Environment Charades

Exercise Instructions

Have the group form a backline.

 

Ask for one participant, when they feel ready, to come forward and begin miming an activity in a location that is public and could fit in the playing area (ex: a gym, a bar, a beach etc).

 

Once a bit of time has gone by someone else should add a new activity.  The players should not interact but coexist in the space. Each person should eventually join the scene, never speaking and all coexisting independently.  

Once a player begins an activity they continue to repeat it until the exercise is over.  As new players enter the location their mimed activity should not change.

 

It is okay to copy a previous player's activity if a participant cannot think of a new one for the selected environment.

 

Warn participants to give each new move equal time before adding a new move.  In this way, each move can be absorbed and focused on by the group.  Though it may seem less important to pay attention once it becomes clear where the location is, note against this instinct.

 

Run the exercise at least twice.

 

Point out that the first and even second moves are often not enough to define a location. ( EX: Someone who starts by pulling a lever may be working in a factory, drawing a beer at a bar, or playing the slots.  A second contribution of someone reading what might be a newspaper or magazine doesn't offer much additional clarification.  A third contribution of someone dealing cards solidifies the location.)

 

Sometimes someone will make an addition that seems out of place. Extra praise should be provided for teams that can incorporate such moves into the overall tableau.

 

EX: A developing baseball game's fourth move features someone placing a catcher behind a pitcher. A wise group can make sense of this by adding a catcher behind every position on the field, creating a very risk-averse game of baseball.

Application

Environment Charades is a fun, nonverbal game that underlines the importance of patience, staying in the moment and collaboration.  Often featured in workshops focused on:

  • Team Building 

  • Communication Skills

  • Agility

  • Staying In The Moment

  • Sales

Requirements

Number of Participants: 

Minimum: 4 participants / Maximum: 16 participants 

(Larger classes of 10-24 should be split into halves or thirds that take turns running this exercise)

 

Time Required:

Minimum: 10 minutes / Maximum:  25 minutes

 

Materials Needed:

None

Variants

You might try the below adjustments when leading this exercise:

  • Play music during the exercise

  • Take control of who enters the location and when by establishing that you will point at players when it is time for them to enter.

  • Ask players to make sense of the space.  That is, often this exercise will lead to players engaged in complementary activity juxtaposed in a way that doesn't make sense.  (EX: If you're in a gym, all people on treadmills should be in the same smaller section of the playing space and facing the same direction. People at the front desk should similarly be in the same area and have a sense of where desks, counters, and front desk items are.)

  • Give players a secret that will affect how they mime their activity when they enter.  (EX: You're very itchy. Or, you're a spy.)  This can be done by either whispering their secret in their ear or handing them their secret on a slip of paper before the exercise begins.  At the exercise's conclusion, ask participants not only where they are, but also if they can guess each other's secrets.

Instructor Talking Points

Team Building

By listening and paying close attention to each participant's contribution, we create strong team dynamics and a sense of equal respect and support. Moves made in alignment with those that came first further the sense of team.

It can be difficult to truly pay attention to a teammate's contribution when we think we fully understand what is happening and what is likely to come next.  That's why we are more likely to pay less attention to contributions made towards the end of this exercise.  But if we do rush, what do we miss?  (If you can, offer an example or two here of nuance from contributions that may have been overlooked.)

Communication

Clarity is a gift to others.  A strong first move (such as lifting weights or grilling on a barbecue) make subsequent moves much easier.  Alternatively, generic or unspecific contributions (such as writing in a book or tying up the laces on a shoe) create uncertainty and confusion for those who seek to build on your work.  

Sales 

Rather than looking to promote your own ideas by knocking down the ideas of others, try building on top of other's ideas in order to reach a place of agreement. This works in sales just as well as it works in collaboration. Try overcoming objections through agreement rather than conflict.  

Applied Mantra:  Yes And...

Agility

We want to be paying very close attention to each contribution. Just because we think we know what is happening, we can never be sure when someone will add something surprising.  For this reason, we must pay close attention to every new addition in order to be ready to adjust to it and then fold it into our tableau/narrative.

Applied Mantra:  Listen, Don't Invent

Terry Withers, 12.04.20