Each person notes the first and last letters of their first name, eg J and A if your name was Jessica.
Group aims to pair every person with one other person who shares one of these two letters.
Challenge your group to continue to mix and match partners until everyone is successfully paired.
If necessary, continue to seek a solution until the group agrees it cannot be found.
Video Transcript for Name Train
presented by Nate Folan
Again still focused on your first name, so again in case you’ve forgotten, Mark, M-A-R-K.
I’m going to focus you now on the first and last letters of your actual first name as it appears on your birth certificate.
So if you are ordinarily known as Joe, but on your birth certificate you’re actually a Joanne you’re going to be focused on the first and last letter. So mine’s an M and a K, or if you’re Joanne it’s a J and an E.
Again does anyone need help identifying the letters on the beginning or the end of their first name? Okay.
Here’s your task as a group, it will not complete until the whole group is actually satisfied this parameter.
Everyone needs to end up with a partner, and the attribute that actually links you with a partner is because it matches either the first or last letter of your name. For example, I’m an M and a K, who could match with one of those two letters with their letters of their name?
So your name is?
Meagan, so M for Meagan matches with the M for Mark, and another one?
(K for Kelly.)
K for Kelly. So it won’t matter which one it is. The M, or the first or the last must match with the first or the last of one other person.
Now let’s say I joined up with Kelly and we feel very good, and we kind of this, normally happens, we switch off. We feel like we’ve done our job.
Remember, the task is for the whole group to pair off according to that parameter. It might be necessary for Kelly and I to break up, and I might have to join with Megan, for example, because it opens up Kelly to join with someone who’s having difficulty finding a partner because the Y might become more important to that person.
(It’s an E.)
It’s an E. It could be an E, thank you.
So got the idea? So don’t think that your finished until the whole group has found a partner. Now I’m not sure how the numbers work. I will jump in only if its necessary from a ‘paired’ point of view. If there’s an even number of you without me I won’t be part of the solution. If you need me I will jump in.
So I’ll be one of the last ones to jump in if I need to.
Any questions? You object is to pair up with one other person who has the same letter either the beginning or the end of your first full names. Go.
(Group starts to pair off in Name Train)
Let’s see what we have. So we haven’t completed. Let me just check in with the group about where we’re at. So those folks who do not presently have a pair, just place your hand in the air.
So we got how many? Just three people that we didn’t. Oh you’re all set? Okay it’s a little bit of an up. Okay great so it doesn’t look like I’m needed. So you have an even number of people. What are the letters?
(M and L.)
(C and E.)
(F and R.)
(V and I.)
Okay, fantastic. So does any of those open up opportunities where maybe you need to break away from your partner that opens up a way in which any one of these four can be integrated into a partner?
(Does anyone have an S? Trying to solve the Name Train)
(M and L’s here.)
(F and L here.)
Alright, now it is possible on occasions you’ll note that no matter what our combination it just doesn’t get solved based on the first parameter.
So let’s say we’re at that point now, we could have kept on going, let’s say we’re at that point. I now open up the middle names.
So using your middle name, that means everybody’s middle name. Generally speaking it’s unusual now given two sets of names, so I’m a Mark Alan I’m an A and N, that’ll also open up opportunities. So Vicki if you have a middle name, Frase has a middle name and so on.
See what’s possible now. So you got two sets of names, your first and middle name if you have one, four letters possible that can be matched with somebody else. Four letters, up to four letters. Keep going, over to you.
(Group tries again to pair off in Name Train)
(I’m G and M.)
Okay G and a M, sounds like a Graham.
Oh you found home.
(group solves the Name Train)
How To Play Narrative
Looking for a creative, random way to form pairs (groups of two people) – try this fun exercise.
With your group within ear-shot, ask everyone to think of the first and last letters of their first name. So, if your name is Susan, the two letters will be S and N.
With this information, challenge your group to form as many pairs (groups of two people) as possible, whereby each person matches one of their two letters with one of the two letters of another person. So, Susan could pair with Nate or Sienna, but not with Aristotle.
Explain that the group’s goal is to work hard to ensure every person is part of a pair.
Indeed, suggest that it may be necessary to split quickly-formed pairs to open new possibilities for individuals who are struggling to find a partner.
The larger your group, the easier this task will be. The challenge is clearly more difficult for smaller groups, but encourage your group to continue to problem-solve until they agree that all possible permutations have been exhausted.
Once your random pairs have formed, you’re ready to move on.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you have an odd number of people in your group, join in the action.
Sometimes a group may hear you say that both letters (of the first names) must match to form a pair. Nope. This is not only unnecessary, but it would also be extremely difficult to achieve group success.
For very large groups, in which cliques are often formed, add a further parameter that ‘name train’ pairs may only be formed with people who do not know each other well.
If a perfect solution cannot be found (sometimes happens, especially with small groups of 12 or fewer people,) simply seek an agreement from the group that this is the case and move on. Or, introduce a last-minute variation (see Variations tab below.)
Hats off to Nate Folan who first demonstrated this quick group initiative that doubles as a random pair-matching exercise.
You could integrate Name Train 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 ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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 on the face of it, this group initiative may seem very simple, it can be quite a complex task to accomplish successfully. Accordingly, these complexities will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of full value behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future. For example, the behavioural norms of Be Here, Let Go & Move On and Care for Self & Others are worthy of further exploration.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
What was more important – individual or group goals?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? In what ways?
A typical response from many of those who find a partner quickly is to tune out because they believe that their work is done. However, in many cases, it is necessary for some of these pairs to be reconstituted into new pairs in order for the group to successfully complete their task. This accentuates the fact that sometimes people must forgo their own short-term goals in order for the group to be successful, ie individual versus group goals.
Name First Aid: If you have an especially small group (say, less than 10 people) or there are a number of people who have less-common letters (eg Q and X,) involve the first and last letters of both the first and last names of each person. If this still does not work, permit the first and last letters of all first, middle and last names – that’s never failed.
Connected Name Train: Challenge your group to form one straight line (or even a circle, if at all possible) whereby every person is linked by the first or last letter of their left and right neighbours. Then you’ve really got a Name Train.
Multi-Lingual: Use the phonetic sounds of the start and ends of a name as the matching parameter, eg D and P could match because they each have an “EEE” sound.
How-To Pairs: Take a look at Getting Into Pairs to learn many more fun, group-splitting ideas.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Present the challenge to your team as described above, and then invite your participants to propose possible matches. Encourage video chats as much as typing the paired names into the chat room facility. Apply Name First Aid if necessary (see Variations tab.)
If you have a large group, first divide into smaller teams of 12 to 20 people. Many more than 20 people and you risk making it difficult for some people to ‘speak up.’
If your group does not know one another well (or at all,) consider starting with a quick name game such as ID Numbers or Name Impulse. Worst case scenario, ask every person to type their name into the chat room facility before starting.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Even when it’s not obvious, the are just so many connections each of us have to every other person on this planet. It may be the colour of your eyes, the country in which you’re born, or the hand you use to write with. Let’s look at this group, right here, right now. I believe there is a connection everyone of us can make with at least one other person…
A beautiful thing about many of our names is that they come with a story. It might be what the name means in another language, or the reason your parents chose that name, etc, etc. In this next exercise, I’d like you to consider how your name maybe linked to another person…
You’ve heard about the principle of the six degrees of separation? That is, it is believed that every individual can be connected to any other person in this world by no more than six introductions or relationships. For example, I am related to former President Barack Obama by two degrees of separation, because a 9 year-old kid I knew at summer camp grew up to be one of Obama’s top advisors regarding Israeli relations. In this game, it is my belief, you will all be related by no more than one degree of separation…
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, introductory group initiative:
Was this task challenging? Why or why not?
What was necessary to help the group achieve success?
As soon as you paired with another person, what happened to your focus?
If you paired quickly and then had to pair with another person, was that easy to do?
Did your group take any shortcuts?
How did it feel to complete the task?
The inspiration for Name Train, and many more unique ways to form random pairs, was sourced in the following publication: