This post is the first of many I will be creating from the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute here at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The activity below is something we did on our first night, after we had dinner and a chance to introduce one another. This activity will, infectiously, help you remember the name of anyone in the group through either repetition or movement. The activity comes from Professor Caleen Jennings at American University.
First, make a circle. Then, in whatever order you wish (clockwise or counter) have each person say his or her name loud and clear for all to hear.
Then, have each person go around and say an adjective that describes him or her followed by the name (ex: Dancing David). Professor Jennings used a simple technique to make sure everyone was ready to do this (a technique she repeated for each subsequent step): she had us raise our hands when we were ready. Simple, effective, quick. Got to love it.
After the adjective addition, have the participants add a motion to the adjective name combination. This is where things become much more interactive. As each participant says his or her adjective and name, accompanied by the movement, the entire group repeats it. So, if Dancing David's motion is jazz hands, as soon as he says "Dancing David" and does his jazz hands, the whole group says "Dancing David" and does jazz hands. And there is seriously no place to hide; vulnerability and risk in a getting to know you game is a great way to start chipping at those too-cool-for-school exteriors so many students put up as a front.
After the previous step, each person does the same thing, but adds his or her favorite Shakespeare character ("Dancing David," jazz hands, "Richard the third"). The group repeats after each person as in the previous step, but adding the name of the character.
The next step is the same as the last, except you throw in a motion to match the character ("Richard the third," hand stretched out like a claw that tries to hold to his power).
Finally, each participant goes through the whole string again ("Dancing David," jazz hands, "Richard the third," hand stretched out like a claw that tries to hold to his power), but this time adds a stage death. This can be as silly or creative as each participant wants. One of our group's favorite characters was "Bear" and another "Pursued by." These two had very creative deaths.
So, it takes a while with all of the repetition of each person's adjective, name, gesture, character, gesture, and death, but it really cements each person's face and name in memory.
To illustrate, a number of us ran to Target for provisions. The entire way there, the entire time at the store, and the entire way back, we were calling each other by name, or miming an action to help us remember. Good times.