Barnga!

This is an activity I observed and assisted with, but it was so interesting I wanted to write about it anyway.  Last night in our master’s level class, Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, we were slated to cover multiculturalism.  Now, the topic itself is very interesting, but the powerpoint slides that came with our textbook were very long and very, very dry.

So we decided to play cards.  We split the class into 3 groups of 4-5 students.  You can do slightly bigger groups, or increase the number if you have a large class.  Each group was given a deck of cards and rules of the game. What the students didn’t know is that each set of rules was slightly different!  They  had 5 minutes to practice and learn the rules, then we took all the rules away and instructed them to play without speaking.  They could gesture and draw, but not spell out or otherwise indicate numbers.  Once they had finished that hand, the winner was told to move to another group.  The next round was played with one new member.

What happened next was very interesting.  We heard and saw several frustrated, confused, and wildly gesturing players.  Others did not seem fazed.  After that round completed, we again moved the winners and played again.  This time they seemed more resigned.  We suspected they had picked up on the fact that they were given different rules, and had seemed to adjust to it, so we stopped the game.

We took about an hour to process it.  Many students knew immediately what had happened, but it was very interesting to hear how they responded to the silent misunderstandings.  We talked about what it was like to be the “new person” who “didn’t know the rules,” and how some felt suspicious of the majority, frustrated or just plain out of place.  We also talked about the efforts made by the majority players to make the new player feel welcome.  We talked about implicit rules of a culture, and how that affects group dynamics.  Adjectives used by the students to describe the activity included “insightful”, and “clever.”

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