I’d like you to imagine, well we don’t have a lot of people, that we have a space between the … like a sense of a line along this piece of carpet. There’s one end here and there’s one end there.
I’d like you now to imagine that that space is a spectrum. A spectrum is, I’d like you if you can imagine, it is the blackest of night at this end, and at here is the brightest of white at this end, and of course all the shades of grey in between.
So I’m going to give you a scenario. I’m going to ask you to physically stand where on that line you might place yourself based on that scenario.
For example I’d like you to imagine that at this end of the line is the place that you would put yourself if you consider yourself a morning person.
For example, that sort of person will have set the alarm and have worked at least 30 minutes before it went off, and before it went off, you’ve already ticked three things off your to-do list. You are a morning person. You’d be standing at this end of the line.
At this end of the line, you’re the sort of person that has to hit the snooze alarm two times, have a shower and three coffees before you can remember your first name. You would not be a morning person. You would be at this end of the line.
Of course you’ve got all the shades of grey somewhere between these two points. Stand along that line according to where you ordinarily would be, not necessarily this morning but just ordinarily would be.
Fantastic. Of course there’s no right or wrong answers, just whatever you think.
Great. Perfect. A fair spread I want to say. Great. Turn to one or more people close to you and describe to them why you’re standing right where you’re standing. If you don’t know them, quickly introduce yourself as well. Go.
Again we’ll move on with another spectrum, so it’s going to be an alternative, picking up on the pieces that Griffin was talking about today in terms of the outdoors.
If at this end of the line is 100%, and I’ll ask you to focus on your particular job whatever that might be, your day-to-day, 9:00-5:00, whatever it is, your job description, if 100% of everything you achieve is done in the outdoors, in fact your desk is out under a tree with a rock to keep the papers from flying away, that would be this end of the line.
If you sleep under your desk, indoors, never leave the school and never invite anyone to be outdoors, that would be this end of the line. Of course all the variances somewhere between the two.
So 100% outdoors, 100% indoors. Where would you be? Line up according to that.
Where would that be? Very good. There’s no wrong or right answer.
Excellent. Again, find someone who’s perhaps close to where you are. Describe to them why you’re standing where you’re standing. Go.
How To Play Narrative
Create in the mind’s eye of your group the concept of an imaginary line that stretches between two points – be it two walls, a couple of trees, whatever. Describe this space as a spectrum, suggesting that if black was at one end and white the other, all the shades of grey would be in between.
Having created this metaphor, announce to your group that you would like each individual to place him or herself along this spectrum according to their personal response to a series of questions and scenarios you will shortly pose.
They can choose to be anywhere along the imaginary line, but stress that it is their decision, and they should try to not be influenced by where their peers and/or friends are standing.
For example, explain your first spectrum as representing how we, as individuals, typically view waking up in the morning. On the left-hand side of the spectrum, we have the early risers, those folks who just can’t wait to get out of bed, and are pumped as soon as their feet hit the floor.
Then, at the extreme right-hand side, we have those poor souls who hit the snooze button twice and need three cups of coffee to even remember what day it is. And of course, everyone else fits somewhere in between.
Upon announcing each scenario or question, ask people to stand along the imaginary line representing where they fit within the spectrum. There are no right or wrong answers. But the depth and breadth of the spread will reflect a number of characteristics about the group.
From time to time, invite the group to observe where they are generally situated, and perhaps even ask them to share with a few neighbours or with the larger group what this might mean. Or, of course, you could simply move people from one spectrum to the next solely for the purposes of mixing, getting to know one another and having fun.
Here are a few spectrums to start with, then make up a few of your own:
Exercise – Never v Several hours a day
Social – Introvert v Extrovert
Job: Indoors v Outdoors
Car Security – Never lock your car v Always lock your car
Group Role – Leader v Follower
Landscape – Mountains v Sea
Pet – Cat v Dog
Taste – Savoury v Sweet
Organisation – Careful planner v Spontaneous
Work – Individual v Team
Details – Attention to detail v Big picture
There are dozens more ideas you can use as fodder to build many more spectrums in these two fabulous activities Must Choose and This or That.
Be sure to emphasise that an individual should place themselves along the line in accordance with their personal (not corporate) opinion.
If you notice that much of the group is often clumped together in one section of the spectrum, it may be that your group is being influenced by one or more dominant players, ie some people are not feeling comfortable to stand where they really want to because of peer pressure. If so, consider your sequence leading up to this exercise – your group may need to break some more ‘ice.’
If you are using this exercise in a wide, open space, place two objects (such as a ball or a cone) to indicate the extremes of the imaginary line/spectrum.
Note, that this exercise can be delivered in silence. That is, people can move from one spot to another without the need to talk. However, there is tremendous value (as discussed in the Variations tab below) to invite individuals to share with others (perhaps those close to them) a response to a question you may pose to the group.
You could integrate Spectrums as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to 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
Inviting individuals to reflect on their own characteristics and stand as part of a line relative to other members of the group is all about accountability. Choosing where to stand is acknowledging and being accountable for a particular stance and/or identity. To this end, if exploring accountability is one of your program goals, be sure to provide opportunities for people to move their spot in the line after they become aware of new or different information (ie when others share why they are standing where they are standing) that may change their minds.
All reflection involves some form of mindful activity, especially if you choose to conduct this exercise in a non-verbal manner.
Here are a bunch more spectrums or continuums you can play with:
– Conflict – Avoid v Confront
– Frustrations – Express them v Keep them to yourself
– Motivation – Self-motived v Motivated by others
– Time Management – Now v Procrastinate
– Change – Resist v Embrace
– Entertainment – Books v Movies
– Rest – Early Riser v Night owl
Survey Style: As above, but issue a statement to which your group will respond by positioning itself between Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree, with Neutral in the middle. For example, “I ALWAYS CRAM IMMEDIATELY BEFORE A DEADLINE.”
Debrief Style: Use this technique to process or debrief a group experience., eg “How well did the group communicate during the project?” Take a look at Spectrums Debrief for more details.
Preferences: Take a look at This or That and Must Choose as these activities will give you many more spectrum-based ideas to pose to your group.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Use a (free) screen sharing software (such as Whiteboardfox or the annotate function of Zoom) that will allow for asynchronous collaboration. Instruct your group how to use the software, and then pose your first scenario drawing a straight line on the screen to indicate the ends of the imagined spectrum. Invite each person to annotate the line with a symbol (to keep it anonymous) or with their name. Clear the annotations between each scenario/round.
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Useful Framing Ideas
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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 introducing this simple get-to-know-you better game:
Did anything surprise you about this exercise?
Were you surprised by the positions of others, or yourself relative to others?
What might any one of these results say about our group?
Fun & Interactive ‘Get-To-Know-You’ Session 1
What You Need:
10+ people, 30 mins, ‘Ice-Breaker Question Exchange’ Cards (Print+Play)