Excerpted from Actively Engaged:Theater Games as a Dynamic Teaching Tool in the Classroom, written by Priscilla Kane Hellweg and due out in 2016.
Notes: This game is a great energizer. It’s fast, fun, and infectious, and it can bring large groups into cooperative focus in a very short amount of time. I find it’s an especially good example of how to commit attention to a moment. You can’t succeed at the game if you are not fully present. This is the game most often requested by students to play when there is a free moment.
Object of the Game: To pass a handclap around the circle, in groups of two, quickly and efficiently.
Recommended for: Groups in Grades 4 and up. Room set up: A cleared space with room for group to stand in a large circle. Materials Needed: None Time Needed: 5 minutes
Skills Development: Energy, Focus, Self-control, Participation, Team Building, Trust.
The group stands in a tight circle. Begin by asking everyone in the circle to CLAP at the same time with you – one sound, many hands. Try clapping in unison three times to enable the group to become in synch with each other.
Then, explain that you’re going to clap in partners and send it around the circle. (A) turns to face (B) and together they clap their hands once, at the same time. (B) then faces (C) and they clap. Then (C) faces (D) and they clap. Pass the clap around the circle, gaining speed and rhythm as you go.
Once they get the technique, encourage them to switch directions at will, at any point around the circle. Eye contact is essential at every level of this game.
Sometimes to up the ante, I’ll use a stopwatch to time how quickly the group can pass a clap around the circle. Once we see how long it takes, I challenge them to beat their own time.
Once the group is adroit at passing a clap around the circle, try passing it across the circle. This variation is much harder. The challenge is to be intentional in your passing. Eye contact is the key. (A) makes eye contact with a person across the circle (H) and they clap together. (H) then makes eye contact with another person across the circle (N) and they clap together. (N) then passes the clap to another person, an so on. For this to work, all participants need to be alert and ready to respond.