Ask group to work together to make the sound of one simultaneous clap.
No one can clap their own hands together, ie each person must involve their neighbour’s hands to form a clap.
Allow time for discussion to solve the problem, or limit the number of attempts.
How To Play Narrative
Standing in a circle, challenge your group to make the sound of one big clap involving everyone making one solitary clapping-sound sensation at the same time.
However – and here’s the catch – no one is permitted to clap their own two hands together, ie they must fashion a clap with another person’s hand. As you can imagine, this will take a little imagination, but the problem-solving normally occurs quickly.
If you feel particularly helpful, you could suggest a starting point.
For example, standing in a circle, everyone places their left palm facing up towards their left neighbour, and places their right palm facing down directly above the left palm of their right neighbour. It’s all just a matter of timing then.
If you would prefer your group to design the mechanics of the clap on their own (highly recommended, as there are many successful designs,) go for it!
The group will ready itself, and then on the count of “1, 2, 3,” one huge collective clap will burst forth. Or not.
Allow the group ample time to discuss, plan and solve the problem, or limit the number of attempts within which to make the sound of one clap.
Upon achieving the ultimate clap, consider introducing a discussion about focus, systems, goal-setting, collaboration and synergy.
Practical Leadership Tips
It’s a good idea to warm up your group first, to create a little excitement for the main event. For example, ask someone to clap their hands once to set off a chain-reaction of single claps which pass from person to person all the way around the circle. Each clap should follow immediately after the clap before it at time-warp speed. Do it several times, record each attempt, and see if the group can break a nominal world record. See Clap Pass for a fuller description.
It’s not necessary to start nor remain in a circle. Even though groups often start in circles, an alternate solution could be found in another shape.
Honestly, it’s always hard to tell if and when the group manages to score that elusive one-clapping sound sensation. My best gauge of success is when I look at my group – you can often tell from the excitement on their faces (or absence thereof) if they think the group got it, or not.
You could integrate Circle Clap as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships, especially when navigating diverse individuals and needs.
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
As a group initiative, there will be many opportunities to invite your group to develop and reflect on a range of social interactions in their efforts to achieve a collective goal. For example, the ability to cooperate and work effectively as a team. Brief the task as described above and pose a series of questions to help your group explore certain social competencies, such as:
What sorts of emotions and/or social cues did you observe during the exercise?
What did you make these social signals to mean?
How did you or your team cope with frustration?
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how honest was your group in regards to achieving its goal?
How would you describe your group’s decision-making process? Was it effective?
Could this exercise teach us anything about forming positive relationships?
This can be a tough challenge for some groups to accomplish. To this end, it is the ideal vehicle to help your group to practice certain strategies to build their resilience.
In a small way, you could also weave mindfulness into this exercise because there is a certain presence a group must have to accomplish one simultaneous clap.
One Clap: Allow each person to create one simultaneous clapping sensation by using their own hands.
Claps In A Row: Once you have achieved the single clap (either method,) shoot for two (or more) single claps in a row, ie CLAP CLAP!
Circle Jump: Your group aims to perform one simultaneous jump, to produce one loud, synchronistic thud.
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Useful Framing Ideas
The sound of one hand clapping sounds as ridiculous as it looks. Try it… [demonstrate the look of one hand clapping in front of you] Yet, this is exactly what this next exercise will ask you to achieve – to make the sound of a clap, but with just one hand…
One of the most difficult tasks for a group of people to achieve is to perform a single action simultaneously, that is, as if it was performed by just one person. We’ve all seen and marvelled at the extraordinary precision of a group of dancers who all appear to be connected as they move as one. This next exercise will require this same level of precision, but without the dancing…
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 simple group initiative:
What did it take to achieve one simultaneous clap from the group?
What were your biggest challenges? How did you solve these problems?
Was it necessary for everyone to follow the same instructions?
What could your group learn from this exercise to help you collaborate more effectively?
The inspiration for Circle Clap, and many more simple group initiatives, was sourced from the following publication: