Big fish, small fish | Energizer

There was a time early in my career when I used to train these insane 15 – 20 day programs: 20 (often completely degenerate) participants in a room for 9 hours day after day – sometimes in night shifts starting at 6 in the evening or the life-sucking graveyard shift that started at 11 PM.  It was next to impossible to manage without a huge repertoire of energizers back then. And we’d acquire new ones as frequently from squirreling around the Internet as we did from colleagues over breaks and after-work drinks. I was an on-demand energizer machine with participants bouncing all over the place at ungodly hours.  As I grew older and sporadically wiser, the realization that engagement isn’t solely delivered through energizers, dawned on me. These days, I find it challenging to recall energizers when I need them most. This is an effort to remember all those activities – neat & nutty – that might just help shake sleep and sloth out of learners.  Here’s one of my old favourites – Big fish, small fish.


Materials: none

No. of Ss: Preferably not more than 20.

Procedure: Get Ss to sit or stand in a circle. Extend your hands as widely as possible and tell Ss that this is “small fish”. Then, bring hands together so they’re only about 10 cm apart and explain that this is “big fish”.  Big fish swims clockwise and small fish swims counter-clockwise.  It sounds horrendously complicated but it’s not.  This diagram should help.

Big fish small fish

When student 1 turns to her left to student 2, she does “big fish” by bringing her hands close together.  Student 2 can either turn to student 3 and do another “big fish” or do a “small fish” back at student 1 by extending her arms out wide and thusly the game continues. Players get out if they get the actions wrong (put their hands together for small fish etc.) or get the directions wrong.  Point out that fish swim fast and Ss should similarly react quickly.

You should have them all laughing and energized in under 5 minutes (assuming they understood your instructions).

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