The Chiji Guidebook: A Collection of Experiential Activities and Ideas for Using Chiji Cards

ISBN: 978-1-885473-84-4
SIZE: 6 x 9
PRICE $15.95

“The Chiji Guidebook is the official companion to the popular facilitation tool, Chiji Cards.”

This book is an instructional guide describing some of the different ways Chiji Cards can be used to facilitate key moments during group experiences. This guidebook gives a simple, straightforward explanation of the processing theory that coincides with the original use of Chiji Cards, and it provides a rationale for when to use one processing technique over another.

The Activity Guide Section of the book presents 25 different ways to use Chiji Cards. The activities are divided into six chapters—Processing Activities, Getting-To-Know-You, Frontloading Activities, Object Lessons, Initiative Activities, and Fun With Chiji Cards. Most of the activities we have developed ourselves, but several come directly from other experiential educators who have shared their uses of the cards with us.

Chiji Cards

Chiji Cards

What are Chiji Cards? Chiji Cards are a deck of 48 cards with pictures originally designed to spark/enhance discussion during a processing session. When a facilitator asks the group a question, each person chooses a card that symbolizes his or her answer to the question. The images on the cards are used as prompts to help individuals organize their thinking. Rather than having to pull an answer to a question out of thin air, the pictures provide a starting point from which to formulate a response. Chiji Processing Cards were developed by the staff Steven Simpson, Buzz Bocher, & Dan Miller at the Institute for Experiential Education ( and are available from many experiential education equipment providers.


"A deck of Chiji Cards is one of the most valuable tools a facilitator can have. This guidebook opens a whole new perspective, showing the diversity and depth of how the cards can be used as an effective facilitation tool for participant-directed processing. I can’t wait to try out many new ideas described within."
—Elizabeth Sayers, Outdoor Leadership Program, Greenfield Community College

"This book takes a widely used tool, expanding its use to help facilitators be more creative. It is a wonderful resource providing new and innovative ideas for both novice and experienced facilitators."
—Deb Sugerman PhD, Experiential Concepts, Lee, NH, co-author of Reflective Learning: Theory and Practice

"Cavert and Simpson have expanded upon a timeless processing tool with a collection of activities that will challenge facilitators to expand how they lead and process adventure-based activities. The use of facilitator language provides readers with a script and helps in the visualization of leading the activity."
—Nicholas Hagemann, Manager, Northern Arizona University Challenge Course

"An excellent resource offering basic information about the foundations of processing and activities that are well organized and sequential in terms of using the Chiji Cards with groups at various stages of development. As a teacher of school-age children, I will be using this book a great deal and recommending it to others."
—Carla Hacker, Adventure Based Experiential Education Program Coordinator, Madison, WI

"ANYONE in the processing and debriefing fields should have a copy of the Chiji Guidebook. The cards and the discussions they inspire have positively impacted my work with students as a guidance counselor."
—Ray Piagentini, Barrington High School Counselor, Past-President, Illinois School Counselors Association

"At last a quick way to answer the question of 'how do you use those picture cards?' The 25 activities plus the section on the theory behind the cards make this book useful for new and experienced facilitators."
—Holly Badger, TRS, CTRS, University Neuropsychiatric Institute, R.O.P.E.S. Program Coordinator, University of Utah

Excerpt from the Book

Picture Processing: The Traditional Use of Chiji Cards
Developed by Buzz Bocher, Dan Miller & Steven Simpson

The original way to use Chiji Cards is as a processing or debriefing tool immediately following an initiative or other experiential activity. The strengths of this original use are 1) it is easy for a facilitator to use, and 2) it involves a sharing circle so that every participant is gently invited to speak up.

Summary: Each participant chooses and shares one card that represents some aspect of the activity just completed. Picture Processing is designed so that every person makes at least one contribution to the facilitated discussion.

Needs & Numbers: One Chiji Deck is needed for a group of up to 15 participants, along with a comfortable and quiet area for discussion. If there are more than 15 participants, consider dividing the group in half and conducting concurrent sessions. Give each subgroup a complete deck of Chiji Cards or randomly split a single deck and give each subgroup half.

Time Line: 15 to 20 minutes—allow about 1 minute per participant.

Directions: Spread the cards, picture side up, and have the group sit around the cards so everyone can see them. Give the following instructions:

Each person pick a card that, for some reason, describes your feelings about the last activity. Choose carefully because, in about 60 seconds, I am going to ask you to name your card and explain why you chose that card. The feelings can be about you individually, the group, or the activity that we just finished. They can be about old feelings that this activity reminded you of. Take your choice seriously and give it a little thought. By the way, two or more people can choose the same card. If you and another person want to use the same card, move so you are sitting next to each other.

After all participants have picked their cards, group members take turns naming and explaining their chosen cards. Offer the opportunity to pass if someone is not ready or simply does not want to share his or her card with the group. Usually each person simply explains the metaphor derived from his or her card. If appropriate, ask pertinent follow-up questions. If you know the individuals in the group fairly well, try to steer them away from clichéd answers. For example, you might say something like, “Tom, you are always cheerful. I’m coming back to you in a minute or two, and I want more than ‘I picked the sun card because I was cheerful during the last activity.’ What else does the sun symbolize for you and this group?”

Follow-Up: In the above directions, participants were asked to choose a card that described their feelings. Obviously feelings are only one of many topics to process with the cards. The following are samples of other directions:

  • Choose a card that best represents a positive attribute that showed up during the activity.
  • Choose a card (or two) that best represents an attribute that did not show up during the activity—an attribute that would have been useful to the group had it shown up.
  • Choose a card that best represents the lesson of the last activity.
  • Choose a card that best summarizes the day [closing a day].
  • Choose a card that best represents something you learned today that you would like to use in the future [closing a day].

Variations: One of the potential weaknesses of the traditional use of Chiji Cards is that a dozen or more people answer the same question. The responses sometimes become redundant. Two ways to remedy this problem follow:

Variation 1/Pair Ups: Have people in the group pair up and decide together on a card they both can relate to. Give pairs time to discuss the card they chose. Then, when each pair seems ready, have one person from the pair summarize their thoughts about the card with the whole group. This variation has two benefits: 1) if the group is large, it reduces the number of responses by half, and 2) the discussions that take place within the pairings as they decide which card to choose often enhance the quality of the answers.

Variation 2/Quartering: Not everyone has to answer the same question within a single sharing circle. Depending on the size of the group, divide the circle into halves, thirds, or quarters. Then have each group respond to a different directive using the following instructions:

Group 1, each person pick the card that best describes your feelings about the activity just completed. Each person in Group 2, pick a card that represents your individual contribution to the task. Group 3, choose the card that…, and Group 4, pick the card that….

As you move around the circle to let people explain their cards, restate the question for that section. It has been our experience to have someone say, “I liked Section 2’s question better than mine, so I answered that one instead.” In most cases, this deviation from the stated instructions should be welcomed. If Section 2’s question allows a person to say something that he or she needs to say, the sharing circle is working.

Over the next few weeks we will share a number of other uses for the Chiji Cards including team-building and problem-solving initiatives.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Story of Chiji Processing Cards
Section 1: Theory
Chiji Cards and Participant-Directed Processing
Processing to Teach Processing
Participant-Directed Processing
Two Kinds of Sequencing
Section 2: Activity Guide
Reading the Activities
Chapter 1: Processing Activities
#1 Picture Processing The Traditional Use of Chiji Cards
#2 Chiji Dyads
#3 Chiji Intuition
#4 Now & Then
#5 When Do We Get to Ask the Questions?
#6 Affirmation
Chapter 2: Getting-To-Know-You
#7 Chiji Connection
#8 That Person Over There
#9 Personal Stories
Chapter 3: Frontloading Activities
#10 Chiji Representation
#11 What Matters
#12 Personal Strength
#13 Focusing
#14 Tool Kit
Chapter 4: Object Lessons
#15 Obverse
#16 Relationships
#17 The Catalyst
Chapter 5: Initiative Activities
#19 Chiji Lineup
#20 Biggest to Smallest
#21 Card Trains
#22 Four in a Row
Chapter 6: Fun With Chiji Cards
#23 What’s On My Card
#24 Telling Stories
#25 Group Concentration
Chiji Cards Closing Activity Variations
Chiji Card Tips & Twists
Appendix: Quick Activity Reference
References & Resources
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