I made this one up for the English for Activists class I teach. The first class of the new season came one month after the 3/11/2011 great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting nuclear disaster, on the day the disaster was rated a Level 7 -- the highest level of nuclear accident on a global scale.
I wanted a way for the group to share about this enormous disaster that we all confront and all share. Inspired by the "Head, Heart, and Hands" activity in Educating for a Change, I drew six icons on index cards: a heart, an ear, an eye, a hand, a mouth, and a question mark. (I made three sets.)
On each card I also wrote a couple of key words, for example on one heart card I wrote the words, "love" and "care." I used different words each time, to introduce flexibility and new possibilities. So, another heart card had the words, "concern" and "hope."
Standing in a circle to begin with, I explained and motivated the activity: to talk with each other about this huge experience we share. I pointed out that the simple, generic question, "how are you?" takes on new meaning when it is asked in a group that is experiencing some major crisis. The goal of the activity was just to share different aspects of that experience.
Everyone is given a card with an icon. That person must find a partner and ask the person a question (or two) based on that card. So, if I have the heart card, I will ask my partner something like, "Have you felt feelings of love since the earthquake?" Or, "what hope do you feel now?" (Obviously, the questions can be as simple or complex as the asker can make them.)
When both people have asked their questions and discussed the answers, they swap cards and move on to find other partners.
Repeat until each person has held, and asked someone about, each of the six icons.
Debrief in a go round with very little guidance. If people want to evaluate the activity that's fine, if they want to draw conclusions, that's fine. This is not intended as a tool for in depth analysis, just as a way to get a group of people talking about something they all share. It is a prelude to closer description and analysis.
Variation: have half the people have cards and the others none. Then, after discussing the "topic" pass the card to the person who did not have it and continue.
This worked well in my class. We had a 45 min. discussion, with great sharing of information and ideas. The cards are helpful because they get people to explore their experience in different, concrete ways. "What have you been hearing?" can be turned into "What are your coworkers saying?"
Important to stress freedom in this activity -- the cards are a prompt and a call to look at different aspects, not a task that must be completed.