Friday Lesson: Write Together Activity

Courtesy of Justin McGlamery & Michael Gessford|

Shared common physical activities can have a positive effect on group focus. Activities that provide everyone with the same experience allow groups to eliminate outside distractions and narrow their focus to a lower common denominator. A shared common physical activity can help your group refocus for a couple of reasons. First, everyone should feel pretty much the same physical forces in their bodies. That makes establishing and using a common language much easier. Participants will have a better understanding of the words being used by other group member, since they are all operating from the same base of physical sensation. Second, participants are focusing on a common object. This helps make the problem objective because the object is inanimate, making it impersonal. Focusing on other people sometimes leads to bickering and off-task conversation, thus affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the group.

Write Together

We originally saw a group-writing tool, using the concept of Bull Ring (Jim Cain in Teamwork & Teamplay), during an Adventure Practitioner’s Symposium at High 5 Adventure in Brattleboro, VT. It was in a workshop delivered by Soni Haflett, Betsi Seeley, and Mary Abreu, who are adventure facilitators from the organization called ALPS, Adventure Learning and Programming for Success.

Concept/ Objective
The objective of the activity is to have the group use the group-writing tool to write or create a drawing on a piece of paper that either represents them or answers a question they are given.

Props/Materials Needed/Preparation
The variation we use involves modifying an old 2.5″ diameter squeeze ball. Using an awl, and then a Phillips head screwdriver, poke a hole through the center of the squeeze-ball. Make the whole big enough to work a Sharpie through it. There still needs to be enough tension from the ball to secure the pen though. Once the pen is resting midway through the ball, just squeeze the ball into the middle of a bullring that has been made with a 2″ diameter ring. This can then be used to create the image on the piece of paper you supply for the group.

• Ask the group members to pick up their end of the string. Explain that the object is to apply some tension to the strings, and write on the paper.
• At this point, to help the group focus, have them draw an image that is fairly simple, perhaps a square or a triangle. Let them practice with the cap on, before removing it for the final try. Since all participants can see, it becomes easier for the group to focus and work together as they create.

A possible debrief would be to ask the group members if they noticed a difference in their reactions between when they had to give more tension and when they had to remove some tension as the shape of drawing was being created. In the original Bull Ring progression, group members are indeed pulling in opposite directions to provide the required tension, but they are all moving in similar directions to solve the challenge. When participating in Write Together, members must, at times, move in opposite directions in concert with other participants, in order to solve the problem. That give and take could spark discussions for a rich reflection from the participants about the way they work together under normal circumstances.

The shared physical experience the group has in the Write Together activity is one that also lends itself well to a discussion about Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a South African term from the Bantu language that beautifully encompasses the concepts of connectedness and how people can and should coexist. Simply explained, Ubuntu means a person is a person through other people. Or, put even more simply, I am because we are, or even more simply, me, we. Embracing the philosophy of Ubuntu and embedding it into your programming will ultimately enrich collaboration and contribute to a vital learning environment. Look for the chapter about Ubuntu in our book, Focus Your Locus.

This lesson is compliments of Michael Gessford and Justin McGlamery. To find more information and to contact the authors, please visit:

Thanks for joining us in March, 2010 for Friday Lessons. Michael Gessford and Justin McGlamery are the coauthors of Focus Your Locus.

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