Form small groups of 4 to 6 people, standing in a circle.
Distribute a length of tubular webbing (or ribbon or rope) to each small group.
Tie the two ends of the webbing together to form a loop.
Instruct the groups to place the webbing loop inside their circle, grabbing the loop with both hands.
Invite the person who (randomly) has the knot closest to their hands to start the exercise to share a story about themselves.
As this person shares their story, everyone in the group starts to pass the webbing loop through their hands, and keeps passing until the knot has passed through the hands of every individual twice.
Once the knotted loop has completed two full rotations of the group, the person sharing stops.
The person to the left of the one who just shared is invited to share their story next.
Continue until everyone has shared.
Video Transcript of Twice Around The Block
presented by Mark Collard
Alright. What I’ll ask you all to do now is to hold a piece of the loop in your hands in a circle with your group. Fantastic.
And just by chance, whoever happens to have the knot either between their hands or closest to their hands will start this next exercise. So quickly identify who this next person is. There’s often a quick little change of space in which the knot appears.
Alright. So whoever that person is, the knot is going to travel clockwise around the group, and it’s going to go around twice, that is the knot that is presently between your hands now, is going to go around the group, come through your hands once, and then the knot will keep going around and come back the second time.
That is how long we measure the time of this next exercise. Again, you get to share another story, a different story to what you had before, but it still needs to involve yourself.
And the way it works is that you keep telling the story for as long as that knot is travelling around the group twice. It’s called ‘Twice Around The Block’ in a sense.
Now here’s the interesting observation we can make. If you note that your group is particularly engrossed in your story, you’ll note the knot is only working its way around the circle very, very slowly, because I don’t want it to finish.
If you see the knot going through their hands very very quickly, you might get a message from that experience.
Alright. We may not get through every person because I want to give you a medley of experiences, but for now, one person will start and it’ll just simply move around the group to the left person after the first person has gone.
So twice around the block, that’s how long you have a chance to tell your next story. Go.
(people telling stories as part of Twice Around The Block)
How To Play Narrative
You’ll need to grab (or prepare) a set of approx 3 to 5 metre (10-15′) lengths of tubular webbing (or ribbon or rope), enough for one per small group of 4 to 6 people.
You could involve more people in each group, but it works best with no more than 8 people, and the more people you add, the longer the exercise will take to complete.
Having formed a series of random groups (see Getting Into Teams for some fun ideas,) ask them to form a circle.
Distribute one length of webbing to each group, and ask them to tie the two ends together to form a loop. Place the loop inside the circle, and instruct each person to grab the loop with both of their hands. With the loop held off the ground, your groups are now ready to start.
Announce that the purpose of this exercise is to invite each person to share a story with the rest of their group. However, unlike most sharing, the group controls how long each person shares.
Explain that as one person is sharing, everyone in the group passes the webbing through their hands in a clockwise direction, so that the knot rotates fully around the group twice. That is, the point at which the knot returns between the hands of the person sharing for the second time, indicates that their time for sharing has expired.
For a bit of fun, suggest that whoever has the knot closest to their hands (or perhaps in between their hands) ‘right now,’ shall be invited to start the activity. This always causes a bit of mirth.
The activity continues until everyone has shared.
Practical Leadership Tips
Unlike many opportunities when people are invited to share, this exercise allows the group (and not the sharer) to control how long the sharing may continue. After an initial burst of speed to encourage a quick share, the group normally resumes a more respectful pace.
Tubular webbing works best, and once a part of your props bag, you’ll find it to be extremely versatile. You can source tubular webbing from most outdoor equipment stores.
Flat lengths of ribbon work just as well, and so does rope. Just make sure that the texture of whatever you use is comfortable enough to pass through one’s hands, so as to not cause rope-burn if it is passed too quickly.
Note, when I say ‘story’ I do not mean something which begins with “Once upon a time…” Just encourage people to share, anything, they get to choose – this is what makes the sharing safe, and therefore, possible.
The key ingredient to the success of this activity is that people are encouraged to keep sharing until the knot has passed through the hands of everyone in the group twice. With a 5 metre (15′) length, you can expect at least 1 minute of sharing – significantly more than if you simply asked people to introduce themselves.
If you’re working with young people, you are well advised to distribute the webbing after you have demonstrated the exercise, lest they get very distracted by holding this infinitely useful prop.
An interesting note: we all know that the #1 fear most people hold is public speaking, and worse still, when they are invited to speak about themselves. We also know that the brain can only focus on one thing at a time (multi-tasking is a myth.) Add these two facts together, and it is believed that when a person who is frightened to speak publicly is given something to do with their hands as they speak, the fear of speaking often dissipates. Why? Because, in the case of this exercise, as you pass the webbing through your hands, your brain is focused on the action of passing and not on the fear it was concerned about only moments before the individual starting sharing. Cool.
No Control: The person sharing does not actually hold or pass the webbing loop, yet they still form part of the circle, ie the loop is rotated in front of them.
Multiple Rotations: For an extra short or long share, vary the number of times the webbing loop needs to rotate around the group.
Focus Your Locus: Focus the sharing by asking people to share something related to a particular topic, eg a happy memory from their childhood, a time they exhibited leadership, etc.
Interactive name card game with friendly competition.
Structured ice-breaker for in-person & virtual gatherings.
Useful Framing Ideas
When people are asked to share a little about themselves – this experience can often fall into one of two categories – either they talk for too long, or they talk for too little. This exercise involves a unique method of measuring the length of time someone may talk, and best of all, the group gets to control the process…
Clocks have been around for centuries as a device to help us measure and record the passing of time. What you’re about to see and use is a time piece with a difference…
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, non-threatening ice-breaker exercise:
How did it feel to watch the loop being passed around as you shared your story?
If you normally get nervous talking in front of others, did moving the rope help calm you?
Did you run out of time? What did you or the group make this mean?
In what other areas of our life do we have limited time to share something about ourselves?
The inspiration for Twice Around the Block was sourced from the following publication: