Come in even closer so the point now that your left foot will go into the centre of the circle and you’ll be turning to your right, and still keep coming in, coming in even closer and closer, closer and closer. Squeeze on in, squeeze on. Don’t squeeze the people out.
Now have a look at our formation. This is going to require an actual circle-circle. Not a semicircle with a straight line. So situate yourself. Do whatever you need to change so that we actually have a circle.
Push in a little bit more here. You guys might want to come in a little bit more, and still come in half step towards the centre of the circle. That’s it, alright.
Now you may find this useful if you feel comfortable, place your hands on the shoulders of the people next to you. It often gives you a little level of support as well.
Steve just squeeze on in. Wherever you’d like to squeeze into. Brilliant. How’s that corner looking because you want to avoid corners as much as you can so squeeze on in. Okay you guys can probably just push back a little bit there. Alright.
The benefit of it being, so far, is that I could be speaking Chinese you’re probably still aware of what we’re about to do. Is that in a moment and together I’m going to ask you to slowly bend your knees and start to place your exterior on the lap of your partner directly behind you. If we all do this together…
If we all do this together, it’ll work brilliantly and you’ll wonder why we ever used seats in the first place.
(If is the key word.)
Alright, so if you’ve experienced this exercise before you’ll understand how key it is to have actually worked together. Got the idea?
Alright, make adjustments as you see fit as you start to come down. So are you ready? Here we go. Start.
Start to bend your knees. Start to now sit onto the lap.
(Laughing as group attempts Lap Circle)
How we doing? Hopefully you’re on two knees. Look Mum no hands.
Alright, hands back, hands back. I was feeling a little vulnerable. Alright now, generally from this position the next challenge for a group might be, is to get up, and then I’m going to move you into the next step. So from here start to stand up.
(Group stands up from Lap Circle)
Alright, good job.
Shake it out. Alright reform, move into the next challenge.
What you want to try and do is have both your glutes on the thighs, on the quads, glutes to quads now. Think of people to people. Glutes to quads is based on two not just the one knee if possible.
Alright here we go. Adjust yourself. No, not everyone will right two. It still may work. Alright, we good? Squeeze in if you need to. You’re getting to know you’re part of the program.
(I think we need to come in a little bit.)
Very good. Okay are we ready? Slowly bend your knees. Slowly place your glutes on the quads. Oh that’s so much better. Look Mom no hands.
(Whoo, surprise at Lap Circle results)
Alright, now if there’s some vulnerability in areas feel free to adjust as necessary.
Alright, here’s the hard part, as best as we can we’re going to try and circulate. We’re going to move our circle anticlockwise or which is the same as counter-clockwise.
We’re actually going to be moving forward. I’m going to start with left foot first, that’s the inner leg foot. We may only get six inches, we may collapse after I say Go, we’ll see what happens. Are you ready?
Left foot first, go, just a step. And now the right foot, now the left, and the right foot, and the left foot. Here we go, stand up.
(Laughing and clapping as part of Lap Circle)
How To Play Narrative
Invite your group to bunch in very closely to each other, forming a circle and facing to their left, ie consequently everyone will be facing the back of the person in front of them.
Then ask each person to place their hands gently onto the shoulders of the person they see before them.
Now, you are almost ready, but one last thing – it is critical that your group actually forms a circle – a round circle, not a box with a few corners. Look at the space inside the circle created by people’s feet to get an idea for how round the circle really is. If you’re a part of the circle, this view is much easier to grasp.
Once the group is set, ask everyone to slowly bend at their knees, push their butt behind themselves a bit and gently sit down onto the lap of the person behind them.
Voila, everyone is a sitter and a seat at the same time.
If you have started from a perfect circle, it’s amazing how well supported the circle will feel. Now, throw your hands in the air and celebrate!
Okay, you are now ready to take the next step, literally…
Moving one foot forward at a time – you may wish to chime in with a “1, 2, 3, LEFT, 1, 2, 3, RIGHT” if you choose – challenge your group to attempts to rotate its members a full 360 degrees around the circle.
Reflecting the true nature of a team, if just one person moves out of synch or moves slightly out of the circle, the whole group will collapse like a deck of cards.
This can serve as a powerful example in your processing of the activity in relation to common goals, the impact of individual contributions and taking risks. See the Reflection Tips tab for more processing ideas.
Practical Leadership Tips
The more the merrier with this one. A group of eight people is possibly as small as you would need to make this exercise work.
While simple to set-up, this activity can offer so much extra value if you choose to debrief your group’s experience at the end. For example, explore concepts that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link or the power of cooperation, many hands make light work, etc.
Consider your sequence before introducing this exercise, because of the real possibility that as soon as one person starts to teeter on the verge of collapse, the whole group will crash to the ground like a row of dominoes. Expect many people to end up falling on top of each other. This can be tons of fun, but only in the right circumstances.
You may also know this exercise as Lap Sit.
You could integrate Lap Circle as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample 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
While the set-up for this classic group initiative is relatively simple, what it demands from a group to be successful is quite complex. A group that has developed a set of healthy and supportive cultural norms is more likely to be successful and gain a lot more from this exercise than a group that has not. To this end, Lap Circle is ideal for integrating into a program that wants to explore the functioning of a healthy and supportive group.
For example, consider the effort required to coordinate everyone in the circle and the necessity of a common goal, not to mention, the willingness of all group members to be physically close to one another to complete the task. All of these competencies are featured in this exercise and thus, can be learned and then applied to other areas of your group’s life.
To illustrate, let’s look at the ability to adapt. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, invite your group to reflect on the following questions in regards to adaptability:
Describe one or more examples of when something needed to adapt and why?
How was this change initiated, and how did the group manage it?
What skills were necessary to make this happen?
What was the impact of permitting or not permitting these adaptations?
Rotation: When settled, challenge your group to move their feet forward in unison, one foot at a time. Aim to rotate a full 360 degrees around the circle without falling to the ground. If this is too easy, walk backwards.
Lateral Movement: Challenge your group to move laterally towards an object 5 to 10 metres away.
Whole-group stretch & initiative based on nomadic yurt.
Fun & active trust-building exercise for partners.
Fill The Space
Active energiser featuring lead & follow interactions.
Useful Framing Ideas
You’ve all heard of the phrase, you’re only as strong as your weakest link? It’s true for chains as much as it is for groups of people. In this next exercise, precision and coordination are so critical that it will only take one person to step out of synch with the rest of the group, and the task will fail…
Have you ever tried to sit down without using a seat? One possible way is to slide your back down a solid wall at the same time as you bend your knees until your lap is parallel with the floor. Holding this position is quite exhausting and physically demanding…
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 and simple group exercise:
How did you feel as the group started to sit down?
What helped the effort to support one another? What didn’t work?
Did you personally feel supported? How and why?
What did the group need to focus on, in particular, to be successful?
Describe the balance between planning and execution. Did your group get the balance right?
How might the principles of an effective lap circle be applied to the life of our group?
The inspiration for Lap Circle, and many more simple, no-prop group initiatives, was sourced from the following publication: