This activity is a simple concept that usually brings out a large amount of creativity for those colleagues or co-workers that we had boxed into a certain type of character.
Instructions for Once upon a Time Game
- The aim of the activity is to have the group create their own story
- Have one member of the group start things off, beginning the fictional story. For example, I was hiking in the mountains when I saw….
- The next person in the group who comes up with something to continue the story, will have to link elbows with the first person. They will then tell their story, for example, I saw an airplane crash in the trees…
- The story then carries on, with new people joining together in line. The story is being created one sentence and one person at a time.
- Make sure the story is easy to follow and keeps moving forward
- When you reach the last members in the group, have them try and to bring the whole story to a conclusion.
How to play Once upon a time in more detail
This is a wonderful activity, whereby you can encourage a group to use their imaginations and bring out each person’s creativity. Can you think on your feet and come up with a story that fits in with everybody else? You can either begin by asking the group as a whole to help you create a fictional and unique story, or without explaining too much, ask a volunteer to start with the opening sentence of a fictional story. It might be a little difficult to come up with the first line, but a story has to start somewhere.
The first volunteer to start off the story should only come up with a short sentence. Have this person step out in front of the group. The best way to start off a story, is with something that ends off with some suspense. They could say, for example, I was driving down a deserted road, when all of a sudden….
Have another volunteer to come up and continue the story. They must first link arms with the first volunteer and then offer their continuation of the story. The story should flow forward and should therefore carry on from the last sentence. For example, “when all of a sudden… I saw a bright light in the sky…”
Following this, a third person will add onto the story. When coming up with something, inform the group not to focus on too much detail, try keeping it simple. Have them use their imagination, anything appropriate goes. The story should flow from one person to the next, one sentence to the next, until everybody has had a turn. All members should now be linked together.
One of the more challenging parts of this activity, is to get the few remaining members, to bring the whole storyline to some kind of sensible conclusion. If everybody enjoyed this activity, try it out again, or have them try out some variations.
You can also add a number of different variations for this activity, for example:
- Reflect on things: You can use this technique of storytelling as a reflection tool. Everybody can voice their experiences of a specific event or activity using this method.
- Create a Story Circle: Have the members of the group make a connection with the start of the story and the end, making a linked and complete ‘story circle’. This means members must use their imaginations and come up with some good ideas and sentences, as they move along, in order to create a natural start and end to the story.
- The end is the beginning: Those groups who are very creative on their toes, can begin their story at the end. Have the first volunteer come up with the last sentence to the story first and then move on to the beginning of the story, like normal. Each sentence from then on must lead up to the end sentence, which was given first.
- There are many more ‘Making Connections’ activities, where groups can get to know each other better.
Facilitating Tips for Once upon a time
Introduce the activity by telling your group how many authors don’t know the ending to their stories. In fact, our lives are similar, nobody knows the outcome of their own personal story. What is going to happen next? This activity is a fun way to create our own story and its ending.
As a facilitator, be aware of the story line and how the story is progressing. Don’t let it get too out of hand or get to a point where the next person is confused about how to progress. To get everybody into thinking creatively, have them do a few short improvisational exercises before you start with the story. This just helps to warm up those imagination “muscles”.
Be prepared with a few opening lines, this is just in case the group needs a little shove in the right direction. Here are a few examples you can use and add onto:
- Once upon a time on an Island far away…
- Everybody was standing around waiting for…
- It was a stormy night, there was a knock at the door…
During the activity, if the group can’t come up with something to move the story forward, instead of offering suggestions, ask some questions. This should help to give the group some of their own ideas. Mainly ask questions that involve Who, Why, When, or How, which should elicit a positive response.
The second volunteer moves forward to link arms with the first volunteer, it doesn’t matter which arm is chosen. The rest of the group must then follow and link arms with the second volunteer and so on, as the story progresses.
Questions, tips and reflections
There are several reflection strategies, asking some questions is one way to help the group process their experience playing Once upon a time.
- What were you thinking about waiting for your turn?
- How did you feel about having to come up with something so quickly?
- What do you think is needed to create a space where creativity can flow? Does this happen for the group and for you personally?
Benefits of playing Once upon a time
- You don’t need any props and it is fairly simple to play
- Promotes working together
- Helps to encourage creativity and imagination
- Improves communication