Ask students to stand in a large circle and explain that you will start by pointing at someone in the circle. The student who is pointed at, will then point at someone else, and so on and so forth. Everyone should continue pointing until the last student to be pointed at finishes the “selection process” by pointing at you. Once everyone is pointing at someone else in the circle, tell students that the person they are pointing at is their “person of interest”.
Ask everyone to fix their eyes on their person of interest and, on the count of three, everyone will drop their hands. Now, explain that the goal is for everyone to stand completely still. However, everyone needs to watch their person of interest very closely and copy their every action. This means that if their person of interest coughs, sneezes, scratches, twitches, or anything else, then they must mimic exactly the same movement. Begin the game and play for several minutes. It likely will not take long until everyone in the circle is moving and making noise.
End the game by saying, “We were supposed to stand still – what happened? Who knows who started the movement?” Let several students blame each other (ex. “Bill moved before me”) and deny personal responsibility (ex. “It wasn’t me”), before settling the class and engaging in a more constructive discussion.
Use the following prompts to help students understand that blaming others fuels conflict and gets in the way of holding themselves and others accountable:
- How much does it matter who started it once it got started?
- Eventually, the movement became a team norm – it was something that everyone did and we all contributed to perpetuating the behaviour. Does blaming someone else help us avoid being responsible for the part we play?
- Think about your own life. How much energy do you spend blaming others rather than taking responsibility for your own actions, feelings, or thoughts? How might this prevent any change from occurring?
- Think about the last time you were blamed for something. What feelings came up for you? How did you respond/react to the person? Were you able to show empathy and compassion for them?
- In your opinion, is blame a good strategy for managing conflict? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples to support your argument?
- What is the difference between blaming someone and holding them accountable?
After the discussion, explain that the words students use and the approach they take to explain feelings or experiences have a lot of power and can make or break a conversation, especially when it comes to navigating challenges and managing conflict. Briefly tell students that blame and using you-statements triggers defensiveness or anger, and escalates a situation.
Let students know that, in the next lesson, they will be learning about how to communicate their feelings, thoughts and experiences in a more effective manner that will help them manage future conflict and engage in more productive conversations.