For developing communication skills, noticing how we communicate.

Crossed messages

I learned this game from Ogawa Shimpei, Miyamoto Takahiko, and Tanano Syoji, students in a course I teach at Meiji University. I have made some changes.

The Flow:

Jokers ask participants to stand in a semi-circle or U shape, facing away from the opening of the U.

Drawings with descriptions

I learned this from Omi Yusuke and Tada Keisuke, students in a course I teach at Meiji University, in Tokyo. I like the way the gradual addition of features, and the inclusion of non-human elements, leads to an "exquisite corpse"-like creature. The addition of a complete object at the end creates an interesting contrast with the piecemeal creature. The creature's uniqueness makes it an interesting object for description and imaginative writing.

The Flow:

Participants pair-up or form groups of no more than four.

Step One

Describe and Verify

I learned this game from students in a course I taught at Meiji University. This description game gives people a way to practice communication and verification of understanding.

Set up the room with four chairs facing away from the whiteboard. Leave space behind the chairs for people to stand.

Form four groups of four-seven people. One person from each group sits in a chair, the rest of the group lines up in a column, facing her (and facing the board).

Each of the people in the chairs (the Describer) is given an image (photos, paintings, etc).


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.

Drawing for the audience

Adapted from the judging technique used in the Kani Club performances.

Using the same procedure as in One line drawing, teams compete. However, instead of pleasing the judge, they have to please an audience. And, instead of waiting to the end to get the feedback, the audience votes each round. After each vote, one audience member tells the artists what s/he wants to see next. This way, each round should make the drawings incorporate the desires or ideas of the audience as well as the artists.