or perhaps even five distinct gestures (if you dare.)
Match The Leader: Imagine standing before a large audience. Establish three unique gestures, such as using your pointer & middle fingers extended together, placed under your nose (moustache,) on your neck (bow tie) or above one of your eyes (eyebrow.) Set a beat by patting your thighs twice and then position your fingers in one of these three positions, before returning to pat your thighs. Instruct your group to mimic your thigh-patting moves and randomly perform one of the three gestures in between. If they happen to match you, invite them to stand up, spin full circle and sit down as quickly as possible, resuming the beat as best as they can. Increase the pace of the beat as more time progresses. Kudos to Floyd Hinman for this gem.
Metaphor: Use as a fun way to introduce an important component of your program, eg the development of a full value agreement. Check the Health & Wellness Programming tab for more.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Form pairs and then ask everyone to switch to gallery-view to see all of the video thumbnails on their screen. Invite each person to position themselves comfortably in front of their screen so that it is possible for their partners to see all of the relevant actions. Explain the game, instruct everyone to close their eyes and announce “1, 2, 3” to trigger everyone to reveal their gesture while opening their eyes to see if they match their partner.
As above, but ask each person to identify a secret partner on their screen to focus on. Play five rounds and survey the results. For fun, invite each person to reveal who their secret partner was at the end.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Most groups that want to have fun, simply want to play and have a good time. But simply wanting to have a good time doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. So, I’d like to broaden your concept of play by introducing three key elements of play in the context of today’s program. Play Fair, Play Safe, Play Hard. What do you think each of them mean? [Allow time for this discussion] Now, with a fuller understanding of each element of play, I’d like to introduce a quick activity that will reinforce these important concepts in your minds. [Invite group to develop three physical gestures which reflect each of the Play elements]…
Have you ever heard the term ‘Are you on the same page?’ It means, in other words, that everyone is connected or thinking the same thing(s). While it’s an easy concept to grasp, in practice, it is often very difficult to achieve. This exercise will explore the challenges and benefits of everyone being on the same page…
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 exciting partner activity:
How could you successfully match your partner’s gestures more often?
Could you or your group benefit from communicating more effectively? How? Describe one example?
What is necessary to ensure that everyone in your group/team is “on the same page?”