Thousands of practitioners who work with groups of all different sorts, have discovered the power of using simple hands-on ‘artifacts’, or conversation-building resources, to add energy and insights to their sessions. Our colourful, high-quality resources can play a significant role in building meaningful and engaging conversations with groups. They can also help change the pace and introduce a sense of fun and play into the room.
Each of our card sets has a booklet brimming with many creative suggestions you can use or adapt for your group. Have a look at the product pages of this website for the free downloadable booklet for each of our products. There you will find ideas for goal-setting, planning, scaling and evaluation, journaling, creative writing, identifying strengths and feelings, team-building, and many more. In the meantime, further down this page, we offer you some very simple ideas for you for opening and closing a session.
Ideas for Openers
Beginning and ending the session or workshop is important and every facilitator or trainer develops their own favourite bag of activities they like to use at these times. Our resources can help you build a colourful and creative set of activities you can have at your fingertips.
As an opener or ice breaker, it might be as simple as asking participants in a group to choose a photograph from Picture This to introduce themselves by saying what significance that photograph has for them. Or you might ask them to choose a card that says something about why they have come to the workshop. Depending on the size of the group, they can then discuss their cards in pairs, small groups or in the whole group.
The above activity is a very simple opener that you can do using any number of our card sets, including:
Another great way to begin is to use the Deep Speak cards or the Life Tweaking cards to play a game where 2 or 3 cards are randomly dealt to each person. They then have the option to place one card back in the stack and another random card is dealt to them. Then each person introduces themselves by answering the question on each of their cards. Their answer can be fictional if they choose. (This way no one is pressured to answer a question truthfully if they do not wish to reveal that information. You still get to know the person a little anyway!) feel free to vary this activity in any way you want. We just invented it to use in our workshops—you can make up games too!
Another idea is to have a random card on each person’s seat as they arrive. Invite participants to introduce themselves and say what this card means to them.
Ideas for Closers
How a workshop or group session ends tends to stay in participants’ minds. One activity we like is to ask participants what they are taking away, what stood out for them and/or what they intend to do more of. This is just so simple, and you can choose from a variety of card sets for this purpose, including:
And then there are possibilities for using a number of Innovative Resources card sets like The Bears or any from the strengths cards range for feedback and evaluation.
Creating Safe Groups
Before using our card sets with groups there are some important things to keep in mind. Firstly, no hands-on conversational tool works for everyone. Each of us has our own personal taste in language, metaphor and illustrative style. Even when great care is taken, a resource or activity simply may not work for a particular group.
In addition, conservations and reflections about values, emotions, hopes and dreams—no matter how skilfully they are introduced and facilitated—can give rise to unexpected memories and associations. Powerful emotions can begin to tumble out. Before facilitating a group activity using the cards, we suggest you take time to consider the following:
- Your own comfort with the cards. Does the resource work for you? Are you comfortable using it yourself? Can you imagine introducing it to colleagues, family and friends?
- Your knowledge of the materials. Are you familiar with the cards? Do you need to use all of the cards or are there some you want to leave out? Have you used cards before? What did you discover?
- Your knowledge of your group. Does your knowledge of the culture, age and literacy of the group suggest that they are likely to relate well to the cards?
- The safety of the setting. If you are introducing the cards to a group, what are the dynamics and mood of the group? Is there respect in the group? Do you believe you have created a ‘safe space’ for people to talk openly and honestly? Is the timing right? Have ground rules such as listening to others and confidentiality been established? Have you thought about how you will enable people to ‘pass’—that is, to feel free not to comment if they wish? What if the cards elicit strong emotions—if this happens, how will you help ensure that people are appropriately supported during or after the session?
- Valuing people’s own interpretations. Have you thought about how to support people’s own interpretations of meaning while keeping the door open to consider other possibilities?
- Your expectations. How do you imagine conversations will flow? What if something different happens? Do you have an alternative plan if something is not working?
- Inclusiveness: How will you help ensure that ‘quiet voices’ in a group are heard?
- Time management: Have you allocated enough time for each activity? How will you conclude an activity while ensuring that each person has a turn to contribute?
- Variation: Have you thought about how to create variation in the conversations—for example, having a mix of sharing in pairs, small groups and whole group? Have you considered a mix of random choice and deliberate selection of cards, and a mix of quiet and active activities?
- Evaluation: What do you think constitutes ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ use of the cards in a group? How will you find out what worked for participants?
- Follow up: Is there any follow up that you will do with the group?
Get them Moving and Vary the Pace!
Spreading cards out on the floor can create a different dynamic from spreading them out on a table where everyone is seated. Participants get a bird’s eye view of the cards, and they can be invited to walk around the cards or follow a line (or meandering path) of cards. Getting participants to move around the cards can also be achieved by placing the cards around the walls of a room, or on one or more tables that people then walk around while scanning the cards and making their selection.
Brain studies indicate that the human brain functions differently when our bodies are in motion compared to when our bodies are at rest. Therefore, activities that involve significant movement can open up different pathways to learning and reflecting. Notions of ‘multiple intelligence’ contained in the work of such education pioneers as Howard Gardner, also indicate that for those who may have a kinesthetic learning style, movement is a critical factor in being able to concentrate or absorb information. It is useful to keep in mind that in any group of people there will most likely be kinesthetic learners who don’t seem to learn as well when stationery. Plus, most people find it refreshing and fun to get up out of their seats, if possible—especially if they have been sitting for some time. For these reasons, facilitators are often looking to include activities that get participants moving, as well as those that create stillness and quiet.