My Top Ten Name Game Questions

If I were to write a book called, “How to Teach with Flair,” I’d have an entire chapter on the power of name games.  Before I teach any class, I have to know these folks, and they have to know me.  The foundation of teaching–that base of solid rock supporting the whole framework–is community.  We have to know each other, and then, we transfer information in that beautiful and mysterious moment called teaching.

And yes, we all have to know first and last names.  Knowing names changes something. 

When you know each other, barriers drop, the mind opens, and we recognize the dignity and contribution of every person in the room.  I can’t imagine teaching without this foundation in place.  

It’s the same for Sunday school classes, neighborhood groups, business seminars, book clubs, family dinners, or any other gathering.  When we connect with one another, something marvelous stirs and rises within us.

Here are my Top 10 Name Game questions with some of the best or most common answers I’ve received in ten years of teaching.  So, say your name and:  

1.  What were you known for in school?  (embracing mediocrity)
2.  What accomplishment to date are you most proud of? (beating cancer)
3.  What was the last thing you googled? (the snowy owl)
4.  What’s something you consider yourself addicted to? (the Food Network)
5.  What’s a movie you think everyone should see?  What’s a movie you think nobody should see? (Life is Beautiful / Hancock)
6.  In a group of 3 people, find the most bizarre thing you have in common. (All obsessed with the cartoon, “Thundercats” and knowing lots of Thundercats trivia)
7.  What’s a song or youtube video you like to listen to or watch over and over again? (Hit Me Baby One More Time / Crazy Cats)
8.  What was your favorite childhood toy? (a tree)
9.  What is your favorite home-cooked meal? (homemade mac-n-cheese)
10.  What is your favorite way to procrastinate?  (Facebook)

I love name games because they connect us.  Tomorrow, I’m asking students to tell me their favorite quotation.  I’ll learn more about them in that moment than you can imagine.

Living with flair means I play name games when I’m in a group.  It might be silly, but it creates serious connection. 

Journal:  What’s another great get-to-know-you type of question I can ask a group?

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8 Responses

  1. Johan and Roberta, I'm definitely using these! What would people not guess about me? Hmmm. Maybe that I love American Idol so much? Maybe that I can eat a whole can of beets? I absolutely love beets! It's the strangest thing.

  2. Your theory about name games really works – I've seen its effects. You may have been the inspiration behind by opening every swim practice with a name game, so my kids definitely owe you. They establish community, they absolve barriers, they make each person feel important. Good stuff. Here's a few that I use, though they may be tailored to a slightly younger audience:

    – Say your favorite animal and then say a standard sentence the way you think that animal would speak if it had the ability to

    – Say an adjective that describes you best (that also starts with the first letter of your name) followed by your name

    – Make up a movement to go with your name and everyone does their move in the circle once. After this, people say their name, do their movement, and then pass it to someone else by doing their movement. Example: Meghan (swim in air) to Heather (mime drinking from a coffee mug) and so on

  3. If you were an animal, what one would you be, and why?

    If you were given $1000 and told to spend it on anyone but yourself, how would you spend it?

    If you could visit anyplace in the world, where would you go, and why?

    I agree, getting to know other people changes the whole atmosphere in a group.

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