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

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.

Process in Concentric Circles

Concentric Circles works great both for processing and for getting your group to get to know each other. I’ve used it many times to create “teachable moments.” As a processing technique, it’s a good illustration that the facilitators don’t always have to be part of the processing discussion for it to be effective. When I heard this in a Matty Matthison workshop, a lightbulb lit up above my head; I’d never really thought about trusting processing to the group. But it works!

To form two concentric circles, have the group members from pairs. If there is an odd number, ask one of the other facilitators to partner with her. Ask one partner of each pair to form a circle, facing out. Then have the other partners come and stand across from them, forming a circle, facing inward.

Pose a question for pairs to answer to each other. Give them about 30 to 60 seconds for both to share, and have the outer circle move to the right after each question, giving each person a new partner. Three or four questions is about right. Check out this post for ideas for questions to process service learning experiences.

Plan with Post-Its

Once your group has decided on an activity to do, this process helps the group move toward making it happen. It could be done with the whole group, but it might be more effective in a committee or small group. It will help the girls who are in charge of the event to figure out the steps for making the activity a reality. Post-It Planning gives you a method for understanding the actions that are necessary to make the activity happen.

Start by writing the activity the group has chosen to do on a flip chart. Now the whole group writes questions and things that need to happen on sticky notes, one question or item per note so that they can be arranged later. Put these questions and other notes randomly on the flip chart. Give the group time to read the notes and make sure they have covered everything. Finally, the group arranges the notes in a logical order and divides them up among the group so everyone shares the responsibility for facilitating the activity. Finally, have the group decide on deadlines for the stages of action. This would be a good activity to use a Tack-E-Wall.

This planning technique is described in “Planning and Reflection” by Tom Akiva from HIGH/SCOPE, page 19.

Discussion Topics

Okay, I put it out there–What are some good discussion topics for middle school girls? Here is the first response I got on Facebook–
–music, clothes, dance, friendship and who’s cute-circa 1970’s
–music, clothes, dance, friendship and who’s cute -using cellphones, social networking, text, -circa 2009

Here are some more–

  • Media portrayal of girls/women
  • Cliques
  • Movies
  • Books
  • School
  • TV shows
  • Pets
  • Scars
  • Why you have your name
  • Grooming, cleanliness and makeup
  • How to pick out a good fitting bra and dressing for your body type

Fishbowl Discussion

A fishbowl discussion allows everyone in a large group to participate in a series of small group discussions. In a group larger than four or five it’s hard for everyone to have a chance to speak.

This method allows up to five people to discuss a topic for a set amount of time, with the rest of the group taking turns as the audience. It’s a non-threatening way to develop speaking and listening skills. It can help people get over the fear of speaking in front of a group because it’s more like a conversation than speaking before an audience.

Arrange four or five chairs in an inner circle. This is the fishbowl. Arrange the rest of the chairs in concentric circles around the fishbowl. Select enough participants or ask for volunteers to fill the fishbowl, while the rest of the group sit on the chairs outside the fishbowl.

Now introduce the topic for discussion and the participants in the fishbowl start discussing the topic. The audience outside the fishbowl listens.

You can choose between an open fishbowl and a closed fishbowl, two different methods to make sure everyone gets a chance to join in the conversation.

In an open fishbowl, leave one chair empty and explain that any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair and join the fishbowl. When this happens, one member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl so there is always one free chair.

The discussion continues with participants frequently entering and leaving the fishbowl. This method, if your audience members are interested and assertive, will allow most audience members to spend time in the fishbowl and participate in the discussion.

When time runs out, close the fishbowl and summarize the discussion.

In a closed fishbowl, all chairs are filled. The initial participants speak for a specified amount of time, maybe five minutes. When time runs out, they leave the fishbowl and a new group from the audience enters the fishbowl.

This continues until most audience members have spent some time in the fishbowl. Once the final group has concluded, close the fishbowl and summarize the discussion.

In a timed discussion, let the people in the fish bowl discuss the topic for a certain period of time – say, 15 minutes. Then stop the discussion and invite the people who aren’t in the inner circle to give feedback on what they heard in the fishbowl.

To use the fishbowl exchange, divide the group into two smaller groups; have each of these groups meet separately and come up with three or four open-ended questions for the other group. Have them write their questions down; reconvene and exchange questions.
Form two circles, one small group inside the other, both facing inward. Have the fishbowl (the inside group) read a question and discuss it. The outside circle cannot speak, only listen.

Go through all the questions, making sure everyone in the fishbowl gets to speak. Now switch circles and go through the process again.

Map the Community

A map is a special kind of picture of a community or area; there are landmarks that make each community unique. Each team will draw, photograph, take notes and collect things that can be glued to the map-page. At the end of the walk, print photos and add items from the walk to the map-pages.