Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Breaking the Ice

Friday, November 14, 2014

So far in my discussion about teaching economics to middle school students (or anyone) in a camp (like State Farm Summer Business Camp), workshop or classroom setting, I have discussed getting buy-in and rules. This blog will talk about playing games to get the program started. Since this is group work, the group will need to get to know each other. Here are some fun games to get things started.

These are not random games chosen because they are fun (although they are), but they are teaching opportunities. Some of these I borrowed from Lions Quest. Some I borrowed from a former intern who used them when he was helping to prepare American students to stay in Japan for the summer. I have to say I do not remember the name of the group he was working with. Of course, I had to modify!

Game #1: What I Like

The object of this game is to get participants to introduce themselves to others in the camp. There needs to be a big open space in which to play this.

I’m short, so I stand on a chair or a table to play this game. I have all of the participants and adult helpers stand in a big group facing me.

n  Round 1: From my perch on the table I say “Everyone who is a morning person please move to my left. Those who are most awake in the middle of the day stand in front of me. Those who are night owls, please stand to my right.” Make sure that each of the groups has space between them.  Then tell each person within a group to meet all of the other people in their group. There will be more “night owls” than anything else if you have a bunch of kids.
n  Round 2: “Everyone who likes English class most move to my left. Math class to the right. And Science in the middle.” Repeat the process of having everyone introduce themselves to everyone else in their group.
n  Round 3: “Everyone who likes to read for fun to my left. Watch TV in the middle. Play on the internet or video games to the right.” I think you get the idea. 

This particular breakdown of questions will help you discover the different interests and strengths of the individual students. You should ask these questions on a written questionnaire at the orientation so you, as the camp organizer, can use this skills information to break the kids down into groups, but this game lets everyone in on skills information.

Game #2: Common Ground

For this game all participants get in a big circle with the camp director in the middle. Each person takes off their shoes and put them behind them to mark their spot. It is somewhat like musical chairs. There will always be one set of shoes too few, as the person in the center at the beginning has no shoes to start with.

The center person will say “I have common ground with people who like to go shopping (for example).” Anyone in the circle who likes to shop has to run in into the middle of the circle and then find a space that is free in front of someone else’s shoes. They cannot just step to the right or left of where there were. They have to go into the center of the circle. This gives the person who was in the center a chance to run for an open spot. Whoever is left is now “it” and will start over again with the statement “I have common ground with...” adding their own end of the sentence.

It is a very popular game and I usually let it go on for a little while to give the kids time to run off some energy, and to get to have fun with each other.

Game #3: Idea Exchange

Based on a game for two people called “dialectics,” I throw a bunch of random partial statements and quotes on strips of colored paper up in the air in the middle of the circle of students. Starting with me, I go into the middle of the circle, pick up a piece of paper and complete the sentence on that scrap. Everyone gets to pick up one piece of paper. You go around the circle clockwise.

Here are a few sample 'questions" to put on the paper scraps. You can create your own. I try to make all of the questions related to what is being taught in some way. Make sure that you have twice as many questions as you have participants.

Sample questions:

1.     I think that in business “return on investment” means …
2.     If I was the CEO of a company I think my duties would be …
3.     What do you think this means?
“Sales arecontingent upon the attitude of the salesman - not the attitude of the prospect.”                                                W. Clement Stone
 When you are done with these games, the participants will have had a chance to get to know a bit more about each other and themselves. Knowledge of the talents and interests of those on a team will help during the next part of the camp -- learning all about business plans and deciding what kind of business to create.

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