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A challenging and fun group warm-up activity.
Number of players: 6 to 24.
Time: Allow 15 to 30 minutes.
Purpose: to focus attention, to improve listening skills, to have a group successfully complete a task together under self-generating chaotic circumstances.

Everyone stands in a circle.
Leader: "I'm going to point to someone in the circle and say "you." When you are pointed at, it's your turn to point at someone else across the circle and say "you." After you have had your turn, put your hand on your head to indicate you've already gone. You can point to anyone who has not had a turn yet. The last person chosen will have to point back at me."
Leader points to someone and says "You." Designated pointee then points to another person across the circle and says "you." This pointee points to another person in the circle who has not been chosen yet and says "you." Continue until everyone in the circle has been included. The leader will be the last person pointed at.

Leader: "Let's repeat that pattern, in the same order we just did it, but this time we don't have to put our hands on our head."
Repeat (sans hands on head) the EXACT SAME PATTERN so that everyone has a chance to remember who points to them, and who they point to. Everyone following so far? Pattern #1 ("You"), might be something like Leader-Adam-Shaun-Paul-Trish-Deb-Nate-Leader. Everytime the leader starts the "you" pattern it should follow this order EXACTLY, e.g. Adam only says "you" to Shaun once the Leader has said "you" to him. Shaun is waiting for Adam so that she can point to Paul.

Leader can review by saying: "Point to the person who says YOU to you. Now, point to the person you say YOU to."

Start the pattern again, and as soon as the pattern completes, i.e., the last person says "you" to the leader, the leader will start it up again by saying "you" to your target person. Repeat the pattern until everyone knows it.

    FOR YOU VISUAL LEARNERS: Imagine the leader throwing out a red ball of yarn as she says "you." The group is creating a web with the "you" pattern, and each person in the circle anchors just one point on the web, and every person will be included. When everyone has joined the web, the leader gets the ball of yarn back, as the group has formed a red web of yarn.

That was the first part of the set up. Here's part two:

Leader: tell the group to remember the "you" pattern, you'll come back to it later, but now it's time for the next step.

The leader starts a new pattern, with a category, like "fruit." Leader points to a person ACROSS the circle, says a fruit, like "orange." POINT TO A DIFFERENT PERSON THAN THE ONE YOU SAID "YOU" TO. Pointee points to another person, says a different fruit, maybe "apple." Play continues until everyone has been included (hands on head indicates they've been included) and the leader is last. Repeat (sans hands on head) the EXACT SAME PATTERN so that everyone has a chance to remember WHO points to them and WHO they point to.

Leader can review by saying: "Point to the person who says the fruit to you. Now, point to the person you say a fruit to."

Example with our hypothetical cast: Leader says "orange" to Trish, who says "apple" to Nate, who says "kumquat" to Deb, who says "lemon" to Paul, who says "strawberry" to Shaun, who says "grapes" to Adam, who says "kiwi" to Leader.

    FOR YOU VISUAL LEARNERS: imagine this pattern as a web constructed with blue yarn.
Leader: "Does everyone remember this fruit pattern? Good. (If not, review again.) Now that we've got the fruit down, let's see if we remember the "you" pattern." Review aloud pattern #1 ("you"), going through the pattern twice.

Leader: "Do we remember the fruit pattern?"

Review aloud pattern #2 ("fruit"). There may be some confusion. If you need to start over, do so. Work on it until you can go through the pattern twice.

Leader: "Now I'm going to start the "you" pattern, and while that's in motion, I'm going to start the "fruit" pattern. You'll have to listen for both cues. Ready?" Clarify if you need to, but don't stop for discussion. Leader starts both patterns at once. Simultaneously, both sets of words are travelling across the circle. Go through the patterns at least twice. If you notice one set of words drop out, the leader will start that pattern again as necessary.

    HINT: Data in = data out. That is, if someone says "you" to you, that is your cue to say "you." If they say a fruit, you say your fruit to your designated fruitee (who should be a different recipient than your "you" target).
Leader: "Imagine the "you" as a football and the fruit as a baseball. When you catch the football, you pass on the football. When you catch a baseball, you throw a baseball. You can't throw a ball you haven't caught yet."
    FOR YOU VISUAL LEARNERS: the group is re-constructing the red web and the blue web at the same time.
Continue until you can go through both patterns twice. If the group is having difficulty, suggest that analagous to throwing a real ball, it is the responsiblity of the thrower to make sure the catcher is ready. If you notice that your recipient has not noticed that you have passed your word onto them, give it to them again.

Create a new pattern with a new category, like "breakfast cereals," or "brands of automobiles." Suggest to the group that they choose a different person than in the previous patterns to receive their word.

    FOR YOU VISUAL LEARNERS: the group is creating a new web with a green ball of yarn, and is about to build the red, blue, and green ones simultaneously.
Review all three patterns separately. Then the leader can start all 3 at the same time. If one set of words gets dropped, the leader will start that pattern again.

THE NEXT NEXT STEP: Create a fourth pattern, and run all four at the same time. This pattern could be an actual ball or beanbag tossed around. (Leaders should inform the group that for the safety of all involved, you must make eye contact before tossing an object at someone.)

THE NEXT NEXT NEXT STEP: This step is called "Move on 'you'." On the "you" pattern, and ONLY ON THE "YOU" PATTERN, advance across the circle to stand in the place where your pointee was.

Leader: Only move when you say the word "you." If you are saying a fruit, or other word, you don't move. Only move when you say the word you.

The categories must be variations on actual names. For example,

  • Pattern 1: say the name of the person you are pointing to.
  • Pattern 2: say the name of the person immediately to the right of the person you are pointing to.
  • Pattern 3: say your own name.
  • Pattern 4: say the name of the person who just pointed at you.

Source: I learned this at Bay Area TheatreSports, from a visiting German improviser.