Touch Someone Who…

Yesterday at CAS training we worked on compliments, one aspect of giving and receiving honest feedback. Compliments are difficult to receive, especially for women it seems to me.The Chrysalis After-School mentors and facilitators discussed the kinds of compliments we like to get–about our work, being on time, and those we are not so fond of–our looks, the back-handed kind, those that draw unwanted attention.

This processing activity, adapted from Michelle Cummings at Training Wheels, is a nice way to show appreciation to others, even though it is done silently and anonymously. It’s a very moving closing activity and should be done in complete silence.

Materials Needed: Deck of Playing Cards


  • Divide the group into 3 or 4 smaller groups by having them choose a playing card (heart, diamond, club, spade). They should look at their cards but not show it to anyone else. Make sure you have equal numbers of each suit to pass out.
  • Have the group sit comfortably around the room, either on the floor or on chairs, so there is space for to walk around.
  • Ask everyone to close her eyes. They should keep their eyes (and mouths) closed for the whole activity. Explain the activity while everyone is sitting with their eyes closed.
  • Let them know that you will ask each group at a different time to open their eyes and stand. Then you will read a statement, beginning with “Touch someone who…” The standing group will then quietly walk around and gently touch the arm or shoulder of someone for whom the statement applies. Again, there should be no talking. This is a silent and anonymous activity.
  • Give enough time for the standing group to touch a number of others before reading the next statement. Come up with at least 3-6 unique statements for each group. After each group finishes its last statement, ask them to return to their seats and close their eyes. Wait for them to settle before you ask the next group to open their eyes and stand. Repeat with all the small groups. Allow a minute or two of quiet reflection after the last group returns to their seats.

Examples of Statements:  Touch Someone Who…

  • you’d like to get to know better
  • you think is a good leader
  • inspires you
  • you appreciate
  • you look up to
  • you admire
  • you trust
  • you wish you knew more about
  • makes you laugh
  • communicates well
  • is a positive influence
  • works well with others
  • you have learned from
  • you enjoy being around

Divide Your Group

As I facilitate experiential education or group discussions, I like to divide any group that is larger than seven people into smaller groups. This makes it easier for quieter people to be heard. If I’m with a group for more than an hour or so, I mix the groups up so everyone gets to know each other better. I’ve experimented with some different ways to divide large groups lately; here are some of the methods I use.

At customer service training I am doing for the Iowa Community Action Association, I’ve been using the Chinese Zodiac. I made up nametags with the pictures of the twelve Zodiac animals–

Brody Girls at HerStory 2007

Brody Girls at HerStory 2007

  • Rat
  • Ox
  • Tiger
  • Rabbit
  • Dragon
  • Snake
  • Horse
  • Lamb
  • Monkey
  • Rooster
  • Dog
  • Pig

Then I made pages with the corresponding pictures, descriptions and years of birth for each sign. I put these on the tables, automatically dividing the group as they arrive. I have small groups form by combining different signs. Here is a Web site that tells you which signs go together best; you could base another grouping on those recommendations.

Here are some other quick ideas for forming small groups randomly–

  • Have the girls line up by one of these methods; then divide the line into the size or number of groups you want– (Shoe size, Height, Birthday)
  • Divide by eye color, kinds of shoes or shirt color
  • Divide by month of birth or season of birth–
    (Winter = December, January, February, Spring = March, April, May, Summer = June, July, August, Fall = September, October, November)
  • Play the game Mingle Mingle, ending with the number you want in your small groups.

Michelle Cummings of Training Wheels has published a book–Playing With a Full Deck–that has lots of ideas for activities for groups that only use card games. Download Dividing a Group for a taste.

Mingle Mingle!

This is a really fun way to mix a group up and then divide up cliques without anyone being the wiser. Here’s a video that is worth 10,000 words of explanation for a game I’ve used for years.

Web the Group’s Words

This planning technique is a group version of mind mapping; I use this system of visual note taking all the time to capture memories and ideas. Tony Buzan developed mind mapping in Britain a number of years ago; it’s used a lot more in Europe, but a good friend of mine used it in graduate school for everything from  notetaking to planning for her thesis.

Word Webbing, described on page 20 in the “Planning and Reflection” book from HIGH/SCOPE, gives the whole group a chance to participate in a giant mind map. The group has a giant sheet of butcher paper and markers. Begin the web or map by putting the central idea or activity in the center as a picture or a word in a frame. As the group brainstorms ideas, write broad categories, and then more specific item in branches off the central idea. As you go, connect the ideas that are related. When done, you have a picture of their discussion and can see how items are connected.

Create a Treasure Box

One of my favorite ways to process learning is to use my treasure box. I usually save it for groups with whom I’ve spent at least a day. I’ve found that middle school girls love this way of processing what they have gained from their time together. A bonus is that they get to keep something to remind them of what they learned or gained.

I’ve collected a boxful of small, free (mostly) or inexpensive items–buttons, shells, stones, old pins, pennies, Barbie shoes–in a small box that my daughter decorated. At the end of a program, I open the treasure box and spread the contents out on the floor or on a table. Then I ask each person to choose one and tell how it is related to what they learned or did and how it will help them remember something from the time we spent together. They get to keep the “treasures.”

Have Fun Generating Ideas

Here is a site that gives a clear description of brainstorming, with a process for narrowing ideas after the initial discussion.
These eight rules provide some background for refining your brainstorming techniques for the best results in your groups.
And this site for teachers has some free stuff and other ideas to take off from brainstorming like–
oBrainstorming Web
oCoat of Arms
oPicture the Order

Brainstorming is an old technique for gathering ideas from a group, but if it’s done with attention to ALL the rules, including no judging, it’s really effective. If groups are not allowed to put down wacky ideas, it defeats the purpose.

These eight rules to “Brilliant Brainstorming” give a good explanation of the skill and mindset that is needed for success at this method for facilitating brainstorming. You need more than a flip chart and markers to do it well. I use timing, taking turns, a Tack-E-Wall, to manage the brainstorming, but that’s another post.

This Web site from Studio 1151 provides a clear description of brainstorming, and includes a process for narrowing ideas after the initial discussion.

Idea Bombardment

This activity will help your group generate ideas for achieving personal and group goals. It provides a way for the group to “bombard” one or a small group of people with ideas for accomplishing their goals.

Start with the whole group in a large circle, then spend about five minutes talking about how to set goals–making them realistic, short-term so they can see progress, and about things they really want. The group may set personal goals for things like fitness, doing better in school, having more fun or learning a new skill. Or they may set goals for the group to accomplish something like a service project or a trip. Don’t get hung up on the writing part. The more often you do activities like this, the better people will get at setting goals. Just remember to give people opportunities to talk about how their goals are going and what they may need to do differently.

Now have each person write a goal on an index card.

Go around the group and have everyone share their goal, listening for others in the group that have similar goals.

Now, group members with similar goals take them into the center of the large group and form a smaller circle.

The group in the outside circle “bombards” the inner circle with ideas for accomplishing their goals. Those being bombarded may want to take notes about their favorite ideas. Rotate different small groups into the inner circle, giving the bombardment five minutes or less for each small group.

Pleasure Meter

The Pleasure Meter is a good activity to start discussion early in a program, but not right at the beginning. It acquaints participants with each other, indicates preferences and lets us find out about the other members of our group. It can help you learn about the participants and may help your group define sexual behavior. As you discuss pleasure and then sex, encourage the group to include sex by yourself as sex, discuss roadblocks like health, culture, shame and religion.

Pleasure Meter

Pleasure Meter

With one Raccoon Circle, make an arc shape like the one shown here. This is your pleasure meter. Ask participants to stand along the edge of the meter, at the position that best relates to them. For example, the amount of pleasure that you have right now could be just like a gas tank gauge (empty, half a tank, full). Then have them move along the edge according to the amount of pleasure the following types of people “should have;” you don’t need to do all of them. And don’t define “pleasure.”

  • Infant
  • Toddler
  • Pre-school-age child
  • Kindergartner
  • Grade school student
  • Child with ADD
  • Someone in a wheelchair
  • Middle school student
  • High school student
  • College student
  • Someone in their 20’s
  • Pregnant woman
  • People in their 30’s and 40’s
  • Retired people
  • People in nursing homes
  • Octogenarians
  • Geezers

As the group arranges itself along the meter, ask them questions about:

  • What are you thinking about when I say pleasure?
  • What are some roadblocks to feeling pleasure?
  • Where do you get pleasure?
  • Why do red flags go up when we connect pleasure with certain groups?
  • How do you define pleasure?
  • Think of an activity you consider pleasurable–would you answer the phone when you are doing this activity?
  • What would you put on a “Pleasure Menu?”

Go Ask Alice

It’s so important to have reliable information when kids come to us with questions about sex. Or at least we need to be able to FIND that reliable information. This is a great resource for that kind of info–a Health Q & A Service of Columbia University.

It has an extensive archive, a search function and is very user friendly and interactive. There are sections on sexuality, sexual health and relationships as well as general health issues. The web site is about 14 years old but still highly relevant and edgy.

In the fall of 2007, I had the pleasure to attend a keynote address and workshop by Judith Steinhart, who was involved in starting this resource at Columbia University in New York City. She is AMAZING! I learned a lot from her; she became a sex educator quite by accident. One of her students asked her about getting condoms and she was off! I developed an activity for “Becoming an Approachable Adult” called the Pleasure Meter that is based on an activity she facilitated with about 350 people. Check it out.


Play is a most important element of creativity. People know me for bringing toys to meetings to engage our playful side as we work. Building play into collaboration builds trust, encourages communication and open interaction. Taking time out to play when I’m struggling with a project will loosen the gears and help me focus again.  A walk, playing with Bitsy or weeding the garden can loosen my mind enough to find the way to move on.

As I listened to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett interviewing Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play, I thought of times I’ve spent playing with friends. Jill and I creating Jill and Martha’s Relay. Eric with two yellow domes behind his ears to help hear me yelling across the field. Creating the cow milking lesson with Jody.

This Speaking of Faith webpage and podcast may open up some new ideas for you; it did for me. AND it justified my sometimes circuitous routes to accomplishing tasks. They’re talking about how important play is to the development of animals and children and how we need to keep play in our lives for the duration. I recently was in a meeting and Allen Cooper of the National Wildlife Federation used this slide show in his talk; it still sends shivers down my spine.

As I listened to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett interviewing Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play, I thought of times I’ve spent playing with friends.  Jill and I creating Jill and Martha’s Relay.  Eric with two yellow domes behind his ears.  The creation of the cow milking lesson with Jody.
This webpage and podcast may open up some new ideas for you; it did for me.  AND it justified my sometimes circuitous routes to accomplishing tasks.  They’re talking about how important play is to the development of animals and children and how we need to keep play in our lives for the duration.
Play is a most important element of creativity.  People know me for bringing toys to meetings to engage our playful side as we work.  I like to build play into collaboration because it builds trust, communication and open interaction.  If I’m struggling with a project, taking time out to play will loosen the gears and help me focus again.
A walk, playing with the cats, or weeding the garden can loosen my mind enough to find the answers.  I was talking with my neighbor the other day about a practice she uses that encourages all of us to find answers within ourselves.  I hope this site helps you find some of those answers.