These are training tools for practicing particular skills needed to think abstractly: description, recall, summarizing.

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.

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."

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."


Tag cloud

Write up use of tag cloud and add this idea: use I love, I hate, etc to process the tag cloud, creating a kind of poem, can have three or four tags for each line, e.g. I love peace, freedom, mountains, chile. I hate militarism, racism, McDonald's, capitalism...

Slam the resulting poems.

Another idea: have people choose own personal key word from tag cloud and then slam it?

The Electrician's Navy-Beans

In his autobiography, Leon Trotsky tells the story of meeting an old electrician and Narodnik named Ivan Andreyevich Mukhin. As Trotsky tells it, Mukhin used navy beans to give a lesson in revolution. As you're sorting out your feelings about Trotsky and the Russian Revolution, consider this learning activity.