By way of demonstration, ask two people from a team to volunteer and hold one sheet of paper between the palms of one of their hands.
Each team is challenged to assist two of their group members to hold as many pieces of paper off the ground by using only their bodies.
To guide fair play, announce that:
– Only one sheet of paper can be affixed between any two body parts;
– No adhesives can be used to hold paper to one’s body;
– Folding the paper is not permitted;
– Each sheet of paper must be in contact with both team members; and
– No two sheets of paper can be touching.
Distribute sheets of paper to each team, and announce “GO.”
Allow up to 10 minutes and survey the results.
Video Transcript for Paper Holding Game
presented by Mark Collard
So what we have at the moment are four teams, roughly four or five people. In a moment you’re all going to work from this one resource. It’s just a ream of paper. Ordinarily I’d recommend using a stack of recycled paper. I happen to have run out. So we’re about to create a new set of recycled papers.
This is your one resource for each of your four teams and you all have the identical problem to solve. Once I give you this information you can spend a moment or two to consider how you’re going to plan this, but you’re going to have literally seven minutes to solve this problem.
Starting with one sheet of paper, and if Lisa you and I happen to be on the team and we are nominated by our team… so each of your teams is going to nominate two people to be actively involved in solving the problem and the rest will be actively involved in helping to solve the problem.
Place a sheet of paper between you and any other part of the physical anatomy of your partner. We might choose to begin with your hand against the paper. Right. This is the start. Right now we have achieved a score of one.
Your objective in seven minutes is to find as many sheets of paper to be supported between the two people you nominate. The two people you start with don’t change, but within that seven minutes you might adjust your structure to go oh, that didn’t work, we’d only got seven pieces of paper. Disband. Find another way. We might do it between our noses or anything, I’m making it up, but there’s a few parameters.
One is that one sheet of paper can never touch another sheet of paper. So that stops you from putting two together between two hands. You also anything that is affixed must touch both of you. This does not work, unless of course in this case Lisa puts her hand on my head to keep it there. That will work because… Exactly. Thank you, Lisa. So that would actually apply because it involves both of us to keep it there.
Clearly no adhesives can be used. And finally you cannot fold the piece of paper. So just imagine if you could fold this many, many times we could probably put eight pieces of folded bits between just our two hands alone.
To repeat, your teams of four or five people are going to nominate two people. You are going to take from this one pile of sheets of paper, and your objective in seven minutes and we’ll start that in just a moment how many sheets of paper can you append off the floor again, clearly, between two people in which you’re not folding, no two sheets are touching, and there’s always two of you involved in affixing it. Questions?
(Do the active people have to be standing?)
No. Yes, another question?
(With two hands you can have three or four bits of paper, one here, one there, one there, and one there?)
So the parameter that would be the issue you would have to consider about would be what there?
(As long as they’re not touching you can still have four pieces of paper as long as they’re not touching.)
As long as they’re not touching. Got the idea? Your time starts now.
(people playing Paper Holding game)
Keep in mind the paper cannot touch the floor. The paper cannot touch the floor.
(people building their Paper Holding game tower)
Two minutes remaining, 120 seconds for those who have their arms out to the sides.
(people playing Paper Holding game)
Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Hold it there. Step back from your creations.
How To Play Narrative
This paper holding game is a wonderfully simple and fun exercise to stimulate the creative juices of your group. I am often amazed at what people come up with to solve this problem.
Kick off by asking your group to break into groups of at least three people. Four works well, but any more than five and you risk some folks having little to do.
This is one of those exercises where a picture tells a thousand words.
Ask for one team to step forward and invite two of their members to hold out one hand to press one sheet of paper between their palms. You could then add a second piece of paper, to be held between the palms of their other hands, but most groups get the idea at this point.
With this vision in mind, announce that you would like to challenge each team to work together to find the best way to support as many sheets of paper off the ground between two of their group members, in say, 10 minutes.
There are limitless perspectives of what success looks like in this exercise, so a few critical parameters are useful to guide fair play. Explain the following guidelines:
Only one sheet of paper can be affixed/pressed between any two body parts;
No adhesives can be used to hold a sheet of paper to one’s body;
All paper must remain un-folded;
Each sheet of paper must be in contact with both team members; and
No two sheets of paper can be touching.
Clear any questions and “What if…?” type scenarios, and call “GO.”
Either, distribute a wad of paper to each team, or establish a central pile, and ask that each group take what they need when they need it.
This paper holding game represents a simple task, but not easy, if you know what I mean. Have fun.
Practical Leadership Tips
Given that two people are using their bodies to accomplish this task – quite intimately in some cases – consider your sequence before introducing this exercise to ensure your group is well prepared to get involved.
You will note that one of the guidelines is to not fold any sheets of the paper. This only became a guideline after one very inventive team affixed more than 60 sheets of paper between their team-mates. Multiply this by ten or more teams, and you start to ‘waste’ a lot of paper.
Ideally, try to use paper which has been used, discarded and placed in a recycling container.
In the spirit of the environmentally-friendly Three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), please consider what you will do with these somewhat wrinkled sheets of paper at the end of the exercise. For example, present another paper-fuelled activity such as Paper Tower to re-use the paper.
For the record, the best effort I have seen has been 27 sheets of paper (Australia, May 2017.) If your group can do better, send me a photo and I’ll update this entry.
You could integrate Paper Holding 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:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
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:
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?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
Was everyone fully aware of the group’s goal? If not, why not?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? How?
Were there moments of accountability that concerned you? Why?
Given the potential for close, intimate physical contact between the two partners holding the paper, issues of physical and emotional safety could be explored both in advance and after the activity is complete. For example, you could discuss issues of informed consent in advance of the activity to guide the manner in which each group tackles the practical problem-solving elements of the exercise.
Trio Challenge: As above, involving three people collaborating on the same task.
Partnership Challenge: As above, but in teams of only two people. This means the pair need to work out how to distribute the sheets of paper and keep a hold of the paper they are already pressed against. Very difficult, but very fun.
Speed Round: Allow only two minutes to solve the problem.
Alternative Media: Use smaller pieces of paper, or fabric, indeed, any material.
How creative are you? This next exercise will require you to really think creatively about how to solve what seems like a really simple problem…
At first glance, you would not think that keeping 10, 20 or even 30 sheets of paper off the ground would be very hard at all. Except for one very important detail – each sheet of paper needs to be held between the bodies of two people…
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 unique problem-solving exercise:
Describe the flow of the exercise – did it start quickly, and then slow down? Or the other way around?
What was the most challenging part of this exercise? Why?
In what ways was your group creative?
Did anything surprise you during the activity?
The inspiration for the group initiative Paper Holding Game was sourced from a YouTube video I stumbled across one day. The rest was made up.