Activities whose main function is to get people to loosen up, to communicate with each other freely, to relax, to get excited or enthusiastic. Most often they are games, but they can also have thematic content.

Circle of questions and answers

Standing in a circle, a group of five to ten people. The joker hands the first player an index card with a word on it (or an object or picture). Player 1 has to ask Player 2 a question based on that word. Player two answers, then does the same for Player 3, etc.

What's better than that?

This is a game in which the group builds an idea by accepting and adding to the previous idea (yes, and...).

The Flow:
In a circle, small or large group.

  • Joker asks the group to think of something good.
  • When a player has an idea, they start the play by naming their good thing -- e.g. "A cup of hot coffee."
  • Next player adds to it, to make it better -- "A cup of hot coffee on a cold morning."
  • Third player adds -- "A cup of hot coffee on a cold morning in the mountains."
  • And so on. Continue adding as long as the energy is good.

Favorite/Least Favorite

A simple activity: ask each person to think of her/his favorite and least favorite [word, person, place, object, action, body part(?), letter, number...whatever] and share them with a partner, explaining her choice.

The sharing can be with just one person (quick), with several people in a round-robin format, with the whole group.

The sharing could be done in spoken or written form, could be drawn or pantomimed.

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.

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.

Ten Second Objects

Adapted from "Ten Second Objects" on the Drama Resource website ( The original activity is great as is:

"Divide everyone into small groups (4-6). Call out the name of an object and all the groups have to make the shape of that object out of their own bodies, joining together in different ways while you count down slowly from ten to zero. Usually every group will find a different way of forming the object. Examples could be: a car, a fried breakfast, a clock, a washing machine, a fire."


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.