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Snowball Warm-ups

P4C needs both individual boldness to create ideas and group collaboration to explore them. This week, three “snowball warm-ups” to choose from, which develop both those aspects.

Snowball Statues

“5, 4, 3, 2, 1… pose!” – on “pose!”, each person poses his body into a unique statue, different to everyone else’s. Do this a few times, then switch to just posing faces into different expressions. Then put bodies and faces together. As the game continues the poses become bolder and more imaginative.

Now comes the snowball bit. Pair up. Explain that in their pair, working together, they are going to create just one of whatever you call out. Then you might choose…

Make me… an elephant! (Count down from 10, rather slower, before they freeze into their final position.)
… a Christmas tree!
… a square!
… a swan. etc.

Then into 4s, 8s and larger groups with more challenging things to “make” – a washing machine, Stonehenge, a tank, and for a whole-group finale, perhaps a piano or a pirate galleon. It’s crucial, of course, that the group is working together to make just one of whatever it is with their combined bodies.

Snowball Proverbs

Model with a colleague, or by pretending to be both people in the pair. The aim is to create proverbs which may turn out to be accidentally wise or deliberately absurd. Start with “always” or “never”. Each person in the pair contributes one word at a time, alternating. For example

A: Always
B: go
A: to
B: Wales
A: when
B: you
A: are
B: thirsty.

They can finish with a “hmmm” when they feel their proverb is complete. After they have practiced in 2s, merge them into 4s, then 8s… until the whole group are collaborating together to create absurd words of wisdom.

Snowball Stories

This works in just the same way as Snowball Proverbs, but with a word-at-a-time story. It works best if it starts with “once upon a time there was a..” Again, once they have got the hang of it, snowball the pairs into 4s, etc. until the whole group are collaborating on the creation of a single story. It’s important for both these games that people don’t try to control what other people are saying, and just go with the flow.

Why Snowball?

A common problem in P4C is whole-group talk being dominated by 1/4 to 1/3 of the participants in a group – speaking in front of everyone can be too intimidating for some. These games start with very limited exposure – with lots of pairs doing an exercise simultaneously, there is “safety in numbers” and nobody feels everyone is watching them, and they are low-stakes, light-hearted tasks, so less confident children still get involved. The energy and humour inherent in the activity then creates a welcoming buzz in which to do/speak in front of a progressively larger audience. The games are also great for attentive listening, collaboration and self-regulation.

Children find these games delightful, and I find that if I warm up a group in this way, the participation in the main discussion afterwards is “braver” and more broadly distributed.

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