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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Leading Activities

      This past semester, I took a class called Social Recreation Leadership. In this class, we learned how to lead the activity and change during the activity as necessary. My professor has taught this class for 25 years, and these are his guidelines for leading activities. This is the third out of five posts about guidelines for leading activities.

     These guidelines are not intended to work in all situations. Guideline application requires leadership. You must decide what activities to use in different conditions. Leaders must be alert to potential problems and adjust quickly. Maximum fun and participation in a safe environment is the goal.

How to Establish and Maintain Group Control
            Getting everyone involved and keeping them involved throughout the program requires preparation. Starting with the first person use an activity (called a pre-opener) that will keep everyone busy until each person has arrived (if participants are arriving at separate times; if they will all already be there, pre-opener is not necessary). Follow up with something simple, fast, and easy to learn with no lag time. The pre-opener and first activity set the tone for the success of the rest of the program. Suggestions:

  • Smooth the transitions between events by using activities, where possible, that lead to the next event.
  • Start and end with your best events. Use the middle for flexibility.
  • Watch the pre-opener to see that it does not end before everyone has arrived, causing people to lose interest.
What to Look for during the Activities
            Maximum fun and participation in a safe environment is the goal. If any of these elements change, consider the following:
  • Switching to another event
  • Adjusting group size
  • Making rule changes
  • Adding new elements to the game
  • Adjusting unsafe conditions

Getting the Most Out of Your Games
            You can enhance or stretch out an activity just by the way you introduce and conduct it.
  • Incorporate fun, imaginative stories into your game instructions
  • Teach games in small steps or phases. Keep it simple. Add each rule as the situation presents itself
  • Add elements or variations to the game when an added boost is needed
  • Use themes to enhance activities
  • Watch for the best group size for the event
  • Leave game surprises out of the explanations. In safe outrageous games (“off the wall”), do not tell the participants everything they are going to do until the end of the explanation, then start quickly before they have a chance to bolt for the nearest exit.
  • Make the sequencing of events smooth

            Organize games and events in a logical, smooth order so that the fun is continuous – no lag time or long game explanations.
  • Where possible, organize so activities lead to the next activity, including refreshments
  • Group activities with similar formations and props
  • Alternate high-energy, low-energy activities

How to Make an Activity Fit Every Problem Situation
            You can alter a game or solve a problem simply by changing the rules. I call them “problem modifier rules.”
  • Speed up or slow down
  • Give more kids a chance to be “it”
  • Even up the teams
  • Involve more people
  • Make the game more or less complicated
  • Add or reduce energy
  • Add more noise
  • Make it quiet
  • Remove an unsafe situation

What Makes a Great 'Social'
  • Variety
  • Smooth movement – no gaps
  • Ending while the participants still want more
  • Entertaining activities
  • Fun
  • Everyone involved

Elements of a Great Activity
            Each activity will have a different combination of elements depending on its purpose.
  • Excitement
  • Suspense
  • Surprise
  • Frustration (humorous, not angry, frustration)
  • Humor
  • Fun and entertainment
  • Physical challenge
  • Mental challenge
  • Risk
  • Recognition
  • Building self-esteem
  • Everyone’s involvement
  • No elimination

Leading Songs
  • Sing the song first to demonstrate how it goes
  • Use repeat songs and chants (Example: audience repeat chorus, you sing verses)
  • Teach in small steps similar to games. Example: first sing the song a few times, then add actions, then add rounds, etc.
  • Add actions
  • Add rounds
  • Try to sing without printed copies (for yourself or the audience) – eye contact will enhance your song

Make It Safe
  • Make boundaries safe (do not use walls)
  • Remove sharp edges, protruding objects, etc.
  • Modify rules
  • Avoid running in opposite directions toward each other
  • Watch for physical and emotional safety

Making Elimination Games More Fun
            Use them as a transition technique into another game, refreshments, etc.

Controlling Large Groups
            Split into smaller workable groups (divide and conquer). You have better control if each leader
is over a small group rather than all leaders over one large group. The group leader becomes the spark plug for the small group. This also gives you the flexibility to arrange the groups into any formation or grouping you want. This technique especially works well with teenagers and children.

When To Change Games
            When the game is beginning to lose some of the fun, consider adding a new element for a boost or switching to a new game.

When Not To Change Games
            When the game is going well, keep it going. Sometimes the group is just starting to learn how to play and have fun with the game. Watch the fun element to decide when to move on.
            You are not in a race to see how many games you can play nor do you have to do all the games planned. If you are running out of time, just skip the last part of the program. No one will ever know the difference.

Please comment below to share your insights! What has worked for your groups? What advice would you share?

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