Looking for a small group activity to prompt discussion about patterns of behavior for the first week of high school sociology.I want to start a conversation about the way we learn our patterns,...

Looking for a small group activity to prompt discussion about patterns of behavior for the first week of high school sociology.

I want to start a conversation about the way we learn our patterns, that they are not "instincts."

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a ropes course facilitator, I used several different "initiative" and problem solving activities that would certainly spark a discussion of this nature.  I'll share one below, but if you want other ideas I encourage you to do some quick Internet research using keywords like "low ropes initiative games" or "ropes course problem solving ice breakers."  There are simply too many to list and unless you've participated in them before, the directions can range from very simple to very complicated.

One simple activity that leaves a lot of room for variation is the Human Knot.  The basic premise is that you have each of your students create a tight circle, shoulders touching, and have everyone grab a hand of someone else across from them.  Then, without letting go of any hands, the entire class must unravel this "human knot" to form one large circle (or as the case may be, a couple of small circles).

It is possible some of your students have done it before which does not kill the activity because every knot is different.  You can, however, create absolutely any rule you desire to make the activity more or less difficult.  Examples include blindfolding different students, muting certain students (or the entire class), or having two different groups of students (males versus females perhaps) compete to unravel two different knots.

The most important part of the activity, of course, is not the solving of the problem, but debriefing the process.  I typically use a similar line of questioning as I seek to get students to really think about what was accomplished.  As the answers become more thoughtful, you would attempt to gravitate the conversation to your above topic.  A sample line of questioning might go something like this:

  1. How did this activity go? Do you feel like it was perfect, or could have gone better?
  2. What skills/behaviors were most helpful? (Communication should be a key answer here, and if you muted all of the students they will think about how to communicate without words.)
  3. What skills/behaviors were lacking or detrimental to the process?
  4. What role did you play, individually?  How do you feel about that? (Some students might be frustrated or feel ignored.  Others might have simply deferred leadership to one or two people.)
  5. Has anyone done this before? (This might be a question you ask at the beginning of the activity as well.)  What patterns or techniques did you rely on to solve the problem?
  6. If we did this activity again, do you think it would be easier the second time around? Why or why not? (This is the question that should help you move the discussion toward your above goal.)
  7. Did you rely on instincts to accomplish this activity, or did you rely on things you already know or have learned? (Here, answers may depend on how well students know others in class.  If many are friends with each other, their behavior is going to be much different than if they feel like strangers.  Compare and contrast relationships between students and how they helped or did not help the activity.)

You can see that such an activity has a lot of room for multiple angles and approaches to your discussion, but also leaves room for other discussion.  I caution you to block out enough time to accomplish what you seek to do, or to know when to cut things off so you can pick them up again the next day.