image courtesy of Juliana Yachtis, rscj

 

 

 

BEGGING BOWL

 

The facilitator passes around a small unbreakable bowl or basket.  Telling the group that this is a begging bowl, each person is to take the bowl in hand,  give their name and say one thing they want or need.  The bowl is then passed to another person until each person has had a turn.  The facilitator can focus the warm-up, by framing more specific needs or want: “…a need or want during our group today”, or “…from your therapist / life coach”, or “…that you want in this next week.”  With a group that is already familiar with one another, participants can even make specific requests to each other.  “I want you to listen to me without interruption” or “I want you to give me feedback on how I came across in the session before lunch.” 

 

This warm-up is designed to be less physically active. It has the potential to access cognitive as well as some emotional content. By having the group sitting and taking turns, it can be an excellent structure for getting a group quieted or to help contain and mange a chaotic session.

 

 

ALADDIN'S LAMP


This is a warm-up suitable for individual therapy or telephone coaching sessions, virtual groups or in a group that physically meets.  When using this warm-up in a physically present group, having a prop can add to the warm-up.  Yard sales, thrift stores and similar sites can be resources for finding small ornate metal or ceramic pitchers, sauceboats or similar objects.  In locating such a prop, be attentive to the feel and texture of it.  Pass this object – Aladdin’s lamp- around and invite each person to rub it and ‘make a wish’. When done by phone, invite clients to use their imagination.  The facilitator can give a specific criterion for these wishes.  The warm-up can be deepened by additional rounds; pass this 'Genie’s lamp' among group members several times with different criteria for each round.  Try asking participants to make three rounds of wishes, since that seems to be the number usually associated with folklore and faerie tales.

Possible criteria for making wishes:

  • Make a wish that is just for yourself.
  • Make a wish for yourself that includes at least one other person.
  • Make a wish for someone else in this group.
  • Make a wish for someone outside this group.
  • Make a wish for someone else, that does not benefit you at all. 
  • Make a wish that could come true with effort on your part. 
  • Make a wish for our collective group. 
  • Make a wish that is silly. 
  • Make a wish that could only come true after:  1 year, 5 years, graduation, etc.

     

In a group setting, common themes will often emerge after the group goes through several rounds of wishes.  Drawing attention to these shared values and dreams can help surface some of the tensions, hopes, concerns or values of the participants. In working with an individual, explore together what might be underlying these issues.  Ask what strengths/assets the person has for making these wishes come true, and who might be a resource for your client in getting these wishes fulfilled.  You can use the image of a magic wand instead of a wishing lamp, if you prefer.  Find or create your own wand for participants to hold as they make their wishes, provided it is safe for participants to be passing around a stick.  

 

 

TIME LINES

 

This is a great warm-up to help members of a new group get to know each other rapidly. Draw a line down the center of the room. This can be imagined, or you can use masking tape, yarn, lengths of fabric or scarves.  If you form the line in a curved or wavy shape, it allows more room, and reminds people that life has its ups and downs.  Tell participants that this represents a time line, from birth [at one end of the line] up to the present day.  Give a specific criterion, and ask each group member to stand somewhere on the time line to represent a memory related to that criterion, that they are willing to share with the group.  Often their first memory to surface is a good one to honor, but if they are not ready to disclose this particular story invite them to choose another one.  When an individual is reluctant, sometimes it helps to give an invitation to “Walk along the length of the line; sometimes the body remembers what the mind forgets, and a memory may surface as you are moving.” Once everyone has found a place on the line, individuals share their chosen memory with others in the group.

Any criteria can be used.  It is useful to begin with a positive or resource-based criterion.  Depending on the tasks of the group, criteria can remain positive or can delve into subjects that are more difficult.  Bringing up more difficult criteria is done when that criteria specifically addresses a goal of the group.  In a Grieving & Loss Group, asking for memories of the person who is lost can deepen the group's focus on moving through loss. However, it is important to begin at the periphery and move into more difficult material slowly, while gauging the responses of the group.  Often, this action structure results in powerful sharing, and if individuals disclose too quickly, the group can feel threatened, and begin to resist working.

 

Some examples of possible criteria:

  • A time you felt intense joy
  • A time you felt sadness or grief
  • A time you felt connected, with self or others
  • A time you succeeded
  • A time of unmanageability in your life
  • A time you were frightened
  • A time you really used one of your resources
  • A time you experienced gratitude
  • A time you felt at peace

For facilitators who are leading virtual groups [by phone], you can ask each participant to imagine their individual time line. In a situation where participants are not in the same room, it might be prudent to stay focused on positive moments and times of using resources.  Identifying shared difficulties can be powerful and supportive among group members.  At the same time, if someone is deeply affected by their own or someone else's memory, you want to be able to recognize early, often nonverbal, indications that an individual needs additional support.  Working with positive memories will still help group members gain considerable cohesion and warm them up to the group's next task.


THE SUN IS SHINING

  

This is a wonderful action structure in that it both has containment yet offers considerable opportunities for group members to share among themselves, and with the facilitator.  Form a circle with enough places for the number of group members, minus one.  These can be chairs, but you can also use pieces of colored paper or paper plates taped to the floor.  The person not on in a chair is temporarily ‘It’.  The person stands in the center of the circle and begins by saying, “The sun is shining and it’s shining on those who______.”  The person who is It, then names a criterion that applies to him or her. It is important that the person who is It picks a criterion that applies to him or her; this prevents the group from becoming voyeuristic, or a way to embarrass others.  These criteria can be physical characteristics- ‘This sun is shining on people wearing blue’, ‘…people with watches’, ‘…people over 30’, or characteristics- ‘…people who attended a 12 step meeting this week’, ‘…were angry today’.  As soon as a criterion is named, everyone to whom it applies has to leave the chair they are sitting in and find another chair.  If the criterion does not apply, those individuals can stay in their place. The person who doesn’t have a spot or a seat is the next It, and identified the next criterion: “The sun is shining on people who ______.”  

This is a great activity to get a group energized.  It helps members discover ways that they are similar or different. As facilitator, pay attention to the types of criteria that members use.  Groups with weaker cohesion tend to choose very safe criteria.  Safer and more trusting groups will often begin to name more personal criteria.  In a therapeutic group, it can sometimes be helpful, after everyone has found a new seat, and before the new ‘It” brings out a criterion, to ask for those who changed seats to hold up their hand.  That allows the person who brought up this topic to identify whom might connect with him or her on that issue.


This action structure can also allow for the expression of some healthy competition, as members try to not be ‘It’.  After this part of the group ends, it can be helpful to have the group explore the idea of healthy competition, especially as many individuals have had very negative experiences involving competition. Yet, because of the quick turnover in the person who is It, that position is actually not too threatening nor are people in it for more than a few moments. 

 

EMOTION BALL 

The group leader uses a soft ball or small throw pillow. The person holding the ball says, “My name is _____ and today I feel_______.” This person then tosses the ball to another person, who responds in the same way, until each group member has shared her or his name and a current feeling.  This can be energizing for a rigid or less verbal group. Because it allows talking without interruption, it can help quieter members find their voice.  Also, the lack of interruptions can sometimes be used to advantage in a group that tends to be somewhat chaotic. For a group where feelings are too volatile, substitute directions can be given: give your name and a favorite movie, food, color, etc.


 HOLIDAY GIFT BOX

Have a box, either plain or decorated for the holidays, with a lid that can be removed.  Pass the box among group members [either around the circle, or let the person who finishes speaking pass it to whoever he or she chosses.]  Each person, in turn, takes the box, reflects for a moment, and then names one thing he or she would most want to receive as a gift.  The facilitator can leave this warm-up completely open, or identify specific criteria for the gift: 

A gift that would help with recovery

A gift from my family

A gift I can share with the group

A gift that would grow in importance over the next year

A gift that can't be seen, only felt

As facilitator, it is important to listen for themes that can start to emerge as group members take a turn naming their ideal gift.


"SHOW AND TELL"

There are several ways that object choices can be used as a warm-up to a session.  The simplest way is to scatter or lay out a series of objects, and ask each member to chose the one that attracts his or her interest.  Then, in a circle, each person shows the object, identifies why this thing drew his or her attention and became the object of choice.  Holding onto a tangible object helps the group member bring some tactile experience into his or her sharing.  The object gives the speaker a focus, which can lower feeling exposed. And often, once an object is physically chosen, it increases the individual’s warm-up, allowing them more spontaneity in speaking.  

The selection of objects can be serious, silly, or sensory, depending on your goals for the warm-up.  A simple tool is to scatter a deck of tarot cards, or SoulCards, as these tend to hold a number of archetypal images.  Photos from picture books, magazines or calendars are also effective.  You can cut phrases or headlines from newspapers or tabloids.  One playful structure that has been successful with adults is to scatter a number of 45-rpm records.  These were purchased at thrift shops and flea markets, based on provocative or thoughtful song titles.  Members will typically not only seek the appropriate title for themselves, but often start making suggestions to one another, if they think a particular song title is a good fit.  One of the simplest structures in the realm of choices is to scatter a box of 64 crayons, and ask people to choose a color that they were drawn to, and to begin to talk about what was underlying their choice. You can use plant materials- roots, leaves, seeds and blossoms to bring up cycles of change.

 

Work with things that will further the goal of your warm-up, or that hold some themes that are already present in the group.

 Soulcards can be found at: www.touchdrawing.com


ROLE-REVERSE WITH YOUR RESOURCES


This is a simple warm-up, but one that can help a group increase its positive feelings.  This action structure also allows group members to recognize and claim the resources within themselves and within the larger group. 

 

Bring an empty chair into the circle of the group.  Ask each member- who is willing- to think about one asset, strength or resource that he or she brings with them into the group.  Then ask the person to sit in the chair and become this resource.  It can be helpful for the facilitator to talk with the person in that role, and to ask questions; this can help the client deepen his or her role reversal:  "So, Patience, how long have you been in Julie's life?  Is she often aware of you or only occassionally checks in with you?  What is one way you've been helpful to her in recent weeks?"  As an individual warms up to the role of his or her resource, alllow this resource to claim some of the ways it supports the individual.  You can ask the resource whether it will accept questions or comments from others in the group.

 

In ending with each individual, invite them back to his or her chair, ask the person to imagine the resource in the empty chair, and take in what the resource has said.  It can be worthwhile to ask each individual to say one thing to this resource, before moving on to the next person; this supports an additional layer of integration.

 

SPECTRUMS


Although this is a simple action structure, it can be a non-threatening way to elicit information from a group. It is particularly useful in groups with new members, as it is fully inclusive, and quickly shows connections between members.

Ask the group members to imagine a line down the center of the room. If the room is small, consider imaging a line on the diagonal or use a curved line to allow more space. Set the two opposite poles for whatever criterion you have chosen. Standing at one end of the line, describe the one extreme. Walking along the line to the oposite end, describe the other extreme. Then ask all the group members to find a place on the line, that describes their position among all the shades of gray. For example. "On this side of the line, I feel totally safe in this group. I can't imagine any changes that could possibly increase my safety, which is total and complete." Afte reaching the other end of the line: "This represents being totally unsafe in this group. I can't imagine anything that could change in this group that would make me feel less safe than I do now."

After members find their posiiton on the spectrum, ask each one to describe his position in a sentence or two. If there are members who do feel unsafe, you can ask them, "What's one concrete thing that could happen to improve your safety?" for people at the high end of safety, you can ask, "What helps you to feel this safe in our group?"


In using this action structure, be sure to keep both ends non-judgmental. If the majority are at one end, and only a few are at the other end, the facilitator can work to honor these underrepresented feelings as part of the group's diversity.

Criteria can range from innocuous Ice-breakers to surfacing serious group dynamics. It is often helpful to start off with lower wattage choices, and progress as the group can tolerate it: Some examples might be:

  • I absolutely love chocolate/I hate and loathe chocolate
  • I'm really excited about our current project/I am only here because it's a requirement
  • I feel I can say anything in this group/I feel I can't give anything more than my name
  • I am fully in touch with my emotions/I feel completely cut off from my feelings
  • I am totally satisfied with my life/I am just miserable in my life
  • Today, I feel my recovery is incredibly solid and strong/my recovery, just for today, feels really weak and fragile

Depending on the group members, feel free to get playful in describing each end point. Since every person is standing at some point along the line, and each is speaking briefly, this action structure allows the more introverted members to find their voices, while providing some containment for those who might tend to dominate a session. By getting individuals out of their chairs and into action, it can also circulate some energy when a group is lathargic, such as after lunch.

If any group members say that they are unsure where they would stand, it can work to have them move along the line, and ask them to see if their intuition or body knows at which point they should stand.


EMPATHY BUILDING: 

For this action structure, you will want a large selection of images.  These can be photographs, art work, a tarot deck, or other series of visual images.  Ideally, these images with have some abstract qualities to them.  One excellent tool for this action structure is Soulcards. Place these images on the floor or on a table, and allow group members to each choose an image to which they are drawn.  Once participants have each chosen a single image, give the group members these directions:

One at a time, each individual will show his or her image to other members of the group.  As protagonist, you are then invited to freely associate: describe what you notice in your chosen image, feelings it evokes, what specifically drew you to the image, or how the image speaks to you.  When the protagonist is finished, others in the group are asked to step into this person's shoes, and to make statements that validate, deepen or expand the protagonist's perceptions and experiences. It is not a time to impose your own perspective on the protagonist, but to see the image as he or she does and add to this experience. In making empathic comments, brief, concise statements are generally taken in by the protagonist more easily than longer ones.  Group members might speak more than once, either because they have several perspectives, or perhaps another person's comments deepens a response in them. After other members have made their empathic statements, the protagonist has an opportunity to make any final comments.  This allows the protagonist to edit or revise earlier statements, as well as giving an opportunity to incorporate or adapt comments and observations made by others.  Then the protagonist position will move to the next person, who will describe the images in his or her card, and this pattern will continue.

After a protagonist has received empathic comments from peers, it can be helpful to invite the individual to take a few moments to sit with his or her experience before rejoining the group activity. One way of staging this action structure is having the protagonist seated in a chair, with the other group members in a semicircle behind him or her. This allows the protagonist to hear peers, while avoiding visual distractions.  However, some protagonists prefer that others stay seated in their chairs in the circle; this maintains their feelings of safety.  Always be sure to ask members what will be most helpful to them in promoting safety and receptivity.

Having others work to deeply listen and empathize can be a powerful experience, and often deepens trust and vulnerability within the group.  This action structure is useful and designed for ongoing groups, in which some basic trust has already developed. It is also a powerful way to develop and practice doubling skills for students of psychodrama. 

Soulcards can be found at: www.touchdrawing.com 

 

CHAIN GANG

This can be a fun warm-up for developing group cohesion and honoring our strengths.

Materials needed:  staplers or transparent tape, pens or fine tipped markers and several strips of paper.  A good size is 1 or 1.5 inches by 6 or 8.5 inches.  These can easily be cut from 8.5 x 11 cardstock or printer paper.

Give several strips to each member of the group.  In a large group, you might limit this to 4-6 strips per person. In a smaller group [10 members or less] you can give each person enough strips for every participant including themselves. Instruct participants to think about a strength or resource they see in themselves and in others in the room.  They are then asked to write out one strength or resource regarding a specific person on each strip of paper, including at least one for him or herself.  Group members then give these strips to each of the persons whose strength is described.  As members receive these strips, they can begin to staple or tape them into links on a chain.  [Don't be surprised if the chain starts to branch out, rather than remain a single long line.]

In moving into discussion, you can invite members to reflect on all the resources within the group.  People might pay attention to whether the strengths others see in them are ones they also acknowledge or if some of this feedback was a surprise. They mght also pay attention to how it feels to acknowledge others, be affirmed by others, or to claim an aiffirmation for themselves.

You can give additional focus to this warm-up, depending on the circumstances.  For example, in a large organization, you can specify that one strip is for yourself, one or two for someone in your department and one or two for someone in a different department.  You can give more specific criteria: "What is one strength that can help us complete this upcoming project?" "Write out a resource that helps to strengthen our morale as a team/business."  It can also be helpful to challenge participants to consider what strengths might be underneath the surface, not simply name the traits that are most obvious in a person.

This action structure gives a very visual, concrete example of the positive qualities within a group.  Using colored paper or including some small stickers can add a playful note.

 

SHARE TAG

This is a great warm-up when a group is meeting for the first time; it also works when a group has several new members join.

Materials needed: none, although a chime or similar sound device is useful.

It can be tedious to go around a group and have each person introduce himself or herself. Particularly if there is a task or secific objective to the session, such an introduction uses time that is better applied for other purposes. At the same time, a group functions better as cohesion grows. This is a simple warm-up, that allows membeRs to make some brief connections. Because everyone is participating at once, it avoids that 'spotlight' feeling. It allows equal time for introverts and extroverts. The director can keep the contacts superficial or ask questions that focus on a specific topic.

Have group members form pairs. Explain that they will be asked to share with their partner on a specific criterion. They will have a brief time to do this. (I-2 minutes is sufficient) When you call out or sound the chime, they are to quickly find a new partner. You will then give a different criterion; the new dyads will share on that topic. Tell people if they don't have a partner to hold up their hand, so that other individuals without a partner can locate and pair up with them. Ask they not be with the same person twice in a row. Especially in a smaller group, they might pair up with someone they met in an earlier round; that is OK.

The goal is to begin with very safe topics, and to keep the pace lively, with little time to seek and select a new partner. Ask them to begin by sharaing their name and then to speak on the specific criterion for this round.

Some examples of criteria

Early in the warm-up:

Give your name and a favorite (food, color, restaurant vacation spot)

Give your name and a favorite book or movie. What character do you most identify with, and why?

Give your name and one goal you have for this session (You can ask this twice, depending on the group. You might ask participants to share a professional reason and then, in the next round, to share a personal reason for attending.

Give your name and one strength. asset or resource they rely on in their daily functioning

Give your name and one thing for which you are grateful

In a more focused /therapy group, you can ask deeper questions:

Give your name and one issue you are currently addressing.

Give your name and one feeling you've had since breakfast.

Give your name and (bring in specific topics to the group, whether, relapse/recovery issues, moments of assertiveness, a recently met coaching goal, etc.)

Share tag can energize a group, by having people out of their chairs and mingling. As facilitator, you want to keep the group moving, even if people are not finished sharing in their dyads. This reinforces people being brief and concise. They can always continue their discussion during a break. You can use a brief time for Share Tag, or expand this warm-up to focus the group towards specific topics on their agenda.

 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

This is a fun warm-up to help members of a group set goals or share expectations with their peers.

Materials needed:  empty chair

Often people in a group will identify goals that are unrealistic and set them up for failure.  This warm-up gives participants a fresh perspective, and can help them to establish realistic, attainable goals.

Place the empty chair in the circle.  Let the group know that this chair allows for time travel.  Sitting in it will put that person one week into the future.  Ask each member to take a seat, and to think about a goal that they accomplished in the previous week.  Ask them to describe what they achived, and how they felt about their accomplishment. 

As facilitator, you can use leading questions to help them warm-up to this future role:  Since our last session on (Give the day's date) what achievement gave you the most satisfaction?  Were others also pleased by what you accomplished? Who? What are the resources you used to meet that goal? (Invite them to name other individuals, interior assets and strengths, perhaps a VIA strength*) What's one thing you learned about yourself, by having achieved that goal?

Depending on the group, as facilitator you might want to offer a specifc topic in the chair:  "As you step into next week, I want you to look back over this past week, and name (one recovery goal, one decluttering goal, one relational goal) you met during this past week."  If members name goals that feel unreasonable for a week's time, ask them for specific steps they took to achieve that goal, which will break down the goal to concrete tasks and can help them reset their expectations for a week's accomplishment. 

*VIA strengths survey can be found at www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu


FLIPPING THE BIRD

Before I started using this, I didn't realize how essential a rubber chicken is in group work

Materials needed:  Rubber Chicken

This warm-up works best in the United States, where participants know the expression "flippin' the bird."  It's a great way to break the ice when you have new members joining a group, or are starting a group.  You can also use a soft kitchen towel or scarf tied in a few knots.  The rubber chicken definitely adds more humor.

As facilitator, I'll announce, "We have new members.  so let's do a few rounds of flippin' the bird."  Usually this results in some chuckles and smiles.  At that point, bring out your rubber chicken (check on-line for a rubber chicken outlet)

Begin by telling people that when they get the chicken, they are to give their name and -- (at this point, put out a criterion that people will share such as 'a favorite getaway')  "I'm Steve, and I love time at the beach."  After a person shares, he or she tosses the chicken to another person, who gives his or her name and also shares on that criterion. 

You want to begin with something safe and easily shared: a favorite food, favorite holiday, fantasy vacation spot.  As you do additional rounds, you can deepen the criterion: a goal for treatment, one resource or asset that you bring into group, a signature strength, some area where you can currently use support, a success you've had over that last week.

Typically in groups, particularly new groups, people can be very self-conscious when introducing themselves.  Somehow, holding a rubber chicken is sufficiently silly and ludicrous, so people begin to relax and lost that initial inhibition.


MAGIC MIRROR

Materials needed:  Something to represent a hand mirror.  Because some people have body images or are self-conscious about aspects of their appearance, it is helpful to have something that is actually a non-reflective surface.  This can be a fun project for the facilitator or the group-- to decorate an old ping pong paddle or something similar to be the mirror. If having glass is not a safety issue, you can use an actual hand mirror and decorate the reflective glass with paints, stickers, tissue paper collage-- anything to warm-up the individuals and group to something other than a mere reflection.

As facilitator, I'll let the group know that I recently found a magic mirror.  the magical aspect is that it allows us to see not only the surface, but the good that is deep within ourselves. The secret to the magic is that you need to believe what you say.  Let the group know that the mirror will be passed around.  Each individual is allowed to take as much time as necessary to look within the depths, and to identify one positive quality or something they like/value about themselves.   

If someone is not able to identify a strength, you can suggest that possibly someone else in the group can hold the mirror in a way that catches the other person's reflection, and describe what positive qualities he or she sees when looking into it's magic surface.

This can be a way to support a group in focusing on their positive qualities, when you are experiencing a number of individuals caught in a critical or self-deprecating attitude.  You can also help to foster cohesion by asking others to identify connections to the individual identifying the positives within their magic reflection.

for example:

"Who else in this group feels they share that quality?"

"Who in this group would like to have more of that quality in their own lives?"


CIRCLE TO A SQUARE

Materials needed:  You want something that forms a large circle, and which group members can comfortably hold onto. This can be a Buddy Band, a large, fleece covered, stretchy elastic band, but you can also do this with a large band made from a soft ribbon or even a role of gauze bandages.  The size needs to be sufficient that members can all hold on, with sufficient and comfortable space between them.

Ask group members to stand and to all hold onto the band, forming it into a circle.  Once a good circle is formed, ask the members to close their eyes.  The directions are:  "I'd like members to keep their eyes closed until everyone agrees to open them.  Now, with your eyes closed, can you change the shape of the band, from a circle to a square."  Individuals are encouraged to talk with one another, and to consider ways to accomplish this task while keeping their eyes closed.

This action structure can bring up a number of issues.  Clearly one of the dynamics becomes leadership issues.  It there a single leader or a sub-group that direct the group's action or overall participation?  If any individuals have creative solutions are these ideas heard or do they get lost, because of the individual's position in the group?  As facilitator, sometimes the group makes the perfect square, and then continued to process it and loses the shape. It is also important to watch members, and see if anyone opens their eyes before the group collectively agrees to do so.  sometimes, one of these people will use his or her 'inside information'.  Other times, members have been able to explore how doing this affected how they felt able to participate during the remainder of this task.

Contraindications:  I typically do not use this in a group that has 4, 8, 12 people, as that can make it too easy.  It tends to be most effective in odd-numbered groups.  Closing one's eyes in a group can feel threatening, so this is an action structure for a group that already has developed some safety and cohesion.  For the same reason, I would not likely use this action structure when group members are dealing with trauma.  As it brings up issues of leadership, competition and perfectionism, it works well when the group is at a level to offer one another feedback on their interactive style.


WHO'S IN MY CORNER?

  This is another easy sociometric warm-up that can energize a group and help individuals to make connections.  Have sufficient clear space in the room for members to move around. Ask group members to randomly go to any corner of the room.  The instructions are that any member, one at a time, can move from their corner to another corner. As they move across the space, they call out a criterion that applies to them.  Any other members for whom that criterion applies joins the person in that corner. anyone in that corner for whom the criterion does not apply would move to a different corner.

It can be good data regarding group dynamics to listen to what criteria group members ask.  They might decide to keep information superficial:  "Who else had oatmeal for breakfast?"  Groups might move to more significant connections:  "Who else grew up in an alcoholic home?" 

It is important that people who initiate a movement are naming a criterion that applies to them.  This maintains a level of shared vulnerability in the group, rather than voyeuristic disclosure.  When group members do take a risk with a highly personal criterion: "Who else has been arrested?"  or "Who else has used drugs?"  you can invite the members of that corner to just take a moment to see who is in their corner.  These are the individuals who can empathize with that experience, so be aware of the connections before another person takes a turn. 

If a group is slow to warm-up or sluggish, you can energize the members by keeping the action moving rapidly, or use more playful criteria to lessen anxiety:  "Who else likes pizza?"  "Who else has already farted today?"

This can be an easy way to build some connections, and can often surface issues that, once opened, can be discussed as the group moves back to their seats.  Even asking what they think of the criteria given or "Now that we're all safety seated, did anyone have a connection they weren't fully comfortable naming out loud?"


THREE SENTENCE STORIES

  For beginning groups, introductions can often become tedious.  Another challenge is to build cohesion during a workshop or conference, when there will not be ongoing sessions. One way to invite individuals to be concise yet have them offer some brief introduction is to ask members to give his or her name and then a three sentence story, involving some aspect of their lives.  Don't be surprised if a few people go over - typically I let this pass, rather than calling them out and risking shaming them or inhibiting people who have not yet introduced themselves.

I will usually model a three sentence story, to begin the process:  "My name is Steve.  Growing up, we had a loveable mutt as part of the family.  I moved to a 'No Pets' building.  I now take every opportunity to play with my friends' pets." 

In a very large group setting - such as a conference workshop -  you can have people break into groups of 5 or 6 and share their 3 sentence stories. It will typically increase the group's cohesion just having members know a few other individuals by name and by an interest. "You're the one who likes knitting."  "You were the one with the gardening story..."


LIGHTENING

This is a highly somatic warm-up; it can quickly raise energy in a group. 

No props needed.

Group members stand in a circle. The facilitator lets people know that he or she will make a quick gesture/movement with a sound and start it around the circle in either direction.  The goal is to pass the sound and movement around the circle as quickly as possible.  Hence the name - Lightening. I invite participants to allow the sound and movement to make it around the circle at least once.

After that, people have a choice: continue to pass the sound/movement they received on to the next person or - instead of passing it along - send back a different sound and movement.  This would then send the new sound and movement in the opposite direction.

Continue to encourage people to move quickly, whether passing the gesture on or sending back a different movement.

Because people are expected to respond quickly, it tends to lower an individual's self-consciousness in the group.  They also have the option of passing the sound and gesture along -- which makes low demands on them, or creating something different -- which invites them to try out their spontaneity and creativity. It's not uncommon for people to fumble as this process continues - changing the sound and movement, but not reversing the direction, or stopping the forward action because they laugh.  Let the action pick up again quickly and individuals are less likely to fall into a self-critical voice.  If they do, invited them to consider the consequences of making a mistake- in this case: none.  This can also help group members overcome their need to 'look good' and can normalize that mistakes happen in groups.


COMMON DENOMINATOR

This warm-up can help break the ice and start individuals talking about themselves and learning about one another. 

No props needed

This can be a fun activity for groups that are beginning, or that have a number of new members joining. Divide the group up into smaller groups:  3-5 is often a good size, but this depends on space and the size of your group.  Keep the number of individuals in each group equal.  Each group is given the instruction to find three things that each member of a sub-group has in common, but that would not apply to anyone else in the room.  Let the participants know that any criterion can be used, provided it applies to each of the members of that sub-group and that the common denominator is one the sub-group is willing to acknowledge to the large group at the end.  If time is limited, you can ask sub-groups to find two things in common that would not apply to others in the room.  It is often helpful to have each sub-group designate a scribe to capture ideas as they surface among members.  As sub-groups begin to identify various criteria that they share and believe only applies to them, encourage them to go deeper to see how far their shared connection goes.  For example if they have all traveled to Alaska- perhaps they all went by ship or plane, or everyone in this particular group visited the same town or destination. 

When sub-groups are done, have them return to the large group.  Participants then get to test out their common denominators.  Each of the sub-groups announces one of their criteria at a time; anyone in the other groups who meets that criterion holds up his or her hand.  Go around until each group has gotten to test out each of the two or three criteria they identified within their sub-groups. 

This warm-up has a number of benefits.  It allows smaller groups to begin to know one another, as people will begin trying a whole range of criteria to see what might be common ground.  Sometimes the competition encourages some individuals who are reticent to speak out in groups; at the very least, they will be identifying in or out with criteria being named by their peers.  As groups test out the exclusivity of their chosen common ground, others in the group also get to know more about one another. Listening into the level of connection is also good information for the group facilitator.  Are individuals keeping to safe topics or taking risks.  I have seen groups work with fairly innocuous common factors (such as everyone in one group had a hole in their socks), to vulnerable material, (such as every person in a sub-group had someone in their family who had been in jail.)


PAINTING THE TOWN

Props needed:  None necessary. One option is to use music; then have a source for playing the selected music.

This can be a wonderful way to introduce movement into a group.  It provides some structure, while allowing a high level of creativity among participants.  This can be useful as a warm-up for a session as well as an action integration to something that has already occurred.

Invite participants to close their eyes or to soften their gaze/look down. This helps avoid external distractions.  Ask them to imagine they are in the center of a transparent bubble.  At their feet are several open cans of paint. Allow them to consider what colors are there, the texture, temperature and fluidity of their paints.

Individuals are then invited to dip their hands into the different paints and to begin to paint the inside of their bubble.  Encourage them to explore different images: fine painting with one or two fingers, big movements using their hands as large brushes, possibly flinging the paint in streaks and spatters.

You can have music playing if a group could benefit from some additional structure.  An action structure such as this could follow work with creative writing or poetry, or after working with music. It can be used as a response to imagery work.

As facilitator, observe the movements being made.  There will be considerable data about the individuals and the group process.  Are the movements gentle, aggressive, playful?  Are several people engaged in similar movements?  Are any individuals moving significantly different than the majority?  (If they are at risk for being excluded from peers, they might need some validation for their experiences.)  If it is part of the group structure, you can invite people to explore their painting gestures for different feelings: "Paint your bubble to show your joy/anger/sadness/serenity." 



 

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