Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Families: A Jr. High School Youth Program that Explores the Diversity, Commonality, and Meaning of Families

Alternate Activity 1: Family Story Round Robin

Part of Families

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Copier paper
  • Pencils or pens
  • Large jar or container

Preparation for Activity

  • Cut white copier paper into small pieces (enough to yield two or three pieces per participant)

Description of Activity

In this activity, the group creates a story. Each person adds one sentence to develop a story about a family. Ask participants, "Have you ever had a group of people tell you a story? What was that like?" Participants may recall hearing stories that were peppered with interjections from many people. Often one person assumes the role of main storyteller and keeps track of story details and sequence. If participants cannot recall experiences of being told a story in such a way, encourage them to imagine a group of teammates telling the story of the winning game. One player is the main storyteller, while others intersperse additional information, facts, or subjective evaluations. The result is a fuller story. Stories of family events are often told using this style.

Explain to participants that they are going to create a story together. The goal is to develop a cohesive story, yet the task is tricky because they need to incorporate details that are randomly assigned to them. Participants will each write details of family stories on slips of paper. The group will then use these details to create a family story. Follow these steps.

  • Invite participants to think of their own family stories.
  • Distribute small pieces of paper and have participants choose two details from one or more family stories. Tell them to write one detail on each slip of paper and then fold the slips in half.
  • Collect the slips in the jar.
  • Explain that you will collectively create one story using some of the details in the jar.
  • First, help participants decide on an overall theme for the family story. If participants cannot think of a theme, suggest one (e.g., "Family Vacation" or "An Average Friday Night" or "A New Family Member").
  • Once the group chooses a theme, explain that youth will go around the circle and each person will pick a slip of paper from the jar. Participants will fold the details they pick into the collective family story.
  • After participants have picked from the jar, invite them to create the story. One easy method is to simply go around the circle. Another method is "popcorn" style, in which individuals chime in when they feel their piece of the story fits.
  • During a turn, the speaker adds approximately one long sentence representing his/her detail to the story.
  • Facilitate the process as necessary. Sometimes groups need constructive observations, such as, "Sounds like we have a lot of background information and characters, but no real action." Keep the pace lively.
  • Repeat the story round robin again if the group seems interested.

When the story is complete, invite participants to reflect on the process. What did this exercise teach them about storytelling? How is group storytelling the same as or different from an individual's storytelling?

This activity highlights that each contributor draws on his/her own vision and/or experience to add to the story. When a group has shared an experience and tells that story as a group, a central narrative emerges, although each person's subjective experience flavors the story. In this exercise, the central narrative is created like putting together a puzzle. Family stories told in groups can emerge either way.