You are on page 1of 16


Have group discuss things that are detrimental to functioning as a group. For each characteristic/action, throw an object into the playing space, the "minefield." Have group choose partners. One partner is blindfolded at one end of field. The non-blindfolded partners stand at the opposite end of the field and try to talk their partners through the minefield without running into any of the obstacles.

2. Stick
Everyone in group touches stick at same time. Break stick in half and repeat. Continue until stick is very small. (it's easier to start with a simple goal and work up to a harder one...)

3. Group Juggle
Establish pattern of tosses including everyone in a circle. Add additional objects periodically. (A variation contributed by: Nancy J Rimassa) This is a good way to help a group of strangers remember at least one person's name forever. 1. Have the group stand in a circle, fairly close together. 2. Toss a ball across the circle, calling out the player's name to whom you toss it to. That player tosses to a different player and so on until everyone has caught the ball and thrown it on once. It should be back in your hands at this point. 3. Repeat the sequence a couple of times. Add a second bell and then a third. Add as many balls as you want. Variations? Make a wide circle out of doors. Use toilet paper instead of balls. Use various size balls. The game ends when no one will play anymore.

4. Wind in the Willows (NP)

A variation on trust falls involving the entire group. Group stands in a circle with one person in the middle. Person in middle falls in any direction, trusting spotters to catch him/her and stand him/her back up.

5. Blind Walk
Divide group into pairs with one member of each pair blindfolded. Seeing partner leads blind partner on a walk. The walk should be challenging, including such obstacles as climbing over tables, crawling under chairs, walking up or down stairs, climbing over railings, etc

6. Similarity Charades
Divide into smaller groups. Each group discusses their similarities and acts out for other group to guess.

7. Group Jump-Rope (NP)

Given long piece of rope, group tries to jump rope simultaneously (again, easier to start with simple task - one or two people - and work up to larger goal gradually)

8. Blind Shapes
Group is blindfolded or with eyes closed. Have group form themselves into a square or a triangle, etc. Can use a rope with everyone holding on. (communication, leadership)

9. Survival Scenario Exercise

Wilderdom Store gear, books, kits

Description of a Group Dynamics Team Building Exercise

Overview - Group Survival Equipment Scenario Exercise Scenario briefing (1 per

A classic group communication and decision making exercise, with many variations. Works for a wide variety of ages and purposes, indoors or outdoors. There are two classic types of "paper & pencil" group survival scenarios (selecting equipment and selecting people). In each case: o Provide instructions & hand out materials o Set a time limit (~15-30 minutes) o Let the group go - answer questions, watch, & observe! o Debrief

group) List of items/people (1 per person) Expert list (number optional) Free downloads listed below

A classic group communication & decision making exercise. People get intensely engaged because the "survival stakes" are high and none of the decisions are easy. Works for a wide variety of ages and purposes, indoors or outdoors.

Group Size

Scenario Type 1: Choose Survival Equipment

Your plane crashed...your group needs to choose the 12 most useful items to survive... Choose / rank equipment items in terms of their relative survival value:
Participants choose/rank the items individually Discuss choices/rankings in small group and come to a group consensus Score answers against "expert" opinion Possible scenarios:

Total ~45-100 mins 5-10 minutes briefing 15-30 minutes exercise time 5-10 minutes scoring (for select equipment scenarios) 20-30 minutes debrief & discussion

o o o

Lost at sea or island survival (shipwreck) Desert (plane crash) Space or Moon

Survival Scenarios (free)

Choose Equipment Scenarios
Plane Crash & Winter Survival Simulation Game (classic rank 15 survival items exercise) Lost at Sea [.pdf] (classic 2 page summary guide - p.1 is the activity list of items; p.2 has the answers) Lost at Sea [.pdf] (more detailed Lost at Sea description plus with generic theory and debriefing material) Lost at Sea [.pdf] (a third version, with mediumlevel detail) Survival on the Moon (classic survival in space exercise) o Survival on the Moon o Space Survival Challenge

10. Scenario Type 2: People Survival Scenario (Who will be saved?)

A nuclear bomb has been dropped...a radiation-free shelter is available, but can only take 6 people; choose who will survive... Choose / rank people in terms of who will get to live or die in situations with limited survival resources:
Participants role play characters (a bit like a Murder Mystery) Can lead to high emotions; people get intensely engaged, particularly when choosing who will survive, and none of the decisions are easy. No right answers - any so-called "correct" answers are based on debatable values (e.g., ageism, sexism, racism) Highlights individual's dispositions, group processes and decision making Possible scenarios: o Nuclear war shelter o Oxygen dwindling (space, moon, mars) o Lifeboat / Sinking ship (sea)

Choose People Scenarios

Plane Crash Survival Scenario Nuclear Holocaust: Who Should Survive?

Complex Scenarios
Wilderness Survival (involves 12 multiple choice questions about what to do in survival situations; work individually and then in groups, receiving points for good decisions) Island Survival (indepth, elaborate scenario and scoring for longer scenario exercise; well explained for school settings) Westward Ho! o Westward Ho! (classic description with scoring rubric)

Appoint a time keeper in each group and encourage them to be the person who monitors the progress of the group towards achieving consensus within the time frame.

To emphasise individual versus group decision making, split the session into three parts: o Individuals make their own selections first, on paper (510 minutes) o Groups (or sub-groups) then discuss and create a group decision o Compare individual and group performances, e.g.,: For equipment scenarios, group decisions are usually more accurate than individual answers, helping to illustrate the importance of collaborative group decision-making. For people scenarios, score individuals according to how close the group's decision was to their own selections of who is to live and die (an indicator of each person's influence over the group).

o o

o o

Westward Ho! (classroom exercise) Westward Ho! (basic computer adventure) Westward Ho! (lesson plan) Oregon Trail (computer software download

Possible Debrief Questions

How were decisions made? Who influenced the decisions and how? How could better decisions have been made? How was conflict managed? How did people feel about the decisions? How satisfied was each person with the decision (ask each participant to rate his / her satisfaction out of 10, then obtain a group average and compare / discuss with other groups' satisfaction levels) What have you learnt about the functioning of this group? How would you do the activity differently if you were asked to do

it again? What situations at work/home/school do you think are like this exercise?

Caveman meets Modern Camper by Frik, 2003

11. Zoom & Re-Zoom

Zoom & Re-Zoom

This engaging group activity helps develop communication skills, perspective taking, and problem solving skills. Based on the intriguing, wordless, picture books "Zoom" and "Re-Zoom" by Istvan Banyai which consist of 33 and 24 sequential "pictures within pictures". The Zoom narrative moves from outer space to a farm to a ship to a city street to a desert island. Zoom has been published in 18 countries. Hand out one picture per person (make sure a

Zoom Kit and/or Re-Zoom Kit, (laminated pages from the picture books, with activity guide + facilitation notes).

A group tries to create a

continuous sequence is used). Explain that participants may only look at their own pictures and must keep their pictures hidden from others. Encourage participants to study their picture, since it contains important information to help solve a problem. The challenge is for the group to sequence the pictures in the correct order without looking at one another's pictures. Participants will generally mill around talking to others to see whether their pictures have anything in common. Sometimes leadership efforts will emerge to try to understand the overall story. When the group believes they have all the pictures in order (usually after ~15 minutes), the pictures can be turned over for everyone to see.

unified story from a set of sequential pictures. The pictures are randomly ordered and handed out. Each person has a picture but cannot show it to others. Requires patience, communication, and perspective taking in order to recreate the story's sequence.

Facilitator's Notes
Works with any age group, including corporate groups. Can be done indoors or outdoors. Once the challenge is finished, allow everyone to see the pictures and encourage participants to sort out any mistakes in the order (can be done on a table or the floor), then let everyone walk around view the pictures in sequence so they understand the full story.

Group Size
20 to 30 ideal, but can be done with fewer (see variations)

Total time~20-30 minutes ~5 mins set up and brief the group ~15 mins active problem solving ~5-10 minutes debrief

Use as a novel icebreaker by handing each participant a picture on arrival. When everyone has arrived, explain that each person is holding part of a story and that the group task is to find out what the story is by putting their pictures in sequence. Use a time limit to increase difficulty and enhance focus on teamwork. Team performance can be measured (e.g., for a competition) by counting how many pictures are out of sequence. For smaller groups, try disallowing talking. This increases the difficulty and creates the need for expressive sign language. In general, allow large groups to talk because there is enough complexity sorting out all the pictures. Another way to increase complexity with small groups is to give each person more than one picture. To reduce complexity for young groups (e.g., pre-school), allow a small group to look through all pictures and organize the story from beginning to end.

Thanks to PJ Giampietro, Michelle Cummings, Dev Pathik, Andy Martinson, Eric Nei and Christie Peterson for their descriptions and information about this activity on the AEE and ROPES discussion lists.

Related Link
Optical Illusions

Processing Ideas
There is usually much potential for debriefing and discussion. Why was it hard to get the story together? (everyone had a piece, but no-one had the big picture) What type of communication was used in attempting to solve the problem? What communication methods might have worked better? e.g., Iimagine if, at the outset, the group had taken the time to let each person describe his/her picture to the rest of the group. What would have happened then? Would the solution have been found faster? What prevented such strategies from being considered? Did you try to "second position" (i.e., see one's communications from the perspective of others)? What kind of leadership was used to tackle the problem? Who were the leaders? Why? What style of leadership might have worked best? If you were to tackle a similar activity again, what do you think this group should do differently? What real life activities are similar to this activity?

Banyai, I. (1995). Zoom. New York: Viking / Penguin. Banyai, I. (1998). Re-Zoom. New York: Viking / Penguin.

12. Truths & a Lie

2 Truths & a Lie

Description of a Name Game, Icebreaker and Get to Know You Activity

James Neill
Last updated:

2 Truths & a Lie

A different kind of get-to-know-you activity which is engages and challenges each group member in a fun way Particularly useful as an icebreaker, e.g. can be used as a opener for a workshop/conference. For large groups (e.g., 30+), it is best to split into smaller group sizes. Hand out cards or paper and pens (or if participants bring their own, that's fine) Explain that in this activity each person write two truths and a lie about themself and then we will try to guess each other's lie. The goal is to: a) convince others that your lie is truth (and that one of your truths is the lie) and b) to correctly guess other people's lies. Allow approx. ~5+ minutes for writing 2 truths & a lie - this isn't easy for a lot of people - there will some scribbling out, etc. The slower people will probably need to be urged along to "put anything you can think of" down. Allocate 5-8 minutes, but you will probably need to urge people along. Announce that we will now walk around and chat to one another, like a cocktail party, and ask about each other's truths and lies. The goal is to quiz each about each statement to help determine which are the truth and which is the lie, whilst seducing other people into thinking that your own lie is a truth. At the end we will caste our votes and find out the truth. Emphasize that people should not reveal their lie, even if it seems others might have guessed. Allow min. 10-15 minutes of conversation time. Gather together in a circle. Start with one person who reads their three statements aloud (to remind everyone). Then read the statements again, stopping to allow a


~15-20 minutes

Brief Description
People write down two truths about themselves and a lie. Then introduce the three "facts" to the rest of the group who tries to guess which one is a lie.

vote for each one. e.g., "I am Turkish. Who thinks that is a lie? [Vote] I am vegetarian. Who thinks that is a lie? [Vote] I have a metal pin in my right leg. Who thinks that is a lie? [Vote]. OK, my lie was "I am vegetarian."" The facilitator will need to help each person out, especially intially until the basic format is understood. The facilitator may add drama and reinforcement, etc. for correct guesses, tricky statements, etc. The exercise can be run competitively, e.g., count up how many correct guesses of other people's lies and take away the number of people who correctly guesses your own lie. Highest score wins (honesty counts!).

Links to other descriptions

Two Truths & a Lie Life Facts

13. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One Another

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One Another

Description of a get-to-know-you activity Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One Another

James Neill
Last updated:

Equipment: Copies of the 10 get-toknow questions Time: ~30-60 minutes Brief Description: This activity involves small groups sharing answers to 10 somewhat challenging and intimate questions, including responses to "hypothetical situations"

A somewhat challenging and intimate get-to-know-you activity Best for small groups e.g., 3 to 6 Involves fun, interesting, selfdisclosure by sharing answers to some honest, quirky questions

Establish initial trust amongst group e.g., what would you do if you had members before using this activity; $1 million to spend in 24 hours. could be incorporated with trust Variations: A quicker, less intrusive building activities version of this activity is People Allow plenty of time Bingo or the Signature Game. Consider making the activity People Bingo can be used earlier on optional and/or allowing small in a program as an icebreaker. groups to do the activity when and where they feel like it; this increases the sense of owning the experience and takes seriously the level of honesty and potential intimacy the activity can generate Adapt and edit the questions to suit your particular group Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One Another
1. If you were to choose a new name for yourself, what would it be? If you were given an extra $10 in change at Walmart, what would you do with it and why? Whats the biggest lesson youve learnt from your past relationships? Whats one of your worst habits? What was the best day of the past week for you - why? What are you wearing today which is most reflective of who you are? Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around. If you could change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be and why? Share one of your most embarrassing moments.



4. 5. 6.




10. If you were given a million dollars and 24 hours to spend it in, (no depositing it in the bank or investing

it) what would you buy?

14. Fear in a Hat

Psychological Exercises:

Fear in a Hat
Description of a Group Interpersonal Understanding Exercise

James Neill
Last updated:

Fear in a Hat Set an appropriate tone, e.g., settled, attentive, caring and serious. The tone could be set by introducing the topic of fear and explaining how it is normal and natural at this stage of program that people are experiencing all sorts of anxieties, worries and fears about what might happen. A good way of starting to deal with these fears is have them openly acnkowledged - lay them on the table, without being subject to ridicule. Having one's fears expressed and heard almost immediately cuts them in half. Can be done as the first activity in a program, during the initial stages or well into the program. When used early on in particular, it can help to foster group support and be helpful for alerting the group to issues they may want to respect in a Full Value Contract. Ask everyone, including the group leaders, to complete this sentence on a piece of paper (anonymously): "In this trip/group/program, I am [most] afraid that..." or "In this trip/group/program, the worst thing that could happen to me would be..." Collect the pieces of paper, mix them around, then invite each person to a piece of paper and read about someone's fear. One by one, each group member reads out the fear of another group member and elaborates and what he/she feels that person is most afraid of in this group/situation. No one is to comment on what the person says, just listen and move on to the next person.

If the reader doesn't elaborate much on the fear, then ask them one or two questions. Avoid implying or showing your opinion as to the fear being expressed, unless the person is disrepecting or completely misunderstanding someone's fear. If the person doesn't elaborate after one or two questions, leave it and move on. When all the fears have been read out and elaborated on, then discuss what people felt and noticed. Can lead into other activities, such as developing a Full Group Contract, personal or team goal settings, course briefings which specifically tackle some of the issues raised, or into other activities in which participants explore their feelings and fears (e.g., see the Fear in a Hat description at

Likes and dislikes - in two separate hats Worries Complaints/gripes Wishes Favorite moments

15. Mirror Image

Mirror Image
description of a Physical Warm-Up & Get-to-know-you Body Movement Activity

James Neill
Last updated:

Mirror Image
This activity involves people in pairs, with one person mirroring the actions and movements of the other person. Body movement exercises can be most revealing, confronting and rewarding. "Human sculpting via mirroring" brings body movement exploration into the dyad. By reflecting body movements of another, several subtle but complex processes are activated, heightening

self- and other-awareness. Immediate non-verbal feedback exercises in the right time and place have the potential to be transformational. Other times this can simply be a fun loosenupperer. Works with any size group; split into pairs/couples. Although it is simple, the activity can be confronting, and requires mature leadership and a well chosen moment/sequence/program. Usually make sure the social ice is well and truly broken, and that there have been other body movement and physical warmup/stretching exercises, with some laughter and some seriousness. Offer a demonstration. Invite a volunteer to stand facing you about half a metre apart. The instructor initiates action, with the other person following in "mirror image". Make your movements interesting and slow enough for the other person to mime as if they were a full length mirror. Also include zany stretches/contortions to get a few laughs, especially facial gymnastics. Include action sequences for tasks like brushing your teeth. The demonstration helps to loosen up conceptions and inhibitions. In pairs, one person stretches, the other follows. Then swap after some time. Debrief as you see fit.

Variation: Reverse-mirror image. Try following partner's movements in reverse-mirror image (i.e., swap left <-> right) The exercise can be done in different ways to emphasize difference aspects, e.g., for trust-building, drama warmup, ice breaker, etc

16. Gotchya! (Grab the Finger)

Gotchya! (Grab the Finger)

Description of Icebreaker Activity

James Neill
Last updated:

Gotchya! (Grab the Finger or Cheese)

Equipment: None. Time: ~5-10 minutes

Handy icebreaker and attention-grabber for kids thru corporate group programs.

Brief Description: FastStimulating group activity to get people moving 5 min. group together, focused, challenged, having fun and activity to get people ready for action. Useful to get focused together and focused. In a attention when people arrive, get off the bus, or circle, right finger on next to fill 5-10 minutes. person's left palm. Try to grab a finger before yours Works with any size groups, indoor and gets grabbed. outdoor. Participants stand in a circle, arms out to the side. Left hand palm up, right index finger pointing down and touching on neighbor's outstretched palm. "When I say the word go, do two things.... grab the finger in your left hand, and prevent your right finger from being grabbed... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... [add suspense] ... Go!". Repeat several times. Tom Leahy advises "put big energy, and your own style to never fails to grab everyone's attention, bringing them immediately to the present...Provides perfect off the bus spark for the day....Good for 10 minutes". The trick is dramatizing the "Go!", the build up of suspense, and most will jump the gun, adding to the fun. Try a different trigger word, e.g., "Cheese", and mention lots of other "eeze" words for humor - peas, sneeze,

wheeze, please and freeze.

Or use the word/theme of the day e.g., "outdoor" to help get people listening to every word. Can transition to talking about "assumptions" and "temptation", etc. Acknowledgement: This game was discussed by Tom Leahy, Mike Anderson and others on the ROPES discussion list, February, 2004.