Jump Right In

Objective: Looking after others; group problem solving

# of participants: 10 to 20

Space: Enough room to lay a rope on the ground in a circle. You can borrow a rope from Experiential Learning.

Estimated time: minimum 30 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity

Facilitation Script:

“I invite you to stand in circle around the rope. When you are ready to take on this challenge, I invite you to step or jump into the circle. Your objective is to get out of the circle as fast as possible. There are 3 rules. First, you must go underneath the rope. Second, you may not touch the rope with your hands or arms (point from your shoulder to your finger tips). Third, the time starts when any part of your body breaks the plain of the rope underneath the circle. READY GO!


  • Have a stopwatch ready and time them. Let them know how long it took them. Also notify them if they used their arms.
  • Ask them if they can do it faster
  • Time them again
  • Ask them if they can do it faster
  • If they are struggling, ask them what else they could do to get a faster time
  • If they get to a point where they still are taking 10 seconds to accomplish their objective and don’t want to keep playing explain to them that you have seen groups do it in 5 seconds or less.


What happened? I invited you into the circle and gave you an objective and rules. What were they? You did a first round. How long did it take? What happened? Just the facts. You did a second round. How long did it take? What happened? Keep staying with what happened until they got their fastest time. Stay with the details. Then talk about “so what?”. What does this mean? What did they learn/understand from this experience? Then you can ask them how what they are talking about can apply to being successful in this course.

Group Juggle

Objective: Prioritizing tasks; working together

# of participants: 10 to 20

Space: You need to be able to make a circle with the students

Estimated time: Minimum 30 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity

Facilitation script:

“Please stand in a circle. I am going say my name and then ask a member of the group their name and then pass the ball to them. When you receive it please say your name and ask someone else in the group their name and pass them the ball. Then point to the person you passed the ball to. Only pass the ball to someone who does not have their finger pointed at someone. At the end, the ball should return to me. Let’s do that again in the same order. Let’s do that again but this time we will keep the ball going without stopping.”


  • When the first ball has gone around a second time add another ball. Keep adding balls to the game until it becomes disorganized (more than 4 balls dropped).
  • Stop the group and ask them if they want to try that again
  • Try again. Stop them again when it becomes disorganized.
  • Ask them how many balls they think they can juggle without dropping them
  • Ask them if they have a strategy for being successful in this activity
  • Experiential Learning has balls that you can borrow


  • What were the challenges of this activity?
  • What did you do well?
  • At Brandeis you will have many things to juggle. What are some of those things? Give examples
  • How might you manage juggling all of these activities, classes, family, etc.?

Blindfolded Walking

Objective: Trust building; leadership skills

# of participants: 4 to unlimited

Space: any space

Estimated time: Minimum 30 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity


Ask the students to find someone they have talked with the least this semester. Handout one bandana to each pair (EL has plenty of bandanas). Explain that the sighted person is going to lead their blindfolded partner around the space for 3-5 minutes. They can decide on whatever way they think works best for leading. They can make it as challenging as they would like. Make sure people don’t stray too far away. After 3-5 minutes have the pairs come back to you. Ask them to take off their blindfolds and have a discussion with their partner about what worked and what they would do differently. Then have them switch roles. Have them walk around for  3-5 minutes. Have them come back and make a circle.


  • What was it like to be blindfolded? Was it easy or challenging? Did you feel safe or nervous?
  • What was it like to be the guide? What was challenging?
  • Were you more nervous being blindfolded or guiding? Why?
  • What information did you share with each other in between rounds?
  • Did you implement anything new?
  • Did anyone tell their guides how they preferred to be guided?
  • Did anyone ask their blindfolded pair how they wanted to be guided?
  • What does this say about leadership and working with other people?
  • How could you see this as important to being a student in this program?

Public Service Announcements (PSA)

Objective: Brainstorming and creativity around a subject; close looking

# of participants: 6 to unlimited

Space: Classroom

Estimated time: Minimum 30 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity


Invite students to bring in an advertisement, video or a photograph that is sharing a message that connects to the reading/topic of that day’s discussion. Have students get in groups of 2-4 and share their images/videos with each other. Have their peers in each group speak on why they believe their classmate chose that image to share. When they have finished sharing handout large pieces of sticky paper to each group. Have each group create a message they would like to share about the topic they are working on in class. When they are finished have the students place their image on the walls around the room. Invite the students to do a “gallery walk” where they look at all of the images created by their peers. When they are done, gather the students around one image and ask the other students what they thought their classmates were trying to convey with their image. Then have the classmates who created the image respond to the comments and give their thoughts. Do this with each group if time allows.

Making it Relevant

Objective: Making your course content relevant for your students

# of participants: Unlimited. With large groups maybe limit the number of students who share in each class session.

Space: Classroom

Estimated time: Minimum 20 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity


You can ask students if they had any personal experience with the content of the class. For example, in a class in HSSP, the students were learning about birthing, so we asked the students to find out their birthing stories from their parents. We invited the students to share their stories. One by one they all stepped forward to share the stories they heard from their parents. We asked them to share the challenges and interesting points from their stories. We wrote them on the board. We then asked them to share the challenges from the reading. We asked them to compare the lists. The lists were almost identical. The students had the “aha” moment that they understood that what they were learning happened to them and their classmates. They also saw that what happened to them happened to their peers which made them feel more connected. Finally, we asked them to take a minute to write down something they were birthing (an idea, a project, a thesis) and then write down the challenges for that process. When they shared these challenges we discovered a lot of similarity to the challenges from the birthing process. This allowed the students to connect what they were learning to what they were working on outside of class in other majors, minors, personal or professional experiences.

Fears in a Hat/Concerns in a Bag

Objective: Surface students’ concerns; facilitate understanding that individual concerns are shared

# of participants: Minimum 6 to unlimited

Space: Classroom

Estimated time: Minimum 20 minutes. Time will increase slightly by number of participants


  • Pass out identical pens and pieces of paper to all of the students. You can use note cards or paper ripped in half.
  • Ask all of the students to clearly write down ONE concern, a challenge or a maybe a fear that they have about being part of this group, having this experience, taking this course, etc. This activity is anonymous, so no names or self-identifiers on the paper.
  • When students are done writing they should place the paper in a box/bag/hat.
  • Pass the bag around and have students take one piece of paper out. If they find that they wrote that note they should place it back in the bag and take another one
  • Have everyone read what is on their piece of paper aloud to the group. If people in the group can relate to this statement have them snap their fingers, give a thumbs up or some other identifier
  • After everyone has read ask the students if anything was interesting, stood out or was challenging about hearing these statements
  • Ask the students what they observed as they went around reading the statements. Often students will be surprised to find out that they are not the only one to feel this way. Follow up on these comments to see how that resonates for them.

Affinity Groups

Objective: Brainstorm ideas; create groups around shared interests

# of participants: 10 to unlimited

Space: Classroom

Estimated time: Minimum 30 minutes. If you actually form groups then 45 minutes.


Give out 2, 4×6 sticky notes to each student. Have them write down 1 idea per sticky note. Make sure they use markers and write clearly and large enough to read from a distance. When they are done have them put the sticky notes on a big empty wall/whiteboard/window. Tell everyone to do a “gallery walk” where they must read all of the ideas on the sticky notes. When they are done reading have them step back from the wall/whiteboard/window. Then invite the members of your class to organize the sticky notes by shared ideas. Make sure each group of sticky notes has its own space distinct from other groups. When they are done, go to each group of sticky notes and ask what your students want to call that group. Take a clean sticky note and put it above the group of ideas with that name. Do the same for each group of sticky notes. When you are done, ask the students to go to the category (name of group) that most interests them (not necessarily where their sticky notes are). Ask the students in each group to introduce themselves and to talk to each other about why they are interested in this idea. Have the students write down their full names in each group. You can also have them go to a second idea and go through the same process. You could form the groups right there on the spot. You could also take the lists of names and use them to create groups that you feel would be the most successful. You can assure the students that they will get one of their first 2 choices. If there are many students under one heading, you can create two groups and have them work on different aspects of the idea.

Active Listening

Objective: Practice listening skills; allow the more quiet students to have a voice

# of participants: Unlimited

Space: Any space

Estimated time: Minimum 20 minutes


Ask the students to find a partner. Let the students know they will each have 2 minutes to answer the following question or prompt. One student will volunteer to answer the question and the other student will actively listen and not make any comments. You will stop them at two minutes. The listener will then respond with a summary of what the speaker said, starting with the phrase, “What I heard you say is….”. The speaker will either confirm that the listener fully understood them or the speaker will clarify anything important that they believe the listener didn’t understand or missed. Then the other partner will have 2 minutes to answer the same question or prompt and the first person will listen without commenting and then share with the second person what they heard. Again, if it was not understood completely the student will clarify. Have the students find a new partner. Then ask another question. I would prepare 3-4 questions that get progressively more challenging to answer and might be more controversial. Switch partners for each question.


What was it like to be the person answering the question? What was interesting, surprising?

What was it like to be the listener? What was challenging, surprising?

What was interesting about this activity? What did you learn about communication?

Concentric Circles

Objective: To talk with a number of classmates on a specific subject or question. It is a good way to talk about project ideas that students are thinking about.

# of participants: Minimum 6 students to unlimited

Space: A space where you can create a circle with the group. If it is tight, that is okay because half the group will step into the circle when the activity begins

Estimated time: Minimum 10 minutes or based on the faculty member’s discretion and student engagement in the activity


Have the students stand in a circle. Ask the students to go around the circle counting off 1 then 2, then 1 and so forth so everyone has one of those numbers. Have the 1s introduce themselves to the 2s to the 1s’ left. Then have those same 1s step into the circle and face their 2. If there is an uneven # of students you can ask a TA to join or you can join in the activity. Give the students a question or a prompt to discuss. When both students are finished discussing the question or prompt have them raise their hands. Then have the students in the inner circle say goodbye to their partner and move three students to the right. Then have them introduce themselves to the new student standing in front of them. Give the students the same question or prompt or different one. Go through this process 2-4 times depending on time and questions. You can alternate which circle moves and how many spots to maximize the number of partners they meet.