What is our relationship to...?

I learned this from a Japanese popular educator whose name I can't recall. The combination of physicality with abstract thought produces interesting results.

The flow:

Put a disorderly pile of three or four chairs in the center of an open space, with all the participants around.

Announce that the chairs are the theme we want to discuss, for example, "English" or "Democracy" or "Equality".

I have a letter, aka, Fruit Basket

This well-known game is great for language learning, for modeling participatory learning, and for stimulating thought about a theme.

The flow is easy: the joker stands at the center of a circle of seated people facing in. The joker says, "I have a letter for everyone who..." and adds some description. For example, "I have a letter for everyone who has glasses." The people with glasses then have to move to different chairs. The person who ends up without a chair becomes the new joker.

Three Elements

I learned the game "Tree, Ground, Water" from students who taught a session of our English course at Meiji University.

The process is simple: the joker stands in the middle of a circle of people. S/he chooses one person and says, "Tree" (or one of the other elements). The person she chose then has ten seconds to come up with something that lives in a tree. If s/he can't, s/he becomes the new joker.

Drawing for the audience

Adapted from the judging technique used in the Kani Club performances.

Using the same procedure as in One line drawing, teams compete. However, instead of pleasing the judge, they have to please an audience. And, instead of waiting to the end to get the feedback, the audience votes each round. After each vote, one audience member tells the artists what s/he wants to see next. This way, each round should make the drawings incorporate the desires or ideas of the audience as well as the artists.

One line drawing

I learned this from Minami Yoshitaka, Yasuhara Kouhei, and Yamazaki Ryouta in an English class they taught at Meiji University. In this game people compete to create collaborative drawings that illustrate some thing or idea. It could lead very nicely into discussion, especially if the theme is one of relevance to people's lives.

The flow:

  • Form teams of three or four people.
  • The joker chooses a theme, for example, "job hunting" or "Freedom Rides."
  • One player from each team lines up before the whiteboard in a row, waiting for the signal.

Maria is a teacher

In this chain story-telling game the joker starts off the story with this sentence:
"[Maria] is a teacher." [Any name]

Each participant adds something to the story, either describing Maria or building a narrative.

Like the game "Juan y Juana" in Tecnicas Participativas, the game should produce some interesting elements, a kind of rough image what what we take a teacher to be. This can be made clearer by following with another story, this time starting with "[Maria] is a student."

One Word At A Time

Another Kani Club game.

In pairs or trios, people take turns telling a story one word at a time, improvising as they go. Time limit should be relatively short: 2 minutes?

Person A: This
Person B: morning
Person C: when
Person A: I
Person B: opened
Person C: my

As with all Kani games, the key is to embrace others' ideas and add your own. (Yes, and...)

Joker can give everyone a word on which they have to end, e.g. "carnations" or "exploded."

Compare yourself

In this activity people use illustrations of others to introduce themselves through comparison and contrast. I have used images by Joe Sacco from Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, but it would also be interesting to use images of historical figures (known or unknown), literary figures, objects (a cactus, a fish net, a wave), etc.

Hand out pictures randomly (or lay on table for self-access).

Introductions - ask me a question

Shiho Ide, a participant in my Tokyo English for Activists class, came up with this nice way to do introductions.

Standing in a circle.

The first participant introduces herself, saying her name and what she would like others to call her. She then chooses another person who must ask her a question, any question. After the first person answers the question, the second person repeats the process.