Here are a few energizers you can use with groups:
Yes Let’s (or Let’s All)
The trainer explains that creativity includes letting ideas flow, listening and responding with improvisation. Participants walk in space, one by one say “Let’s all…” (can be animal, object, anything). The group responds together, “Yes, let’s all be…” and imitates the suggested item with their bodies (“let’s all jump up and down… let’s all be tigers… etc.).
Elephants, Toasters, and Palm Trees (from Alternatives to Violence Project, USA)
Form a circle and stand in the centre to model the activity. The person in the centre points to someone and says “elephant!”, “palm tree!” or “toaster!”. When the person in the centre points to someone and says “elephant!”, that person must bend over and put his/her hands down to make a trunk. People on both sides have to put their arms up to make elephant ears. When the person in the centre points to someone and says “palm tree!,” the person pointed must hold hands straight above his/her head. People on both sides have to make branches going out from the tree. When the person in the centre points to someone and says “toaster!” the person has to move up and down (either jumping or with another gesture) and people on both sides have to hold hands around the person who was pointed at. Whoever makes a mistake or hesitates goes to the centre of the circle. Make sure the pace picks up to keep it fun!
This dynamic challenges everyone to cooperate in silence – they may, however, use gestures. The group’s task is to arrange themselves in order, according to the month and day of their births (or height, or age, or…). Stop when the group indicates they think they are in order. At the end, let people talk and see how successful they were in lining up.
Big Wind Blows
There are just enough seats in the circle for everyone but you. You are the big wind, and whoever you blow on has to move. Instead of blowing, you call out, “The big wind blows on everyone who…” and then add a description of something that is true for you; for example, “on everyone who wears black socks”, or “everyone who is nervous”. Everyone who fits the description must get up and change seats; in the general commotion, you try to get a seat also.
Whoever is left standing, gets to be the Big Wind next time. If the Big Wind calls “hurricane” then everyone has to change seats.
Why… Because… (from Gerald Gomani, Zimbabwe)
Have people on one half of the group write down a Why question (“Why is the grass green? Why is there suffering?” etc.). Have the other half write down a Because answer (“Because I said so. Because it can float.” etc.). Give no indication for the purpose or what types of why questions or because answers people should write. Then – and this can be a hilarious exercise – go around the room and have the Why’s ask a question and get their answer from the Because’s.
Strategy Stretch (from Erika Thorne, USA)
A simple stretching activity, but laced with activist principles. Start by having people get some space from each other. Each stage involves a new direction to physically have people stretch their bodies. “Stretch upwards towards your vision / [while bending halfway at the waist] stretch your arms out towards your allies and colleagues / [while bending down at the waist] stretch down towards the grassroots, the source of your nourishment / [bending backwards] and bend backwards towards your ancestors, those people who support you from behind.”
Something True About Yourself (from Gerald Gomani, Zimbabwe)
Have each participant write down something true about themselves (anything), without their names, on a piece of paper. Then, have them wad it up. Then, throw snowballs at each other! After a few minutes of play, have the group read the snowballs.
This silly game is done in pairs. One person starts by announcing “Let’s” – for example, “Let’s take a walk” or “let’s dance on the moon.” (In this activity, they don’t need to act it out.) The pair replies, “Yes, and…” adding anything else that occurs to them. This continues amongst all the pairs in the room; much laughter can be expected.
Put Together the “Coy” (from Ouyporn Khuankaew, Thailand)
In this game everyone is going to be Thai currency (can be adapted to be any currency). How it works: if you are older than 46, you will be 1 baht. If you are 39-46, you will be 25 sadang [1/4 of a baht]. If you are under 36, you will be 50 sadang [1/2 baht]. Then, trainer calls out some amount of baht. For example, “2-1/2 baht, 3.75 baht, and so on.” After each calling, the participants try to get into physical groups that equal that amount of currency.
Shopping Fruit Basket (from Ouyporn Khuankaew, Thailand)
Have everyone sitting down in a circle. Pick a category such as fruit, books, animals. Have someone walk around inside the circle and begin “shopping” for items in that category (naming them out loud). Everyone else picks an item in their head in that category (if the category is fruit, they might come up with oranges or durian or bananas). If someone’s choice has been called then they stand up behind the person and follow them around. The person continues calling out items until they are done. Then they declare “check-out” and everyone tries to find a seat to sit in. The person left standing then walks around the circle….
In this exercise, participants get together with people based on various similarities. For example, if you said “Get together with people who share favorite fruits” everyone would call out their favorite fruit – finding other people who share the same similarity and getting into a group with them. Demonstrate and then have them do it. Have the various groups call out their favorite fruit group-by-group. Continue changing up groups by calling out a range of issues, from the silly to the serious: e.g., favorite animal, least favorite letter of the Roman alphabet, religious tradition and so on.
Sam Went to Venus…
Have the group stand in a large circle. Explain the first person will say: “Did you hear?” The second person (the person to their right) says: “What?” First person: “Sam went to Venus.” Second: “Really how?” First person: “She went to Venus like this!” – and the first person proceeds to make some repetitive motion. Everyone in the circle repeats the motion (and continues repeating the motion). Then, the person to the left of the first person repeats that same series: “Did you hear?/What?/Sam went to Venus./Really, how?/She went to Venus like this” and makes his/her own motion (which the whole groups repeats). The process continues around the entire circle until ending when everyone has done it. (In large groups, this can be done in several separate groups simultaneously.)
(See Online Energizers for more good options for online meetings.)