I always use some short, entertaining exercises to help break the ice and add a little fun and variety to my life story workshops. If you’re looking for something, consider some of those on my list. Please let me know in the comments below if you have some other exercises you’ve used and would like to share .
- The six-word memoir. Made popular by Smith Magazine, the idea is to have participants use six-words to capture their life stories. I usually hand out small 2″ x 3″ cards for people to use. After some sharing of mini memoirs, I collect the cards and put them in a box for a prize draw at the end of my workshop.
- The story behind my name. I divide the class into pairs if it’s large and have each partner share the story behind his or her name. After about 15 minutes I gather the group together and have people share their “name” stories. It’s always a crowd pleaser!
- A favorite object. Everyone has something they treasure. I bring a favorite item of mine to the workshop. I talk about what it is, how I acquired it, and why it’s special to me. Then I have the class break into pairs and have each partner describe a favorite object. After 15 or 20 minutes, I ask for some sharing of “favorite object” stories.
- A peak life experience. I describe to the class a peak moment in my life. I provide as much detail as possible – where it was, when it happened,who was there, and how I felt. I then have the workshop participants find a partner and have each share with one another a peak experience. After 15 to 20 minutes, I have the group reassemble and ask for volunteers to share a peak moment.
- A special place. This can be from any period in one’s life. I recall a huge hollowed out tree stump in the forest near our home. This was my special place when I was a boy. It was off the beaten track and known only to me. I would go there when I was feeling adventurous or when I was troubled. I ask my workshop participants to share with a partner a special place in their lives. Later I ask for some individuals to share a description of a special place.
- A photo story. I’ll admit that I haven’t tried this exercise yet. I dreamed it up recently and can’t wait to use it in my next workshop. I have a photo in my personal collection that you can see below.
Here’s the exercise. I’ll hand out a copy of the photo to each workshop participant and ask them to take 20 minutes to write a story behind the photo. I won’t give any clues as to the real story. Then I’ll ask various people to read out their stories. I think there’ll probably be some interesting variety. To conclude I’ll tell the real story of the photo. Curious? Well, you’ll just have to come to my workshop. Or you could check out my post on Wednesday, February 10th.
Photo by iStockphoto
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