Tag: Drama activities

A smorgasbord of drama inspired activities

drama-activities

On a whim, I attended a Facilitator workshop at Adhyayan who work with schools in India and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It was facilitated by Jemima and Nina, students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London who are in India doing workshops and working with schools as a part of their study in applied theatre. The teachers and trainers I work with are always chewing my ear off with their requests for warmers and I got a veritable smorgasbord from Jemima and Nina who were kind enough to recap all of them at the end of each day and encourage participants to adapt them for other uses.

Activities for checking in 

I liked how they used the term ‘check-in’ instead of warmer. Their rationale was that participants or students need to check in to the special micro-community at a workshop or in their school and need some way of physically transitioning into the role they’ll play in this micro-community.

  • Action introduction: Introduce yourself with an action that expresses how you feel e.g., I yawn and say “My name is Adi”. All the other participants repeat the same action and say “His name is Adi”.
  • Throw your name in a bucket: Have participants stand in a circle and ask them to imagine that there’s a big red bucket in the centre. Have them throw their names into the bucket. As they perform the action of throwing, they say their names really loudly.
  • Bing Bong Name: Participants stand in a circle and the facilitator stands inside the circle. She points at any one participant who must raise their hands and say “Bing” at a higher pitch, she then immediately points at someone else who has to drop down and say “Bong” at a lower pitch. The third person she points to must say their own name. The facilitator continues the sequence of bing, bong, name.
  • Name impulse: Get participants to sit in a circle. The facilitator is also a part of the circle. The facilitator turns to the participant to her left and says “one two three go”. The participant must then say her own name to the person to her left as quickly as possible. This person then says his own name etc. For example, Abha, Neel, Sarita, Hema, Varun etc.  Once the participants have had a go at it, ask them how much time they  think they can complete a full circle in and then ask them to beat the clock. The facilitator times them as they complete the name impulse circle. Now suggest that there are two teams, team A (the circle to the left of the facilitator) and team B (the circle to the right of the facilitator). Get both teams to compete against each other – this is tricky because the names will need to cross at some point. Time them and announce the winning team. Then, ask team A to raise their hands, and then team B (obviously, everyone will raise their hands for both teams) and applaud all participants for winning and beating the clock.
  • Impulse clap: Exactly the same as name impulse but participants pass along a clap.
  • Line up alphabetically: Ask participants to line up alphabetically without speaking to each other and then form a circle. I know this warmer but I hadn’t realised how apt it was for beginning a workshop and challenging participants to remember each others’ names.
  • Likes & dislikes: Have participants stand in a circle. Each participant introduces the person to her left by saying “This is Rhea. She likes reading, and she dislikes rainy days”. They are allowed to make up the other person’s likes and dislikes but the first letter/sound of the like or dislike must be the same as the person’s name. What I liked about this simple activity is how it subtly suggests to learners that there is no right or wrong answer.
  • An object you are: Ask participants to describe themselves as an object using the words “If I were an object, I would be a …” Participants then introduce themselves using this sentence with an appropriate action.

Activities for introducing the topic 

  • Post-its: Each participant writes five qualities of, for example, a facilitator. She then works with a partner to whittle the 10 they have collectively down to five. Participants then share their qualities in a whole class discussion while a volunteer records their items in a collaborative mindmap.

Activities for energising 

  • Boom chicka boom: My absolute favourite. It’s a call response style chant. This YouTube video suggests that it’s meant for kids but I’m going to use it with adults – it’s too much fun to pass up.

I said Boom chicka boom

I said Boom chicka boom

I said Boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom

Ah haan

Oh Yeah

One more time

Say it (quietly/loudly/opera style/in an English accent/grandma style/rap style

  • Hee Haw Ho: Get everyone standing in a circle. Place your palms together and stretch out your hands pointing at someone across the circle while saying HEE. The person across the circle places her palms together and stretches her hands above her head while saying HAW. The two people adjacent to her place their palms together sideways as if chopping wood and chop away at the HAW person while saying HO. the HAW person then points to someone else and says HEE and so on. Make sure everyone is saying the sounds with a lot of energy.
  • Sssss… strawberry: Participants stand in a circle with the facilitator in the middle. The facilitator points to one of the participants and says Ssssstrawberry. This participant must say “Strawberry” before the facilitator completes the utterance. However, if the facilitator points to someone and only says “strawberry”, they mustn’t say anything.
  • Number swap: Make chits with numbers on them, as many as there are participants. Everyone stands in a circle with one person in the middle. Announce the range of numbers e.g., there are 14 participants so we have 14 numbers. The person in the middle calls out a pair of numbers from this range except her own such as 4 and 12. Participants who have these chits need to discretely indicate to each other that they have these numbers and swap places without the person in the middle grabbing one of their spots. Introduce challenge into the activity by asking the person to call out two or three pairs. Periodically ask participants to place all the chits in the middle and take new ones. You might need to mark out positions using chalk or some such.
  • Swapping places: Everyone stands in a circle. A pair of participants make eye contact and swap places without speaking. There should only be one pair swapping at any point of time. Then ask two pairs to swap simultaneously, then three or more. Participants are still not allowed to talk to each other and must coordinate non-verbally through eye contact.
  • Banana song: This call-response chant was shared by one of the participants at the workshop. The children dance along while repeating the words, acting out the verbs.

Peel banana, peel peel banana

Chop banana, chop chop banana

Eat banana, eat eat banana

Smash banana, smash smash banana

Shake banana, shake shake banana

  • Zip zap boing: Participants stand in a circle. One person sort of claps his hands together to the person to his right while saying ZIP. This person can pass the ZIP along to the person to her right by saying ZIP. She could also pass it to someone across the circle by pointing using both hands and saying ZAP. Participants can also BOING in response to a ZIP to change its direction. The action for boing is a bit like a bit of wound up spring with your hands in the air. Here’s the confusing bit: you can’t boing a boing, boing a zap, zap a boing or zap a zap.
  • Zombie: Participants stand in a circle with one person in the middle who is the zombie. In the first variation of this activity, the zombie puts her arms out and approaches one of the participants in the circle. This participant needs to make eye contact with someone else who says their own name out loud. The zombie then changes directions with a near target. The trick is to make eye contact and get someone to say their own name before zombie gets to you. In the second variation, the person being targeted by the zombie says someone else’s name to get the zombie to change directions.
  • 7-up: Participant sit or stand in a circle. Each person says a number in sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 but the seventh person says 7-up while placing their hand on their head. The direction of the hand indicates who should start counting again from 1 (the person to the left or right). Now ask participants to choose another number and replace it with a sound. As the group gets progressively confident, get them to replace one more number with an action.
  • Jump in, jump out: Participants jump in to the circle when you say “jump in”. They must repeat your words. Get them used to the other instructions “jump out”, “jump left” and “jump right”. Then introduce some complexities: do the opposite of what I say, but say what I say; do what I say but the say the opposite of what I say etc.
  • Who stole the cookie: This is a call response chat. Get it started along with some accompanying actions like slapping the front of your thighs, clicks and claps and then progressively introduce the rest of the chant.

Everyone: Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar

Everyone: Tina stole the cookie from the cookie jar

Tina: Who me?

Everyone: Yes you!

Tina: Couldn’t be!

Everyone: Then who?

Tina: Amit stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

Amit: Who me?

etc.

Activities for sharing

  • The sun always shines on … : Participants stand in a circle with one person in the middle. The person in the middle says “The sun always shines on people …” and completes the sentence with something that is true about themselves such as “… people with black hair”. Everyone with black hair then swaps places. The person in the middle will need to run and grab someone else’s spot so that there’s a new person in the middle. Once participants have got used to the procedure, ask them to share deeper things about themselves. For example, in a teacher training context, you could say “The sun always shines on teachers who feel nervous before walking into a new classroom”.
  • Agree disagree compass: Ask participants to imagine that there’s a compass in the room and the directions read ‘agree’, ‘strongly agree’, ‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’. Read out statements and ask participants to move to different sides of the room. Ask them to share their reasons or experiences.

Activities for connecting & collaborating 

  • Ribbon shapes: Get a long length of ribbon and tie it so it becomes a circle. Ask participants to hold a piece of the ribbon and form a perfect circle. Challenge them to create different shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles, and pentagons without placing it on the ground while working with some constraints. The constraints you could impose include not talking to each other, eyes closed or both.
  • Routes: I blogged about a similar activity drawn from the improv repertoire several years ago. Get everyone standing in a circle.
    • Introduce route 1: Have all the participants raise their hands. The facilitator calls out the name of a participant who lowers her hand. This process continues until all hands are lowered. The last person to get called needs to say the facilitator’s name. Now, get participants to become comfortable and quicker with this route (no more raising or lowering of hands).
    • Introduce route 2: Stop route 1 and introduce a new route. Ask participants to raise their hands. The facilitator walks to a participant who then walks to someone else etc. until all hands are raised. Point out that this route does not involve talking. Now, get participants to become comfortable and quicker with this route (no more raising or lowering of hands). If participants find themselves adjacent each other, encourage them to visibly walk out in a loop so it’s clear that movement has happened.
    • Merge routes 1 & 2: Start route 1 again and once participants have become comfortable with it, introduce route 2 so there are two routes running concurrently.
    • If participants are able to crack this challenge, introduce subsequent routes such as throwing a ball.
  • Tower building: Standard tower building with a twist. Give the participants blutac, paper clips and post-its. Give them a couple of minutes to plan how they’ll build a tower using these resources. At the end of the planning time, take one participant from each group who took on a leadership role and swap them. Give participants time to build their freestanding towers. Ask them to then reflect on how swapping their team members may have affected their performance.
  • Balloon pop: Ask participants to blow a balloon each and name them. Participant share the names of their balloons. Announce that they have three minutes at the end of which they must have safeguarded their balloons then handout thumb tacks. Debrief by asking participants why they did what they did and how the act of naming the balloon made you feel far worse when your balloon was popped.
  • Yes let’s: Anyone in the group can use the stem” Let’s (fly like airplanes) and go for a whirl around the room. Everyone else responds by saying “Yes let’s” and does similar actions around the room. Participants can spontaneously come up with their own Let’s statements.

Activities for language development 

  • ABC: Each participant has to share a sentence with the format of Person, Thing and Place starting from the same letter such as Adi sells apples in Amsterdam. The facilitator stands in the middle and points to people and says a letter. This person needs to quickly make a sentence with three nouns (person, thing, place) starting from the same letter.
  • Picture drawing: You’ll need two copies of the same picture for this activity. It’s probably better to have a picture that has lots of different elements and characters in it. We had a stylized illustration from a children’s book with lots of children and animals at a zoo. Divide your class into two groups and select a volunteer in each group. The picture is given to the volunteer but she is not allowed to share it with the rest of the group. One group asks only close ended questions of their volunteer who must answer using only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. The group then tries to draw what they think the picture contains from these responses. The other group is allowed to only ask open ended questions. This group must also draw what they think the picture looks like. While debriefing, elicit how important it is to ask a combination of both open and close ended questions while facilitating, and how the two serve different purposes and often work in tandem in getting a discussion going.

Activities for going on a breaking

  • Lunch fish: Tell participants that they look hungry but they’ll need to first catch a fish for lunch. Place one hand horizontally in front of you (this is the water line), and use your other hand to mime a fish poking around for food. Tell participants to clap at the same time to catch the fish when it comes to the surface.

Activities for coming back from a break 

  • Aah sound: Suggest that the letter A or sound aah can be said in many ways. Demonstrate some. then ask participants to turn to the person to their right and express how they are feeling at that point using some form of the Aah sound. Now ask them to turn to the person to the left and do the sound that was just shared with them. Then, get the participants to stand up. Everyone collectively throws their sound into the middle of the circle.

Activities for gaining attention

  • Ensemble clap: Tell participants that they must watch you and clap at the same time. Bring your hands close together and clap when they are least expecting it. Challenge them to watch you closely and clap at the same time.

Activities for storytelling 

  • Three person image: Participants stand in a circle and spontaneously become parts of an emerging story. Participant A comes into the centre and takes up position and says something like “I’m a gecko on the classroom wall”. Participant B then joins A in the centre and says “I’m the fly the gecko is trying to catch”. Finally participant C joins them and says “I’m the little boy who is more interested in the gecko than in the lesson.”
  • Whoosh: You’ll need to prepare a story with lots of characters. Participants stand in a circle. As you read the story and introduce characters, tap participants on their shoulders. Participants enter the circle enact the story being read as one of the characters. Prime the participants to notice when your fist goes up in the air because that means they all need to do an old-style toilet flushing motion while saying WHOOSH. Participants in the centre head back and the facilitator continues reading the story while selecting new participants to play characters.
  • Freeze frame: Ask participants to work in pairs to share a positive or a negative teaching experience or similar. Then re-pair participants and ask them to share the stories they heard. Re-pair participants once again and ask them to choose from the four stories they now have (besides their own). They should role play the story and select a visual frame from it that they can share with the group. Get each pair to come up and set up this visual frame. Ask the other participants to describe the frame by first using “I see” statements followed by “I think” statements. The facilitator then taps each of the ‘actors’ in the frame and asks them to share what the person in the story is thinking at that point. Then ask the pair to validate what was shared.

Warm up exercises for process drama

  • Lead with your …: Ask participants walk around but being lead by different parts of the body. Announce the first prompt: lead with your nose, then gradually bring in others, let your elbows lead you, your knees, your shoulders etc. Walk slow, walk faster, higher, lower. Ask participants how this might change their ‘character’.
  • Exploring voices: Ask participants to make for example a pirate noise and walk around making this noise. Introduce layers: do it quieter, louder, shriller etc.

Activities for reflecting 

  • I am sentences: Ask participants to think about their identity at the moment and write as many sentences as possible starting each with the stem “I am”. Give them a couple of minutes. Then ask them to write sentences about someone in their profession who they look up to using the stem “S/he is”. Lastly ask participants to think of a child who has made a big impact on them using the “This child is”. Get participants to analyse their sentences for patterns, commonalities and surprises.

Activities for closing

  • Hooked thumb circles: I don’t know what to call this one. Ask participants to form a small tight circle, placing on their right hand towards the centre, palm down, thumb out to the left. Ask participants to now close their fingers around their neighbour’s thumb. You’ll have a really tight circle kinda like the one in this picture. Ask each participant to share one take-away from the session.

Image attribution: Backstage – The artists of Kathakali by Sreeram Narayan | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

A 10 minute play | A staged script writing activity

Source: http://www.morguefile.com
Source: http://www.morguefile.com

Here is a series of writing exercises inspired by a recent workshop I attended. The activities are staged and ramp up to writing a ten minute play.

Exercise 1: Imagining the setting

Atmosphere is extremely important in theatre and setting the right atmosphere lets the writer breathe life into his/her work and world. In this activity, ask Ss to choose one of the following items and spend 2 to 3 minutes closing their eyes and imagining the space.  They should explore the space fully in their mind in three dimensions. Then ask them to write about 50 words describing the setting:

  • Abandoned lift
  • Attic
  • Seashore
  • Derelict building
  • Psychiatric ward
  • Deserted street

Exercise 2: Creating a character profile.

Now, it’s time to populate this world with people. To get Ss to start thinking about robust character development, ask them to think of a character that might belong in this setting. They should fill the gaps in the following statements to sketch out this character’s profile:

  • I was born _______
  • My first memories ______
  • I remember my mother ________
  • I have been to ________
  • Since 7 ‘o clock this morning _______
  • I love _______
  • What interests me now is _______
  • I cannot understand why _______
  • I have been reading _______
  • I wish _______

Exercise 3: Dialogue with strangers

Ask Ss to work with a partner. They should choose one setting from the two they have between them and create a dialogue in this setting between their two characters. However, pairs should write a single script in a turn-wise manner. For example, A writes a line for his character and passes the notebook to B who then writes a line for her character and passes it back to A.  This interchange continues until the dialogue reaches a natural conclusion.

Exercise 4: Building out a dialogue

Ask Ss if they know what the word ‘conflict’ means. Elicit meaning beyond fighting and point out the role of conflict in a story. Ask Ss to work individually to describe a setting in one line; two characters A & B – who are they? Age? What do they do?  Then write a short dialogue between A & B in this setting that involves conflict.

After you get some Ss to read out their dialogues, elicit how conflict makes stories richer and more interesting to listeners and readers.

Exercise 5: 10 minute play

Stage 1: Hand out chits of paper and ask Ss to write a full name on it as well as the person’s professions, likes & dislikes and  hobbies. For example Neha Rodrigues, swimming instructor, likes movies & shopping, hates fast food & strong perfumes, loves solving jigsaw puzzles.  They should write three character prompts each.

Collect all the chits into a pile. Now repeat this procedure with these prompts:

  • Setting – should be quite specific – not just “room” but what kind of room and where it’s located.
  • Prop – this is an inanimate object which is positioned on stage during the play.
  • Object – this is an item which is referred to in the dialogue and may not be physically present on stage.
  • Dialogue – A single line of dialogue.

Ask Ss to now pick one prompt from each of the piles except the character pile from which they should pick three chits. They should have some wacky ideas for creating a short original play.  You may want to share a structure to help them write the 10 minute play.

Structure for 10 minute play:

  • Word count: Around 15oo words
  • Jump straight into the action – don’t spend time setting context.  Think about who your characters are and what they want.
  • Page 1 – 2: Set-up the world of the main character(s)
  • Page 2 – 3: Something happens to throw their world out of balance
  • Page 4 – 7: Your character struggles to restore order to her world
  • Page 8: Just when your character is about to restore order, something happens to complicate matters.
  • Page 9-10: Character either succeeds or fails in her attempt to restore order.

Maybe as a follow-on activity, Ss could get into small groups and select one of their plays to perform for the rest of the class. It could be a staged reading instead of an actual performance.

Sometimes what you say doesn’t really matter | A dialogue activity

I’ve been attending a lot of drama-related workshops recently. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the second installment of Writing through Movement – this time with Yuki Ellias and popular playwright, Mahesh Dattani.  As usual, one activity stood out for me for its ability to engage learners and deliver a powerful aha moment.

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Materials: Photocopies of whichever dialogue you choose to use.

Procedure: 

1. Divide Ss into pairs. Distribute the dialogue and ask Ss to commit it to memory (they should learn the lines for both A & B).

2. Give each pair 5 minutes to discuss and create a setting in which they can enact the dialogue. There are some rules they need to follow:

  • They can’t introduce any additional words or lines.
  • They can’t provide any context before performing.
  • They can’t use any physical objects; they must mime any props they require.
  • They can’t involve anyone else in the performance.

3. Have each pair perform their dialogue in front of the rest of the Ss.

4. Debrief by asking Ss about what they observed and what brought the dialogue to life.

Although each pair will say the same words, the result will be very different. By using the voice, body language and action, some pairs will completely transform the dialogue into something enigmatic, hilarious or magnificent . In the workshop I attended, one pair set dialogue 1 in a prison with an inmate on death row – really moving stuff; another had an at home scene with a constipated husband on the commode.  The best performances will be those where Ss interact effectively with each other and their imaginary setting and the objects it contains.

The activity is meant to teach writers how dialogue, which they may pour their souls into, may not be as important as the setting, characters and objects that surround it. However, I reckon the activity holds an important lesson for teachers. Our approach to language with its focus on form and lexicon puts Ss at a disadvantage when it comes to “performing” in real life – situations where your non-verbal skills and proxemics may be far more important in helping you stand apart.  Sometimes, what you say doesn’t really matter. 

Variations

  • With advanced Ss, while they are performing, impose new constraints or settings on them e.g., you’re the same husband and wife going about your morning routine but now you’re in a leaky little boat in the middle of the Pacific.
  • Insist that Ss deliver their lines as they perform the actions instead of separating the two which is what most non-actors will do.
  • While Ss are performing, have them suddenly swap roles so A becomes B and B becomes A.

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IMG_5253
Source: http://www.morguefile.com

Dialogue 1

A: Two eggs

B: Yes

A: Brown bread toast

B: Yes

A: Two slices

B: Yes

A: Orange juice

B: Yes

A: Freshly squeezed

B: Yes

A Masala chai

B: Yes

A: Without sugar

B: No

Dialogue 2

A: It’s over

B: No

A: Finished

B: No

A: Khatam*

B: No

A: Tomorrow

B: Yes

*Khatam in Hindi means ‘finished’

Improv & ensemble storytelling activities

Last month, I attended a day long improv and ensemble storytelling workshop.  The goal of the program was ostensibly teamwork but there was lots of potential for application in the ELT classroom. Improv has the ability to help participants become less inhibited, test the boundaries of their comfort zones, create better connections with others, listen more actively and become more conscious about actions and speech. Ensemble storytelling helps participants build  stories collectively and create discussion-provoking tableaus. These are useful outcomes for any language classroom.

I’m going to describe the activities as I remember them. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with ways of using them in your classroom. Most of these activities should be done without footwear to ensure that no one gets stomped on.

1. Foot 2 foot obstacle course 

Pair Ss and ask them to sit facing each other in two circles. So you have an inner circle and an outer circle. Ss in the inner circle sit facing their partner in the outer circle. Now, ask them to put their legs out such that their soles are touching their partners’ so they create a diamond shape between their legs. You’ll now have a foot to foot obstacle course. Give each pair a number. When a number is called out, the pair get up and start running through the obstacle course, ensuring that they are not stomping on anyone and only placing their feet in the space created between people’s legs.

  • Outcomes: Energize Ss and break the ice.

2. The “you” pattern game 

This one’s going to sound a little complicated but it was perhaps the most enjoyable activity of the day.  You shouldn’t have more than 12 people playing this game and if you fewer than 6, it might not be all that challenging.  If you have a large group, you can divide them into smaller circles – we had three circles of 11 or 12 people.

  • The basic pattern: In your circle, ask everyone to raise their hand and point their index fingers at the ceiling. T starts the game by lowering his/her hand and pointing to someone in the circle while saying “you”.  This person then points to someone else while saying “you”.  Play continues until everyone gets to lower their hand and say “you” to someone – no repeats allowed – the last person points to the T and passes the “you” back to him/her. Ask the Ss if they remember who they received the “you” from and who they passed it to because they are going to stick with these people. Play two more rounds so Ss become comfortable and encourage them to go faster.
  • The second pattern: Tell the Ss that they are now going to practice a different pattern. Point to someone (different than the first round) and say your favourite breakfast food/dish. Repeat procedure until everyone’s pointed to someone and said a favourite breakfast item (no repetition of people being pointed at or food). Start the “you” pattern and about 30 seconds in, begin the breakfast pattern so you have two patterns going at the same time. Ss will generally drop one. Encourage them to concentrate and keep the momentum with both.
  • The third pattern: Now introduce a third pattern – favourite animal or superhero. If Ss master this quickly, move on to the finale.
  • Finale: Tell the Ss they’ve had it easy till now because all they had to do was memorize where the “word” came from and where it was going so it didn’t really involve genuine concentration. In this round, when someone points to them and says “you” or a “breakfast item”, you need to swap places with them. Begin again with the “you” pattern and gradually introduce the second pattern before bringing in the third. At first, it will be completely chaotic but after some time, most Ss will be able to get into the kind of “flow” described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book of the same name. At that point, it might look like they are performing a contemporary dance.
  • Outcomes: Energy, focus, teamwork, concentration, flow, momentum, intonation, supporting each other, being fully engaged.

3. Yes and … 

Have all the Ss sit down and ask 3 or 4 to come and stand where everyone can see them. These Ss stand in a line facing the audience. The audience needs to give them a product to sell and those in the “yes and …” line say things that describe or promote the product. However, they cannot confer with each other and each person says their lines spontaneously. Here’s how it plays out:

  • The audience asks those in the “yes and …” line to sell a toothbrush.
  • All four Ss step up and pump the air with the fists while saying “Yes and” and then step back.
  • One of the Ss steps forward and says “Yes and … this is a magical toothbrush that grants you a wish every fortnight.”  While this Ss steps back, everyone in the line says “Yes and …” and another Ss steps forward and adds his/her line.
  • Ss will try to choreograph each other by conferring, guiding, forcing others to say something etc. Don’t let them to do this. Some of them will also contradict each other by saying “No and …”. Stop the activity, tell the Ss that the reaction should always be positive “Yes and …” and ask them to do it over.
  • Outcomes: Building on each other’s ideas, spontaneity, creativity, fluency, allowing autonomy of action, not stage-managing other people’s words or actions, not seeing the way in your head as the only  right way, going with the flow and lots of other things.

4. Affinity … to me 

You need a slightly larger space for this activity. It would work well outdoors. Demonstrate by calling out something you like a lot, for example, “dogs”. Everyone who likes dogs runs to you and forms a tight huddle and those who don’t like dogs need to get as far away as possible. The game is spontaneous. Anyone can call something out and if you have an affinity for that thing – you run over to them and if not, you run away.

  • Outcome: Getting to know each other, energy, taking initiative.

5. My enemy 

Ask everyone to silently and subtly choose someone in the room. They must not let this person know (in any way) that they have been chosen. This person is their enemy.  Ask them to now choose another person. This person is their guardian. At all points of time, they must keep their guardian between themselves and their enemy.  Play for a few minutes before asking Ss to switch perspectives – their enemy is now their guardian and vice versa.

  • Outcome: Dealing with change, thinking about how we view people

6.  Samurai

Ask Ss to hold their right (or left) hand out vertically so it’s folded up at their elbow. They need to form a fist but put their little finger out. Tell them that they are samurai warriors and this is their katana, their traditional sword. At all points of time, their hand must be held up and out as if it were a sword with their pinkie sticking out.  The objective of the game is to kill others in the room by using your sword. Samurais can only die if some part of their torso is touched by another warrior’s pinkie finger. Ss can only defend and block using their sword. Start the game by asking everyone to raise their swords and striking the floor while making the noise of steel against ground. Then, stand back and watch the battle. Those who are killed should fall to the floor and play dead.

  • Outcome: Getting into character, strategy, playing by the rules

7. Letter by letter

Divide the Ss into groups of three or four. Write seven letters on the whiteboard, avoid tougher ones like X, Y & Z. Call out a letter by crossing it out and announcing a time limit of one or two minutes depending on the level of the Ss. Ss need to write out a story within the time limit but there are some rules. Each group member can only contribute one word at a time and they must write this word on their piece of paper. Ss shouldn’t influence each other or compel their group members to write something they don’t want to. Each word that is contributed must begin with the letter called out for that round. For examples, all the words in the story begin with “t”, including function words. When the timer runs out, call out the next letter and so on. Finally, have groups pick a person to read out their story using their voice and eye contact to bring it to life.

  • Outcome: Building on each other ideas, collaboration, avoiding helpful sentence completion, letting others think for themselves, encouraging team members while letting them be themselves, creative writing, working under constraints, making the most of the voice.

8. Freeze frame

Divide the Ss into larger groups of between 5 and 7 people per group. Ask them to sit together and share experiences that were life-changing or life-affirming in some way.  They then need to construct seven tableaus that narrate the story. These are frames where there is no movement and no dialogue.  Give Ss ten minutes to design and practice their frames. Each frame must include everyone from the group. Point out that each person doesn’t need to be a character – they could also be objects or a part of the setting.

When everyone’s ready, get Ss to sit down on one side of the room. Get the first group to come up and ask Ss to put their heads down so they can no longer see the are the performance is taking place. The group quietly gets into position for their first frame. Say “freeze frame” and have everyone look at the frame. Then says “heads down” and the group gets into the next frame and so on.  At the end of the seven frames, ask observing groups to reconstruct the story, reflect on what they liked about the frames and which details they found most enjoyable or memorable.

  • Outcome: Teamwork, collaboration, being resourceful, using everyone in the group, storytelling, visualization, coordination.

9. My story for the future

In the workshop, the facilitators asked us to pretend that human civilization will have to undergo some world-changing tribulations in the near future. As a result of this, we will lose most of our repositories of knowledge, culture and stories. Ask Ss to think of a story that has significance for them and bequeath this to the people of the future by preserving it in an abstract sculpture we will launch into space. The facilitators got us to write (most people wrote names of books or movies) our story titles on thin pieces of wood which had grooves so they fit into each other. When we were done, they invited us to construct the sculpture so it became a piece of installation art.

I think the activity would have been more powerful if Ss had written their own stories on the piece of wood. It could be a story inspired by an existing narrative or one that is somehow significant to them – but something that people from our future would find moving, funny or interesting and would become a treasured addition to a culture that is bereft of stories. Instead of wooden squares, you could create the same effect with cardboard from old boxes. I tried, it works as long as the cardboard is a little thick – saw 4 grooves into it where it could be connected to other squares.

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I hope you have as much fun facilitating these activities as I did participating in them!