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Step Two: Opening Up

When an individual can share non-threatening areas of his or her life, an exciting step in group building has taken place. If one person perceives that another is genuinely interested in her or his story, then trust will develop between the two. The opening up stage is a perfect time to introduce touch groups (smaller groups of three to eight that meet periodically during the camp or conference). The following games include discussion topics for sharing that work well in the more intimate environment of touch groups.

The exercises done in this step should be flexible, so that people can share to whatever degree they feel comfortable. These games are designed for sharing with limited risk. A group at this stage will generally not share more information than is comfortable to them, but you may want to establish loose guidelines by affirming the right to pass. Many games involve sharing in more creative ways, with noise and music instead of words. These can be just as powerful for a group at this stage. Participants go away from these activities enthusiastic about the deepening friendships they are developing in their group. Many of these games can be adapted to encourage deeper sharing when the group is ready.

The Pie of Life

Parameters: Perfect for a group from two to infinity

Materials: Paper, markers, scissors

Ask the group to draw a large circle on a piece of paper. Tell the group that the circle they just drew represents a day in their life. Ask the group to cut slices of the pie to represent the amount of time they spend doing different things. Example: the amount of time you sleep on a typical day, at school, daydreaming, with friends, alone. Have them label their slices. After the group has finished slicing their life pies, have them share with the group (if they are comfortable). Give each person time to talk about one or more of their slices.

The Animal Game

Parameters: 5 to 40 people

Materials: Paper and pencils

Distribute the paper and pencils. Each person writes down in secret what kind of animal they would like to be, and in what setting. Example: A dragonfly skimming the surface of a creek in the sunshine. The papers are folded, collected, and mixed up. One person reads each paper aloud and the group decides who wrote it and gives it to them. Some people may receive more than one and others none at all. Then go around the circle and have each person read the paper that they have been given and give them back to their original authors.

Variation: Each person decides what animal they feel like right now.

Group Story Variations

Speaking:

Parameters: 5 to 40 people

Sit in a circle. Start telling a story. When you reach a critical point, break off and let the person sitting on your right take over. Keep the story going until someone finds a way to end it.

Variation: Have a few people in the middle pantomiming the story as it is told.

Writing:

Parameters: 5 to 40 people

Materials: Pencils and paper for each member of the group.

Arrange the group in a circle. Distribute paper and pencils. Have each of them start a story on their sheet of paper, introducing the main character(s), the setting, and an introductory action. Give them about five minutes and then ask them to pass the story on to the person to their left. Let the stories be passed around until each person has contributed to each story. Then have the person who started the story finish it. Let the originators of each story share theirs with the group.

Variation: (for any size group) Write down the beginning of a story in two lines, then fold the paper over so that only the second line is showing. Pass it around the circle with instructions to add two lines and refold the paper so that only the last line is showing. Read the whole story at the end.

Outright Lie

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Pass a small object around the circle and make up incredible stories about it. Example: “This necklace was buried in my grandmothers yard in a sealed envelope from an anonymous lover. . .” Vote on the best story and elect the best liar in the group.

Puzzled Connections

Parameters: 14 to 60 people (an even number)

Materials: Index cards—enough for half of the group to have one each.

Write a series of non-invasive questions on a bunch of 3x5 card such as, “What is your first childhood memory?”, or “What did you dream last night?” Cut the 3x5 cards so that they make a series of unique, two-piece puzzles. Give half of each card to each person and instruct the group to find their “other half.” Then have each pair answer the questions on the finished puzzle.

Snowball Fight

Parameters: 15 to 40 people

Materials: Notebook paper and pencils for all.

Arrange the group in a circle. Pass out the paper and pencils. Have each person write down a question they would like to have another youth answer (emphasize: not too personal). Then, have everyone crumple up their papers and initiate a snowball fight with the balled up paper as ammunition. After this has gone on for a little while, tell everyone to stop and pick up the nearest ball. Un-crumple the balls, and go around the circle answering questions.

Variation: Write names on the papers. After the snowball fight, pick up a paper ball and read out the person’s name. That person can start by telling the group something about himself, then reading the name on the paper he was left holding. Continue until everyone has been introduced.

The Know-It-Ball

Parameters: 5 to 60 people

Materials: Three differently colored balls, rolled-up socks, or other soft throwable item.

Have the group sit in a circle and give them the balls. The group decides on questions for the three balls to respectively represent. Example: The red ball is the name ball, and whoever catches it must say their name aloud. The blue ball is for one’s hometown. The yellow ball is for a one word description that each person chooses for himself, such as “happy”, “generous”, or “talkative”. Have the group toss the balls back and forth around the circle. After everyone has answered at least a few questions, toss the blue ball around and have the group call the out the names of those who catch it.

The Pudding Game

Parameters: Perfect for a group from two to infinity!

(Blindfolds can be very scary to survivors of assault and other people who have been hurt. Ask to see if everyone is comfortable before you do this activity.)

Materials: Enough pudding cups (or vegan alternative) and blindfolds for all. Break the group up into pairs. Blindfold one member of each pair. Have the blindfolded people attempt to feed the pudding to their partners. Switch.

House Memories

Parameters: Perfect for a group from two to infinity!

Materials: Drawing paper, colored pencils

Distribute the art supplies. Ask everyone to draw the floor plan of a house they lived in before they were ten years old. Have them label each room to the best of their memories. Then ask the group to share individually or in pairs about the memories associated with each room, especially their own.

Variation: Ask everyone to design the ideal room for themselves. Encourage them to add as much detail as possible, and incorporate childhood fantasy. Share the designs and reasons behind their choices.

Amateur Psychology

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Materials: Paper and pencils.

Have them write (or remember):

1. Their favorite animal, and a word describing it

2. Their favorite color and a word describing it

3. Their favorite body of water and a word describing it.

4. Their favorite fruit and a short description of how they eat it

5. Tell them to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a circular room with smooth high walls and no ceiling. It is night and, although there are no windows or doors, they can look up and see the stars. Have them write down how they feel.

When everyone is finished, reveal the hidden meaning behind what they wrote down. (Do it yourself, first! The hidden meanings are at the bottom of this page) Let discussion ensue. Make up new questions and answers.

One And Only

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Materials: Index cards and pencils

Distribute cards and pencils. Ask each member of the group to write a fact about their life that others in the group may not know. Advise the group not to reveal anything too personal. Make sure no one signs their names to the cards. Collect the cards, shuffle them and redistribute them. Have each person read aloud the information on the card they are holding. After each reading, let the group try to guess whom the card describes.

Madame X

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

This game is great for van trips. One person, “It,” secretly chooses another person in the group to be Madame X. Go around the circle and give each person in the group a turn to try to find out who “It” is thinking of. They ask questions like, “If Madame X were a color...” or any other category they can think up, and “It” responds. Often, the most creative categories can be the most revealing (and remember, “It” shouldn’t respond with the color Madame X is wearing, but the color Madam X is). When the entire group has had their chance to pose a category, go around the circle once more and let each person guess who they think is Madame X. Then let “It” reveal the true identity of Madame X, and have everyone talk about why they guessed who they did, and what answers surprised them. Let “Madame X” share how it feels to be the subject of so much attention!

Colors

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Tell everyone to silently decide on a color. One at a time, have each person go to the middle of the circle and silently (or with non-verbal noise) act like that color. When each person finishes and sits back down in the circle, the group can guess which color he was conveying.

Lemons

Parameters: 15 to 40 people

Materials: Enough lemons (or other small objects) for the group.

Distribute one lemon to each person and sit in a circle on the floor. Tell the group that since no two lemons are the same, they should get to know their lemons. Guide them through this meditative, silent process: Spend the first five minutes with your eyes closed. Explore through touch the unique tactile qualities of your lemon. Pair up. Introduce your lemon to your partner by pointing out its special qualities. Exchange lemons with each other, and notice the difference in the lemons. Now form groups of four to six, and place your lemons in a pile. Close your eyes and find your own lemon. Now form a circle with the whole group. Have one person collect the lemons and redistribute them to different people. Close your eyes, and pass the lemons to the right, feeling each one to find your own. When you’ve found yours, place it aside, and continue passing lemons until everyone has found their own.

Two Truths and A Lie

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

A great touch group activity. Have each person in the group come up with two facts and one falsehood about themselves. Go around the circle and have each person present the three statements as if they are all true. Then have each member of the group guess which of the three statements is false.

Variation: Two Lies and a Truth.

Bump

Parameters: 15 to 40 people

Materials: A stereo or musical instrument.

When the music starts, players take a walk around the space, changing directions so that they occasionally bump into other bodies. When the music stops, each player greets the nearest person and discovers as much personal information as possible about them before the music starts up again (five to seven seconds). If two people are paired up more than once, tell them to find out something new about the person each time. Keep it moving quickly until a good number of people have been acquainted.

Hand Jive

Parameters: Perfect for a group from two to infinity.

Have the group pair up and take turns attempting to describe a predetermined part of their lives—their room, name, family, using only their hands. Then have each pair share what they thought each other was saying with each other, and with the group.

Feelings and The Weather

Parameters: 15 to 40 people

Materials: Butcher paper and markers

A problem-solving exercise. Brainstorm a list of environmental factors that affect people’s feelings and moods. Some items on the list could be weather, colors, temperature, smells, time of day, events, etc. Then ask the group how they could change the environments they live in to ensure the most positive feelings in them. You can start with the youth group room!

Scar Stories

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Gather into a circle. Show off scars and tell the stories behind them.

Check In

Parameters: perfect for a group from two to infinity (with a few modifications)

A classic beginning for any meeting or conference.

Have the group sit in a circle and go around, giving each member a chance to share an anecdote from her life since the group saw them last, a word to describe how they are feeling, or any other tidbit of information they feel the group should know. This format can be altered to fit the group’s size and mood. Make sure you allow time to express frustrating emotions youth often feel in their lives. You can pass around clay or play-dough, and let people express themselves by adding onto or changing the form it takes. You can also pass around a “talking stick” or object to emphasize that this is not the time for verbal feedback but for silent affirmation of the person talking. Variation: If your group is very large and prone to long-windedness, suggest one go-around of everyone rating their weeks from one to ten, allowing further check-ins only for one’s, two’s, nine’s, and ten’s.

Mirror Games

Parameters: 15 to 40 people

Break the group into pairs. Tell pairs to choose one to be the mirror, one to be the actor. Let them start slow, improvising a dance or carrying out a specific action usually done in front of a mirror, like brushing teeth, or checking out their outfit). Tell them to switch after a while. Then introduce new elements: you are a fun house mirror, exaggerating instead of reflecting; you are an opposite mirror. After a while, let them abandon the switching back and forth, and try to initiate movement and reflect the movement of their partner at the same time.

Rhythm Jam

Parameters: 15 to 60 people

Sit in a circle and have one person start a repetitive, rhythmic sound. Go around the circle with each person adding a layer of sound. Use hands, feet or voices—anything goes. When everyone is making noise, you have a variety of options: have one person be the director, telling folks to get softer or louder, silencing everyone so that she can hear a few voices across the circle from each other and how they sound together. Bring all the voices back up for a grand finale. Or, let everyone jam out to each other, without a director.

Variation: Make some impromptu instruments out of cans, rubberbands, water jugs, or other found objects before hand.

Body Talk

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Materials: Index cards, pencils

Distribute the cards and pencils, have each person write down an emotion or emotional state. Redistribute the cards and tell the group to keep their new card a secret, and to think of how they might express that emotion without words. Split the group into pairs. Give each person a few minutes to nonverbally express their emotion to their partner, while the rest of the group watches. After each display have the partner guess what was written on the card. Let the group guess, then ask the person what emotion was on the card. Discuss what it felt like to give and receive the emotion.

Dealing Stories

Parameters: 5 to 15 people

Materials: A deck of cards

Gather the group into a circle and deal a card to each person. The card they receive will determine how many stories and what kind of stories from their lives they will tell the group. You can decide on these designations before-hand. Here are some suggestions:

Hearts: love story

Clubs: funny story

Spades: sad story

Diamonds: made up story

Ace: the story that shows off their best qualities

King: a story about power

Queen: a story about liberation / justice making

Jack: a story about someone named Jack.

Go around the circle and hear everyone’s story, then re-deal the cards.

Secret Friends

Parameters: 14 to 200 (an even number excluding yourself)

Materials: Manila envelopes, paper, arts and crafts supplies

Secretly break the entire group into pairs of “secret friends,” and assign each pair a number. Keep a master list! Label one manila envelope with each of the numbers, and give everyone a token or name tag with their number on it. Place the envelopes and the art supplies in a prominent place in the room for the duration of your event. Tell everyone to communicate with their secret friend by leaving messages in the envelope with their number on it. If there is something in the envelope they didn’t put there, its for them. Encourage them to tell their secret friend about themselves without betraying their anonymity and not to wear their name tags or reveal their identities to their secret friends until the end of the specified time. Finally, have a dance or worship in which the identities are revealed.

Answers to “Amateur Psychology”, Section 2

  1. Animal: How others see you
     
  2. Color: how you see yourself
     
  3. Water: How you relate to your sexuality
     
  4. Fruit: How you make friends with someone
     
  5. Room: How you feel about your own mortality / death

For more information contact youth@uua.org.

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Last updated on Monday, December 17, 2012.

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