Groups: this works for groups of 8 to about 30. Grades 6 and up, modifying difficulty as necessary.
The Game: Stand everyone in a circle. This is an energy-passing game that requires lots of focus from all players.
Add each layer after mastering the layer previous. This can be accomplished in one go, or over a series of days, tracking the group’s progress.
First Layer (Names): Have everyone look to their right and make sure they know the name of the person beside them. Starting with a leader go around the circle, each player saying the name of the person on their right (after their own name is called). REMEMBER THIS ORDER. Make sure to remember the name you say (our positions will change later, but this order of names is important). Remember this and move to the next layer.
Second Layer (Category): Starting with a new leader, develop a new pattern by sending each player a word/phrase from a pre-selected category (i.e. food, school, positive phrases). Refer to zoom rules, make sure everyone receives a word, that all words are different, and that that the leader of that category (who sent first) receives last. PRACTISE this pattern, once established, and do the exact same pattern (same words, same order) a few times to cement it in the minds of all players.
Now, review the first layer (Names) and add in the second layer (category) so that they are both happening at the same time. Each layer works independently of the other. Continue until you master both together (sometimes I set a benchmark of three successful rounds of each layer simultaneously, as counted by the leaders).
Third Layer (movement): Now it gets complicated. Add in the rule that instead of just sending the category (verbally) to the next person in sequence, the sender must move to the position of the receiver (again, see zoom for details). The names layer becomes much more difficult. Continue through three successful rounds.
This is the place where I need to add in the rule that only the leader of each specific layer may restart a category if it gets dropped. If this is getting difficult, good. Check in with the group to see what strategies they’d like to try in order to master a layer they’re having trouble with. (These usually include no extra conversations, repeating your word/action to the reciever until he/she picks it up, varying the pace, looking only at the two or three people from whom you receive informaion).
Fourth Layer (sound and actions): Choose a new leader and create a new pattern of sounds and actions making sure every player is a part of the chain and that the leader is the final one to receive. Each player should invent a sound and action (I recommend ‘pointing’ or ‘dirctional’ actions like ‘zoom!’ from the last game). It’s a bonus if these actions can flow together from one to the other. PRACTISE this pattern, once established, and do the exact same pattern a few times to cement it in the minds of all players.
(Sending Sounds and Actions and getting them to flow is a great exercise on its own!)
Add the fourth layer to the others, and continue until brains get fried. The point is for players to leave their before-improv stuff at the door and have to put all their brain focus into the activity.
This game works best when: There is a lot of ‘yes energy’ and support for each other in the group. You take time to review and cement each layer and You push past the group’s comfort zones.
Additions and Variations:
Additional layers that can be added are any category, telling a story word at a time, or phrase at a time, divide sound & actions into loooong sounds and quick sounds (stab or sustain), or have a physical object (rubber ball or chicken) to throw around either in a pattern or randomly.
There is also a great trashball game I learned from Jorgi at Camp Tawingo along these lines. Curious? Ask me!
Thanks to Devon WL Turner and Matthew Sereda who are both excellent facilitators of this game and with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working.