The idea of this circle game is to take an object and then re-imagine it as a series of different objects. I took this from a children's game I learned from Robyn Avalon when visiting with her family in Santa Fe. Kids love it.
Good for: loosening up, for using language naturally, in a fun and creative way that people at different levels can understand and enjoy.
Set up: chairs in a circle (could also do it standing)
Number of people: at least three
Materials: some simple object
Time: 30 minutes or so
Flow: The joker starts it off, holding up the object (a pen, say) and asking the participants, "what's this?"
When they reply "it's a pen," the joker says, "No, this is not a pen. This is a fishing pole."
S/he briefly mimes using the pen as a fishing pole.
Then, the next person in the circle says, "That's not a fishing pole," takes the object, shows it to the group, and says, "This is a hammer." And so on. Go around the circle until all have had a chance.
Repeat as long as it is useful and fun. If it begins to drag, stop right away -- the idea is to use language for creativity and fun.
Watch for: Tedium is the chief danger; keep the energy up, point out clever ideas, enjoy the game. If someone draws a blank you can let them "pass," but sometimes, at the risk of losing momentum, it's better to give someone ample time to find their idea/voice.
Variations: As with most games, you could take this a more thematic direction, using objects that are meaningful to the group (a tool, a wallet, etc.), or images, or even participants themselves -- "this is a supervisor. No, this is not a supervisor, this is a worker! No, this is not a worker, this the universe...."
The idea is to re-imagine, so the possibilities are endless. This could lead to interesting dialogue about identities and possibilities for transformation. Think of Walt Whitman's Song for Occupations: "objects gross and the unseen soul are one." Or Eugene Debs "you are nothing but a hand to them [the bosses]"...or Joe Kennehan's speech in the film Matewan...
The immediate purpose of this activity is to get people using language to imagine and communicate freely. Paying too much attention to form (grammar, etc.) can undermine the purpose. However, because the basic format is so simple ("This is not X. This is Y") you can use the activity to raise people's awareness of their language use. For example, if people drop the article ("this is car"). Verifying this simple use of articles doesn't interfere with the flow and fun of the activity.
It can also be interesting to use this to practice verification: when someone imagines the object is a car, the joker can ask for details: "where are the tires? Where is the steering wheel?" The person then can use the properties of the object as the basis for an answer, "This car has no wheels because it is designed for deep snow" or "The steering wheel is actually an electric field, that you play like a theramin." Even fantasy can be verified with reference to a shared object.
"This is a pipe. Yes! This is a pipe and it is also the Northern Lights."
You can do this in a "yes, and" mode, in which the receiver of the object accepts the previous player's vision and adds another. This helps people practice "yes, and." It also adds an interesting twist: the object is at once all of the things we imagine it to be -- it is panecastic, to use Jacotot's word, "Everything is in everything. The tautology of power is that of equality, which seeks the finger of intelligence in every work of human beings." (Le Maitre Ignorant, p71)
This game works because we always come back to the concrete object -- which we each show, hold, touch, manipulate -- even as we let our imaginations fly. In fact, we need to appreciate the specific qualities of the object in order to find the best imaginative connections. It is a great little example of people finding their equality in the object, using its inherent constraints, which we all share, to create fantasies. Using a common, shared, object we demonstrate the materiality of what we see and think, and discover our equality as people who can imagine freely.