In advance, distribute as many index cards to each person as there are letters in their first name, eg Kai will need three cards.
Each person writes the letters of their first name on the cards, one letter per card.
Combine all of the cards from your group and shuffle them.
Re-distribute the cards by randomly dealing as many cards to each person as letters in their first name, eg Kai will receive three cards, Peter will receive five cards, etc.
No-one may look at their cards until the game starts.
The goal is to be the first person to collect all of the letters which spell their first name.
Explain the following parameters which govern fair trading:
– Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns;
– All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time;
– No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards at any time, ie all trades are ‘blind;’ and
– Any appropriate letter can be used to spell a person’s name.
Individuals may call out the number of cards they wish to trade to attract another person willing to trade an equal number of cards.
Trading continues until the first person announces that they have collected all of the letters to spell their name.
Repeat, or consider one of the many variations to draw extra value from this exercise.
Video Transcript for Name Swap
Part of this requires a little bit of a set up. And that set up is simply first recalling your name, easy enough right? And please choose a name that you prefer to be called amongst the group.
And what I’ll ask is that on each of the nine cards you’ll put your name. Write it generally the same way, but each card will have your name on it.
So if I have a deck of cards of these nine blank index cards I’m going to have Nate nine times. So I will literally of a deck of Nate cards. Not eight cards, but Nate cards. So put your name down.
Whole space, yep. This is the only thing that will be written on these cards at this moment.
So at this point everyone has a deck of cards. Full set of your name. Nine cards total. And it’s an opportunity, this activity (excuse me) This activity is an opportunity to really learn some names if you weren’t to know names within the group, but it’s also to look how we interact with each other. How we might spend some time with one another.
And the first part to move this forward is you’re starting with a full set, and we want to shuffle the deck. I could reclaim all those cards and shuffle them myself, but there’s a way to do this that allows for everyone to shuffle, it’s called a self shuffle.
In which in just a minute I’ll ask you to put your cards down, face down so you can’t see them, can’t see what’s on them. Then you’re going to move around the room trading cards, and this’ll help us set up for the next piece, next phase of this activity. In that you can only trade one for one, two for two, or three for three. Right, and you have to agree with this other person. Right? If I had my deck of cards and I turn to you, help me with your name.
Ray, so I turn to Ray and I’ve got three of my cards and you have one, and one of your cards is worth three of mine. That’s not where we’re at in this game. It’s three for three, right?
It might be, but in this game no. It’s three for three, two for two, one for one. Is that making sense?
And the goal is to have a nice mix of cards that you don’t know initially what’s in your deck. So what I’ll invite you to do right now is keep those cards face down, mingle about practising connecting with each other, and shuffle those cards by trading one for one, two for two, and three for three. Go ahead and do that now.
(Group shuffles their cards with each other.)
And you can mingle about the space across the circle’s totally fine.
Great. Last trade just occurred.
Great, so at this point again without looking at your cards you should have a deck of a nice mix of names now in the room. Okay, and you already have a mechanism to trade because this is what we’re going to be doing.
We’re going to be trading cards with the names on them and ultimately you’re going to be trying to trade to a full set. You might have a strong desire to get all of your name cards back to you. You might discover that’s a good strategy or not. You also have the opportunity to collect an entire set of someone else’s name.
So in just a minute what’ll happen here is I’ll say go, and on go you’re going to look at your cards. You might decide to organise them or not, but you’ll start trading again with other people and you’re trying to be the quickest to get a full set of names.
So in this place if you have that in mind you’re trading, you’re trying to be the quickest to get a full set. Again once I say go you can try to, you’ll look at your cards and you’ll start trading with each other one for one, two for two, three for three.
Okay recapping, you’re trying to be the quickest to get a full set of the same names, whether it’s yours or someone else’s it does not matter. The way you’re doing that is trading, as you did in the shuffle. One for one, two for two, three for three.
On your mark, get set, go.
(Group starts to trade their cards.)
(What do you got there?)
Nice, so hold up right there. An official check. Dave believes he has a full set. Lets check this officially. How many cards?
(Uh,three, six, oh wait. Three, six, nine.)
Nine cards, and whose cards do you have?
(I have Ray’s. I have all Ray because Ray gave it to me.)
Awe. You handed your…
(I didn’t realise it was the last one you needed.)
(You gave me the last one.)
(Yeah I did.)
Nice, so stand right where you are. You have your cards. Maybe some of you experienced a moment of disappointment or relief. Oh phew it’s done.
Great, next step in the process is again keeping your cards face down so you can’t see them just yet, but counting them making sure that you have nine cards.
(Each person counts their cards.)
Typically it occurs where there’s some that need to be handed back out to someone if you ten or eight, and so on. Everyone has nine? Great.
Again cards are face down at the moment. The spin on this is the goal is to be the first person in this group to collect a full set of names, cards. A full set of nine name cards, right? And the way that you’re doing that is you have your cards and when I say go can look at your cards, you can organise them however you want. This time however you can’t show them to anyone else.
You can’t show your cards. You’re only trading one for one, two for two, three for three, and still you’ll notice some different interactions, different exchanges and how you feel about those things. Is that clear? Okay.
You’re not able to say what’s on your card. It’s just one for one, two for two, three for three.
(Group starts to trade.)
Just absolutely just trading, not saying what you need. It’s simply trading you get what you get and you don’t get upset.
How To Play Narrative
In advance, you’ll need a large bunch of blank index cards. Distribute the cards to each person in your group, supplying as many cards as they have letters in their first name. So, Kai will receive three cards, Devon will receive five cards, and so on.
Next, ask everyone to write the letters of their first name onto the cards, one letter per card. Although not critical, encourage the letters to be marked as large as possible on the cards – it makes them more interesting, and easier to read.
Once all of the cards have been marked, combine all of the cards from your group together and thoroughly shuffle the deck. You’re now ready to start.
Randomly deal as many cards (face-down) to each person as letters in their first name, and ask everyone to not look at them until the game starts.
Explain that the primary goal of the exercise is to be the first person to collect all of the letters of their name. For example, Kai will have collected three cards – K, A and I.
At this point, you will need to clarify that it is not necessary for Kai to receive the three letters which he wrote on the cards. He may collect any three cards with the appropriate letters on them, such as the K which Keith wrote and one of the A’s written by Alexander.
Naturally, it is presumed that no one starts with a set of correctly labelled cards, so a series of trades will have to be negotiated. To govern a fair exchange process, explain that there are three key trading parameters:
Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns.
All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time; and
No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards to anyone at any time, ie all trades are conducted blindly (cards face down,) so no-one knows what they will receive from another.
Once all questions have been cleared, ring a bell and announce the start of trading.
Expect a flurry of exchanges in the first few minutes, whereby people typically start calling out numbers such as “ONE,” “TWO” or “THREE” to attract others who are willing to exchange the same number of cards.
Eventually one person will gleefully announce that they are the first to collect all of the letters of their first name. If you wish, allow trading to continue until everyone can spell their name with cards they are holding.
Play several rounds, or adopt one of the alternative set-ups described in the Variations tab.
Be prepared for a range of behaviours, strategies, and reactions to be exhibited during this exercise. To this end, process as appropriate.
Practical Leadership Tips
Use Name Swap as a way to introduce or reinforce the names of group members.
Looking at one’s cards in advance of “GO” is not critical, but if this is a concern, explain the exercise first and then deal out the cards to your group.
Sometimes you may need to describe to your group that an exchange of cards must be mutual. One person snatching the card(s) of another does not constitute ‘mutual.’
If you’re concerned by the fact that the number of letters in your group’s names vary widely from person to person – take a look at the ‘Level Playing Field’ Variation below.
For the record, this activity was inspired by a popular card game called Pit first seen in 1904. For many groups and families, Pit brings about behaviours that may question or contradict the group or individual’s set of values as they trade commodities, all in the name of friendly competition. Playing a version of Pit with names rather than commodities brings personal values and behaviours to the fore. This immediately, and sometimes instantly, initiates personal and group reflection on their values and behaviours. Take a look at Health & Wellness Programming tab for more.
You could integrate Name Swap as part of a well-designed SEL program to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
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
The exercise will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, do you think most trades were fair? Why?
Describe your personal objectives for this activity?
How did your objectives relate to the group’s goal?
Can you think of a time or experience that demonstrated your ability to adapt?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? How?
Were there any behaviours that concerned you? Why?
In addition to teaching regular goal-setting guidelines, eg SMART goals, this is a wonderful activity to explore the intersection of individual goals with group goals. Framed appropriately, you could invite your group to reflect on questions such as:
The impact of actions that purposefully achieve individual goals at the expense of group goals?
What was the group goal of this activity?
Is it possible to achieve both individual and group goals successfully?
Level Playing Field: Since our names vary in the number of letters, it may seem unfair for Kai to only have three cards, but Alexander has nine. Identify the person in your group with the most number of letters in their name, and distribute this number of index cards to every person. Instruct everyone to write the letters of their first and last names until they have used all of the letters. For example, if eight cards are distributed, Kai will write K, A, I, and then the first five letters of his surname.
Abbreviations: Adopt a creative use of people’s names, such as combining the first letter of their first name followed by the first and second letters of their last name. For example, Prudence Rosel becomes PRO. In this case, everyone has three cards.
Arty: Invite participants to produce a creative deck of name cards by asking them to illustrate their name in a way that represents their best qualities.
Collect Any Name: If your group is familiar with each other’s names, allow individuals to collect any name in the group. This would only work if everyone starts with the same number of cards (see ‘Level Playing Field’ variation.)
Transparency: Remove the need to trade blindly, and allow people to show or disclose their cards to others at any time. While this makes the exercise less challenging (and much quicker,) it does invite the potential for collaboration – especially if combined with the following variation…
Group Initiative: Re-frame the objective by explaining that the exercise is complete only when every person (in the group) has collected all of the letters of their name. Record the time to introduce a healthy competitive element to the exercise, especially if you plan to allow for several rounds of play so your group can focus on continuous improvement.
Same Cards: Everyone starts with the same number of cards, with their first name written on all of them. See Names Stock Market for more details.
Values Swap: Take a look at Values Stock Market, for a similar, more substantive exercise using values or group norms.
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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 highly interactive name-game:
How would you describe the general feel of the group as the exercise was being played?
Did you feel stressed? Did that affect how you traded with others?
How does stress manifest itself? How does it make us appear to others?
How can we care for ourselves and others in stressful situations?
The inspiration for Name Swap, and more interactive name-games, was sourced from the following publication: