TO BE FOCUSED is to be in control of your own actions, deeply aware of the actions of those around you and direct your efforts to manipulating attention. Focus activities allow students to engage their concentration through not only minds but also their bodies and voices. They are designed to change mindsets to better prepare students to engage with work and assessment.
The players sit in a circle. The teacher chooses a detective and sends them outside. The teacher silently selects a murderer whose task is to try and kill off the other players by winking at them. Once the detective re-enters and stands in the center of the circle the game begins and the murderer may start killing people. The detective’s task is to try and guess who the murderer is with three guesses before too many people die. The rest of the students are given the task of concealing the murderer’s identity.
Variation 1 – In this version, the students are not seated in a circle; instead, they are to continually walk around the classroom, filling the gaps where necessary. When they die, the student sits out. When the detective wants to guess, they yell freeze, to which the class freezes. Once the guess has occurred the walking continues.
Variation 2 – Students join hands. The chosen murderer kills people through squeezing hands. If they want to kill a person 3 places away from them in the circle, they squeeze the person next to them hand 3 times, who then squeeze the next person twice, who then squeezes the next person once and they are dead.
Arrange the students in a circle. Start by having students, one at a time, count around the circle to 7 (or any number of your choosing). Student A says 1, student B says 2, etc. until it gets to student H who then starts again at 1. After you’ve gone around the circle once then replace number 1 with an action e.g. The student who is supposed to say 1 claps their hands above their head. This is then followed on by the next 6 students saying the numbers 2, 3, 4 etc. As the game progresses, each spoken number is one at a time replaced with an action until there are 7 actions. If a student is too slow or makes a mistake they are out; they sit down.
Variation – (Easier) Play the game seated in pairs on the floor. Count 1-3 taking it in turns to say each number e.g. A says 1, B say 2, A says 3, B say 1 and so on. Then replace 1 with a clap. So, A claps, B says 2, A says 3, B says 1 and so on.
Players form a circle, each standing at arm’s width away from each other and strike a ninja pose. Randomly the teacher chooses a ninja to begin. Players then go in order of clockwise around the circle. On their turn, each player can attack the player to their left or right by taking one step and cleanly striking with one hand to try and eliminate them by making contact between their elbow and fingertip. Players must stiffly hold the position they end their move in; they cannot retract their arm. The attacked player may defend by taking one step away. The next player can move once the previous player has finished their attack.
Jump In/Jump Out
Students stand in the space and link hands. The leader calls “Jump in”. The group must say and do this in unison. Repeat with Jump Out, Jump Left, Jump Right. Aim for unison and energy, vocal and physical.
Round 2: Opposite command, same action. The leader calls “Jump In”. The group calls the opposite, “Jump out”, but follows the command and Jumps In.
Round 3: Same command, opposite action. The leader calls “Jump left”, the group repeats the command, “Jump left”, but does the opposite action, Jump Right.
Round 4: Opposite command, opposite action. The leader calls “Jump right”, the group calls the opposite, “Jumps left” and completes this opposite action, Jump Left.
Catch My Name
Students form a circle. One student is selected to go in the middle, they are the leader. The leader is handed a soft ball. Students take a step back in the circle, making sure they have enough space. The leader begins the game by calling out a fellow student’s name and saying, “catch or “don’t catch.” The leader throws the ball to the student they selected. The student will either catch or not catch the ball, depending on what the leader specified. If the student drops the ball when they were supposed to catch the ball, they are out. If the student catches the ball when they weren’t supposed to, they are out. The leader’s job is to trick as many students as possible into getting out. The last student standing is the winner. The leader can be swapped with other students throughout the game.
Random 21 Clap
This game works best with a larger class – say 15-30. The students sit in a circle and one student is nominated to start the clap’, then others must clap randomly until ‘the clap’ reaches 21 claps. If two people clap at the same time, then the clap starts at 1 again. The only key rule is that students aren’t allowed to work out a pattern, say clapping around in a row, or for one student to do all 25 claps. The claps must be totally random, and students must focus and feel their way through the game. This game helps students focus, tune in to their sixth sense, learn to listen and work with each other towards a goal.
Variation – the students sit in a circle and an object is placed in the middle. All students stare at the object and as a group must count to 21. If two students say a number at the same time, they must go back to zero and start again.
Players stand in a circle, hold each hand in the formation of a mimed gun and place them in their pockets/by their sides. The player in the middle then points their ‘gun’ at a player in the circle and says “BANG!”. That player then must “duck” out of the way and the two players on either side must turn and ‘shoot’ at each other saying “BANG”. If the player who was originally ‘shot’ does not duck out of the way in time – they are out. Otherwise, the last student to shoot and say “BANG” is out. Anyone else who fires a false shot is out. Eventually there is only 2 students remaining – in which a ‘face off’ or ‘paper scissors rock’ can decide the winner.
I Went To The Zoo
Arrange the players in a circle. Student A starts by saying “I went to the Zoo and I saw…” they then state an adjective, animal, sound and a movement e.g. “I went to the Zoo and I saw a squawking parrot” whilst flapping their arms like wings and then making a bird noise. The next student in the circle, student B, must repeat the sentence and action of the A and then add their own unique sentence and action; creating a sequence. E.g. “I went to the Zoo and I saw a squawking parrot” whilst flapping their arms like wings and then making a bird noise and then stating, “I went to the Zoo and I saw a growling tiger” whilst making thrashing arm movements and a growling noise. The next student in the circle, student C, repeats the sentences and actions of the first two and then adds another unique sentence and action to the sequence. This pattern continues around the circle until someone can’t replicate the sequence and therefore is out; they sit down. The game continues until there is one student left who must perform the full sequence of sentences and actions to win.
Variation – This game can be easily adapted to mimed objects e.g. “I went on holidays and I took with me a …” whilst the student mimes using a camera and makes a clicking noise.
Variation – You could also theme it to people (movie characters or singers or cartoon characters) and instead of a sound, the students add a line of dialogue e.g. “I went to the Movies and I saw Jack Dawson from Titanic” whilst the student recreates the moment arms spread moment from Titanic whilst saying, “I’m the king of the world!”
Arrange the students in a circle. The teacher chooses an inspector who leaves the room. Once the inspector is out of sight the teacher chooses a leader to start the action. The leader starts doing a very slow action which is simple to follow. It is everyone else’s objective to try and follow the leader closely; replicating the action so precisely that no one can tell who it is that is leading the action. Remind the students that if they continuously look directly at the leader they will be found out. Once the action is started the teacher invites the inspector back in and they stand in the center of the circle. The inspector gets three guesses. Once the inspector has guessed correctly or used up their three guesses, the leader is revealed, and the game is over.
Variation -A simple version of this game can be played in pairs. Student A and B face each other. Student A starts the action and student B mirrors their action as close as possible. Once student B gets the hang of it student A can speed the movement up slightly or make the movement more difficult.
Participants are asked to mill around the space in neutral, filling any gaps they see. A series of very simple commands are called out and participants, at first, just follow the instructions and focus on milling about the space. The last person to complete the action is out. The commands are:
“Stop” freeze and “Go” they move; “Jump” jump up once and then keep moving and “Clap” stop clap hands once and keep walking; “Centre” they clump together in the middle of the room and “Wall” they move to an external wall; and “Grab” they reach out and grab another student’s shoulder and “Point” they stop walking and point to an object in the room.
Variation 1 – Once participants have a solid understanding of these commands, you then swap them over! So when the teacher says “stop” what they really mean is for everyone to “go”, etc.
Variation 2 – Add additional commands – sit & reach etc.
Students stand in a circle. Students are given a topic of debate, for example: whose turn is it to wash the dishes? Or if aliens exist or not. The students choose which side of the argument they are on. The first student starts with their statement and then the next student in the circle gets a turn. However, their sentence must start with the next letter of the alphabet. So, the first sentence must start with the letter A, second sentence the letter B, third C and so on. If a student uses the wrong letter or takes longer than 3 seconds to think about what to say, they are out and sit down.
Variation 1 – Instead of an argument it’s a conversation and the teacher gives the class a topic to discuss e.g. “The History of Australia”.
Arrange the students in a circle. Student A performs a single action e.g. star jump, tapping their head three times, drawing a circle on the floor with their foot, etc. The next student in the circle, student B, must repeat the action of the first and then add their own unique action creating a sequence. The next student in the circle, student C, repeats the actions of the first two and then adds another unique action to the sequence. This pattern continues around the circle until someone can’t replicate the sequence and therefore is out; they sit down. The game continues until there is one student left who must perform the full sequence of actions to win.
One student is selected to stand in the middle of the space. This person is the rescuer! A circle of chairs is set down facing the rescuer so that half the class can sit down. These students are prisoners. The other half, one standing behind each chair, are their Jailers, who must prevent the prisoners from escaping. The rescuers must now attempt to save the prisoners by winking at them. If you receive a wink, you must dive for the rescuer, out of your jailer’s reach. Your jailor, without deserting their post, must try to tag you as you make your move (just a touch, it does not need a wrestle). If you are tagged by your jailor, you must sit back down.
Off the Space
Each student (but one) places a chair (or block) randomly in the room. The students move around the space according to the command given by the teacher (like walking on hot stand or like a superhero or on all fours etc.) When the teacher yells “Off the Space” all students must leap onto one chair (or block) to get themselves off the floor. The person without a chair is eliminated. Then remove a chair and the game continues.
Students stand in a circle with their hands together (like they are praying) as their swords. A nominated student starts and raises their arms, still in the prayer position, above their head outstretched. The activity begins. The nominated student makes eye contact with another random student in the circle, makes the sound “HA” and strikes their hands like a sword by moving their arms down. The other student says “HA” and moves their arms up above their head whilst at the same time the students either side of them also say “HA” and move their arms in a horizontal line towards the person chosen. These three people should move and make the sound “HA” simultaneously. Any of their students who aren’t in time are out and they sit down.
Students are seated in a circle. The teacher nominates a student who will crack the code. That student needs to leave the room while the teacher establishes the code to the remainder of the students. Once the code is established, the student who was outside enters the room, stands in the centre of the circle and begins the task by selecting a student and asking them a question. Questions need to be relatively obvious like: What’s the colour of your hair? What’s your name? How old are you? etc. The student may repeat the same question to any number of students. The given code will be demonstrated through how the students answer the questions. For example, the code may be extremely simple like everyone must tap their head when they give an answer. A good code to begin with would be that students must answer the questions as if they are the person on their right. The code can be visual e.g. student must scratch their arm when answering, or auditory e.g. students must use the word “um” in their answer. Older classes could come up with their own codes.
The students stand in a circle with a chair, ensuring the seat is facing away from them. The chair must be placed on its front two legs and only be made stable by one finger, touching the top of the chair. Students are not allowed to clutch onto the chair. The teacher calls out a series of commands and students must perform the actions. This is an elimination game so if a chair falls, the student who is responsible or is becoming responsible for the chair in front of them is out. The eliminated players take their chair, exit the circle and the rest of the group closes the circle in removing the gap. Play until two people are left and finish with a western style shoot out. The Commands are: Right- students move one chair to the right, grabbing the chair before it drops to the ground. Left- students move one chair to the left, grabbing the chair before it drops to the ground. Spin – students spin on the spot, catching the chair before it drops.
What Are You Doing?
Students start by standing in a circle. The teacher gives the first student an everyday activity like washing dishes which they perform as a mime. The next person in the circle says, “What are you doing”. The first person must continue to mime their action but must say something completely different like “I’m typing on a typewriter”. The second person begins “typing on a typewriter” and then the third person says, “What are you doing?” and the game continues. Students who repeat action which has already been done, add sound or stall are out.
Floor Hand Tap
The students either sit or kneel in a close circle. They place their hands in front of the two people beside them and therefore directly in front of them is the right hand of the person to their left and the left hand of the person to their right. A person is nominated to start, and they tap their right hand on the floor. The next hand in a clockwise direction is next to tap (which belongs to the left hand of the person to their right) and then the next hand (the right hand of the person to their left) and then the original starting player taps their left hand, and the pattern continues. To reverse the order a player double taps the floor. If a student lifts or taps their hand when it isn’t their turn, they remove that hand and it is out of play. If a player loses both their hands, then they are out. Play continues until there is one or two winners.
Students start standing in a circle and have their hands in the shape of a gun at their sides or in their pockets. The teacher stands in the centre with their hands shaped as a gun. They point to a random student and say a category e.g. colours. That student then ducks down and the students either side point at each other and say something that fits into that category. The student who points and says the thing first is the winner and the other student is out.
Students start in a circle. Then demonstrate to the class a stanza of four parts. Student 1 says “One duck” Student 2 “fell in” Student 3 “the pond” Student 4 “kerplunk”. The class has successfully recited the stanza once. The second time the stanza is recited, each line is repeated twice. Student 1 says “Two ducks” Student 2 “Two ducks” Student 3 “fell in” Student 4 “fell in”. The third time the stanza is repeated, each line is repeated three times etc. Continue until someone makes an error who is eliminated or make the class restart.
Variation – Actions can be added to accompany the words.
Hunter & the Hunted
Seat all students in a circle. Nominate one student to take on the role of the hunter and one (on the opposite side of the circle) to take on the role of the hunted. Both students need to be blindfolded. Once the two students are blindfolded, the teacher needs to discretely place a set of keys somewhere inside the circle and create an opening in the circle. The object of the game is for the hunted to find the keys and flee to the safety of the outside of the circle. The hunter must search for the hunted and try and tag them. Students must be aware that their movements need to be extremely slow, mostly so that the other participant does not hear them move. Both students must only crawl on their hands and knees. The observing students seated in the circle become the boundary and gently guide the students back to the circle if they reach the boundary.
Students take up a frozen position and the teacher becomes the curator who visits their wax statues each night. The teacher may speak, touch or move the students (but not deliberately tickle them) but the students must not break focus or move their eyes (although they can blink and breathe). When the teacher’s back is turned, the wax statues may move but if the teacher catches them, they are out. It is more important for the students to take risks and thereby engage the audience than it is for them to “win”.
Variation – Students are given a category for their wax statues e.g. dinosaurs, fashion model mannequins, jungle animals, etc. Variation – The game is played in the dark with the curator (teacher or nominated student) with a torch. When the curator’s back is turned the wax statues must continuously change positions. If the curator shines the torch on them and catches them moving, they are out.
All students are blindfolded and placed in different locations in the space. One is secretly tapped to be the “snake”. The snake’s objective (tension of task which they will succeed in doing) is to “kill” all the victims. They do this by hissing as they squeeze the shoulder (or arm) of the other players. The victims’ objective is to stay alive as long as possible (but they will all eventually be caught) The victims must not “fight” the snake. Once “killed” the player takes off their blindfold and helps the teacher keep the participants safe from room hazards and they MUST remain quiet. Participants should be advised to move slowly with their hands out in front, (NO running), they must be standing always, and they can’t stop moving through the space (no hiding in a corner). Teacher as side coach can call names of participants to “go slow” or to “stop” if in danger of hitting something quite hard. They can also call out how many “victims” remain at various points. Once there is only one victim remaining, call pause and the players who are now out create a “safety circle which reduces the size of the playing space. The snake can now “clap” and the victim must immediately clap in reply. It is just a matter of time now, before the final victim is caught. N.B. all elements of Drama are at play so it’s great as a teaching tool to unpack those.
No Yes or No No
Arrange the students in pairs. Student A’s objective is to quick fire Student B with questions with natural yes or no answers. B’s objective is to answer the questions, but they are not permitted to answer with “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “um”, “arh”, stall, give the same answer twice or give a physical response only, like nodding or shaking their head. They must come up with an innovative way of answering the question. If B does slip up, then the pair swap roles with B posing the questions to A. Variation -Student A stands in the performance space with the whole class fires questions at them. The student who elicited the question which A slipped up on replaces them as the new answer.