This activity, based a children's song by Eric Herman and the Invisible Band, is a word game in which participants take one thing and describe it in terms of another (see also the surrealist game "L'un dans l'autre" (the one in the other) in A Book of Surrealist Games).
Good for: loosening up, improvising, thinking creatively, fun, fishing for themes
Setup: sitting or standing in a circle
Number of people: two and up
Materials: none (can show the video of the Eric Herman song if you like)
Time: 30 minutes or so
Explain and motivate: singing, but don't worry, you can just chant or talk (explain and model those); start simple, but we can make it more complicated.
Model it: the joker starts by singing the first verse of the Eric Herman song:
"Elephants, I like elephants.
Elephants, I like elephants.
I like how they swing through trees…"
Dramatic pause, waiting for people to catch the problem.
If necessary, sing twice -- slowly and clearly. After pausing for people to get the joke, model the reaction:
"No… elephants don't swing through trees… those are monkeys!"
Feign surprise: "Oh, monkeys, of course!"
Then start another verse using monkeys:
"Monkeys. I like monkeys.
Monkeys. I like monkeys.
I like how they swim in the ocean…"
"No, those are fish!"
Once the pattern is clear enough, start the circle. The Joker begins with fish and the next person picks up from there. Continue as long as it is fun and energetic.
Watch for: Make sure to repeat the first line -- it gives you time to think of what to sing.
Listen for themes -- what do people choose? What do they think of? What do they like/dislike?
Keep it moving, fun and energetic. You may want to allow people to pass, to keep from getting bogged down and putting too much pressure on anyone.
Variations: Bring a guitar, sing the song more like Eric Herman, with the melody and the bridge.
The top priority is fun and creativity, but this activity can also be thematic -- instead of animals, you can throw in any other object: from people's work (bedpans, computers, customers, ladders), from daily life (cell phones, taxes, traffic), from activism (protests, picket lines, wage cuts, grievances), from politics, the environment, etc.
You can make it personal: "Huckabee, I like Huckabee..."
The activity can also go abstract and conceptual: "freedom, I like freedom... I like how it exploits people's labor-power... No! that's capitalism!"
If you make it thematic, think about how to follow up -- maybe just a brief check-in with people after the game so you don't lose any interesting content that may come up.
People relax and forget about trying to learn anything when they play this game -- great. Games like this also allow people to make connections, or discover seemingly random connections between various aspects of their personalities and experiences and between their own and those of others.