Explain that you have secretly chosen one person in the group as the ‘mystery’ candidate.
The group’s task is to identify this secret person in as few questions as possible.
All questions must be framed so that they can be answered with “YES” or “NO” responses.
Instruct anyone to whom the answer does not apply to sit down for the remainder of the game.
Your group continues to ask questions until one person is left standing and the mystery has been solved.
How To Play Narrative
This is another one of those contagious ‘can-we-do-it-again’ activities. Kids especially love to play this game over and over.
Ask your group to gather and stand, in no particular order, in front of you. Explain that you have (in advance) secretly chosen one person in the group to be the ‘mystery’ candidate. This candidate does not even know that they have been chosen, nor does anyone else. Just you.
Explain that you would now like the group, one at a time, to ask you a question that can only be answered with a “YES” or ”NO” reply. If you are not sure of the answer to a question, avoid saying ‘maybe’ and request that the question be re-phrased.
The object for your group is to correctly identify who the mystery person is before, say, ten questions have been asked, or within as few questions as possible.
To illustrate, the first question is often gender-related, such as “ARE THEY MALE?” If the person you have chosen is indeed a male, you say “YES,” and all of the women in the group sit down. Obviously, if you have chosen a woman, you say “NO” and all the men sit down.
The next question might be, “DO THEY HAVE BLUE EYES?,” etc, etc. The questions continue, all aiming to eliminate those who do not fit the description of the mystery person, until one person is left standing and the mystery has been solved.
Anyone can ask a question, even if they are sitting down. Typically, an arm in the air will suffice to help you chose the next question.
After about three or four questions, often less than one-quarter of your group will be left standing, so the remaining questions are always probing, eg “ARE THEY THE OLDEST IN THEIR FAMILY?”
Play several rounds for as long as your group remains interested in guessing the mysteries.
Practical Leadership Tips
Naturally, if you do not know your group very well, or they are entirely new to you and each other, this exercise will not work.
To enhance longevity of the game, try to choose a person who does not stand out based on the colour of their clothing, their height, or any other very obvious characteristic. Otherwise, the game will descend into questions such as “ARE THEY WEARING A CAP?” which are not particularly probing.
Along the way, if your group struggles to think of useful questions, feel free to offer some clues or other guidance, such as “FOCUS ON WHERE THIS PERSON MAY HAVE BEEN BORN” or “THIS PERSON ACHIEVED SOMETHING SPECIAL LAST YEAR.”
On occasions, one or more individuals will want to make an early prediction even though most people are still standing. Applaud their ingenuity, but ask them instead to construct a question that will result in everyone – other than the person they believe is the mystery person – to sit down.
You could integrate Who Is It? as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a fun get-to-know-you better exercise.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Who Is It? could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Interesting Fact: In advance, ask everyone to write their name and an interesting, little known (or preferably, unknown) fact about themselves on a piece of paper. You collect and shuffle the papers, and one at a time, read out one of these facts. In effect, the name on the paper substitutes your secretly-held nomination, but also provides an intriguing tidbit of information. Game progresses as above.
Tug-of-Who: Form two teams, with each team holding one of the two ends of a very long rope. Mark the middle of the rope, and two lines on the ground that represents the no-go zone about 2-3 metres from this mid-point. Pose a Who Is It? question to one team at a time. If the team guesses correctly, they step backwards while their opponents step forward (towards mid-point.) If the team answers incorrectly, they take a step forward. First team to ‘pull’ their opponent into the no-go zone first wins.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Ask your group to remain seated and when an individual is ‘eliminated’ instruct these people to place their hands on their heads.