The story-telling methods described on this page include games and exercises that can help to prepare the ground for using story-based review methods.
If you are looking for an 'icebreaker' to get a new group interacting take a look at Brief Encounters where people meet in one-to-one encounters to share their success stories (and it's fun!).
Tip: Remember that 'warm-ups' can be 'turn-offs' if they last too long. Your own judgement and preferences will determine whether such games provide a suitable or useful introduction.
In warm-ups, the emphasis is on fun and story-telling rather than on the content which may be deliberately trivial. But where warm-ups can lead into reviewing techniques, you will find examples of transitions from 'warm-up' to review technique.
FORTUNATELY ... UNFORTUNATELY
Alternate these two words as sentence beginnings in a 'round'. (This link takes you to a page about 'rounds'.) The first person says: 'Fortunately ... ' (e.g. ' ... we won the lottery.'). The second person says: 'Unfortunately ...' (e.g. '... no-one could find the ticket.'). The third person continues the story with a 'fortunately', the fourth with an 'unfortunately' etc.
Tip: As most players want to contribute both 'good news' and 'bad news', either ensure there is an odd number of players (by joining in or not - as appropriate), or encourage occasional passing (something that should be allowed anyway).
This game can stay in the world of fantasy. You can also use it as a structure for reviewing a group activity. This can be particularly useful if the group are likely to see the activity as 100% success or as 100% failure. This game brings out a more balanced view - after going through some entertaining absurdities along the way.
WHY? WHY? WHY? (WWW)
As a warm-up, set up interview pairings. The smaller person is A, the taller is B. A makes a personal statement (e.g. what they had for breakfast, what they want for Christmas, why they came on the course) and B asks 'why?'. A answers, B asks 'why?' etc. etc. It's easy for B! At a suitable point, swap roles and restart. (See the note below about the right to pass or stop.)
As a reviewing technique: Don't explain the exercise just yet.
First, ask each person to write down a statement about the activity or experience to be reviewed - any statement will do. Then ask them to form twos or threes (or stay as a whole group if preferred). One person reads out their statement and a listener asks 'why?'. The person who gave the statement provides an answer. This is immediately followed by another 'why?'. And so it continues until you get to the meaning of life, or keep going round in circles, or until someone (likely to be the 'answerer') decides that enough is enough - or claims the right of privacy.
Note (for both versions): It's a good game for adults because it's a child's game! Children are naturally more inquisitive and persistant (both excellent attributes for effective learning!). Children play it naturally - as questioners, if not as 'answerers'. It can be trivial or profound - which is why it is important to make it clear that everyone has a right to veto or pass if they don't like where the 'why?' question is leading (even though it is only reflecting back what they are saying). It's a quick way to get to values underlying actions or opinions. As a warm-up it makes it clear that the learning event is going to be working at a number of different levels, and with any luck, one of these will be humour!. Once introduced as a warm-up game it can readily be returned to later on as a 'serious' tool for reviewing.
Here is an example from TeamCommunications.com of the why game being used for reviewing ...
'Tip: Use 'Why, why why...'
State clearly what the problem is - what the symptoms are, then ask 'Why is this happening?' Then 'why' again. Then again.
How does this help?
An example - let's say there have been several accidents with a packing line. The first question might ascertain the fact that a piece of equipment on it was being used inapropriately.' Why?' - again may reveal that people were not aware of it. 'Why?' again - people were not fully trained. 'Why?' - we didn't plan this in when we were commisioning the new machine. This technique is very powerful in that you can get to the root causes of problems, and take action on them, rather than superficial symptoms, or inappropriate fixes.
This technique is also very useful for a team that is trying to set objectives - particularly trying to establish a clear understanding of business purpose.
The above tip is an extract from the Team Toolkit page at
This is a family favourite. It also teaches connection making skills and can assist with the transfer of learning.
First the 'family' version:
- The child comes up with three things (real or abstract) that they want in their story e.g. 'Father Christmas', 'me' and 'a huge present'. You instantly tell a story with these three things in it.
- Each child (approximately 3!) comes up with a 'thing' that really challenges the story-teller e.g. 'the dirt in my finger-nail', 'spending £100 million in a minute' and 'a really, really, really funny ending'. You do your best! But when children get this 'clever' it's definitely time to turn the tables (and let them enjoy story-telling) ...
- You come up with 3 'things' for the child (or children) to tell you a story about.
Now the 'professional' version:
- Ask each individual to choose three different 'things' from the course that they want to remember ('things' they valued directly, or 'things' they valued indirectly because of what they learned as a result). Ask each individual to describe these three different things to a partner in a way that brings out similarities or connections.
- Ask each individual to choose one high(ish) point from the course and one low(ish) point from the course and then to imagine a situation six months ahead when they are facing a problem and have a 'flashback' to the course. Ask each individual to tell a story (to the group or to a partner) which brings these three 'things' together into one story. A more challenging variation is to ask each person to write a 'future problem' on a piece of paper and put the 'problem' into a hat. Each person in turn, draws a (random) problem and incorporates it into a story with the high and low points they have already chosen.
JUST A MINUTE
This is based on the BBC radio programme of the same name. One person is given a topic and has to talk on that subject for just a minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Challenges can be made at any time. If successful (the referee's decision is final) then the successful challenger carries on with the same topic for however many seconds remain - until they are successfully challenged etc. The person whose turn it is when the minute is up wins something (e.g. a point). A timekeeper (with stopwatch) is needed to stop the watch as soon as a challenge is made, and to restart it as soon as the chair has announced her verdict and has said who should continue talking on the topic. Once a group understands the game, the roles of chair and timekeeper can be on a rota.
The transition to a reviewing technique is when the topics chosen (by the facilitator or by group members) are about experiences they have had together, and the deviation rule is tightened up to prevent people straying too far away from events in this group. Try throwing in some jargon or clichés that have become common currency in the group (e.g. 'trust', 'co-operation', 'communications', 'listening', 'assertiveness'). In just a minute these words can become so 'dissected' that the group may choose to use them a little more accurately in the future!
SOUND BITE STORY
A story is told in a round with each person only allowed to use a certain number of words (e.g. 5 words). If a narrator runs out or words before finishing a sentence, the next person simply continues where the previous narrator stopped. Try it with a fantasy story until people get the idea, then apply it to a real event that the group has shared. Don't expect anything profound to come from this - but don't dismiss the possibility! It's a quick warm-up exercise that may also bring out items or issues for review. Place this technique in the hands of psychologists and there is no end to the possible interpretations (see The Group Tell-A-Story. Yes, you can learn about people and groups from how they play, but my personal preference is to use Sound Bite Story as a fun game of little significance beyond the mood that it generates.