In advance, select one suit of cards (13 cards) from a deck of playing cards.
Lay these cards face-down randomly on the ground within a specified (roped) perimeter.
Invite your group to stand on the outside perimeter.
Challenge your group to pick up all of the cards in sequence from 2 through to Ace, flipping one card at a time, as quickly as possible.
The group is permitted to have one person inside the perimeter at any point in time.
When a card is picked up, if it is not the next card in the sequence, it must be placed back down.
Otherwise, the person inside the perimeter will collect and keep the card.
Team members are entitled to assist their colleague inside the perimeter, eg point, talk, etc.
The task continues until all cards have been picked-up in order.
Repeat the task several times aiming to record the fastest possible time.
How To Play Narrative
If you’re familiar with Key Punch, then you’re going to love this variation. It’s simple and yet very powerful as a tool to develop team skills, not to mention sharpening observation and memory skills.
You’ll need to grab a regular deck of playing cards and pull out all of the cards belonging to one of the suits, eg all 13 Spades.
In advance, or at least out of sight of your group, lay all of the cards face-down on the ground within a specified perimeter of approx 4 x 4 metres (13′ x 13′.) Aim for a random distribution, not that your group will know the difference anyway.
Introduce your group to the area and ask them to stand outside the perimeter of the specified area. Ideally, if this area is roped-off, it makes the game much easier to play and the rules much easier to govern.
Explain to your group that their task is to collect all 13 cards as quickly as possible, but in sequence from 2 through to the Ace. Only one person is entitled to be inside the perimeter at any point in time, but the team may choose to change this ‘picker’ person at any time as often as they wish.
It is highly likely that the first card will not be the 2, so this means it will need to be returned to the ground, face-down. Hint, it would be useful for the group to remember what and where this card is so that they can return to it later when it may be collected in the correct sequence.
The ‘picker’ continues to flip cards over in their valiant search for the next card in sequence. When this happens, they will keep it (in their hand) and then continue their search for the next card.
Meanwhile, invite all other team members to assist the ‘picker’ to locate and remember each of the cards as they are flipped over. Challenge all of this assistance to occur outside of the perimeter.
If you want to be ruthless, require that all parts of the bodies of the team (other than the picker) must remain outside of the perimeter at all times, lest a penalty will be incurred, eg add 5 seconds to their time.
Naturally, you are challenging your group to record the fastest time possible.
It’s a good idea to provide a couple of minutes planning time in advance of their first round to invite your group to consider a plan to undertake their task. Indeed, provide for this discussion between each round.
As soon as all 13 cards have been collected in the correct sequence, record the time. If time allows, invite your group to perform another round following several minutes of further planning and discussion.
Play as many rounds as you wish your group to be challenged.
Practical Leadership Tips
This is one of those games that is so simple in its structure, you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. I know I thought this.
Beware that it is highly likely that one or more of your cards will get stepped on in the course of the activity. My advice: have an extra deck of playing cards up your sleeve just in case one or more cards get damaged (because these cards are easy to identify and remember in later rounds.)
Over There gets its name from the frequent refrain of team members standing on the outside of the perimeter as they work hard to direct the attention of their picker to the next card in sequence.
You could integrate Over There as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
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
The complexities of this fun group initiative invite group members to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily 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 behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
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:
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting and planning processes?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Do you think your group was more task-oriented or process-oriented? Why?
Can you think of a time the group had to ‘let go and move on?’
Did the group cut any corners?
Silent Rounds: Challenge your group to complete their task without any verbal forms of communication while the ‘picker’ is inside the roped perimeter.
Random Starting Point: Announce that the first card to be pick-up may be collected and will determine the remaining sequence, ie if the 8 is collected, then the next card must be the 9, etc. In case it’s not obvious when the Ace is collected, the next card is the 2.
Alternate Sequences: Replace a deck of playing cards with any set of cards which portray a sequence, eg alphabet cards, numbers, dominoes, etc.
Thirty Second Rounds: Limit the time a ‘picker’ can remain inside the perimeter to, say, 30 seconds at a time. Challenge your group to complete the task in as few rounds (or 30 seconds) as possible. Give the group up to 2 minutes to plan and discuss their strategy between rounds.
Bigger Challenges: Use a larger set of cards to ramp up the challenge. For example, use two suits of a deck of playing cards in which case, both of the 2s must be picked up before the 3s, etc.
Sharper Observation: Take a look at Memory Card Game, Key Punch and Keyboard to explore similar group initiatives that leverage the use of keen observation and memory skills.
Crazy Pick-Up Cards: Take a look at 52 Card Pick-Up to enjoy a completely zany pick-up game that involves your whole team playing at the same time with lots of surprises.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Can you recall playing the memory card game as a kid? You know, you had to turn over two cards at a time with the hope of flipping over matching pairs. You needed some pretty good memory skills, the sort of skills you’ll need in this next exercise…
Your group is about to be challenged to sharpen its memory skills. The task is pretty simple, but it’s not easy…
Your company’s computing system has malfunctioned, and your IT department has been tasked with the job of putting the database back in order…
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 engaging team-building exercise:
Right from the start, did you think this task was going to be easy or hard? Why?
What did your group focus on during its initial planning stages?
How were decisions made? Did every idea get acknowledged and/or tried? Why or why not?
Did your group build any systems, and if so, were these beneficial?
How might this exercise reflect something about how your group works together?
The inspiration for Over There was sourced from a video discovered on YouTube by Chris Cavert who shared this wonderful group initiative he calls Flip & Find on his FUNdoing blog.