AmyRuth McGraw, M.F.A., M.A., lecturer in American Sign Language and theatre arts


Encourage intellectual risk-taking in the classroom through ensemble-building exercises. 


  • Improves student motivation
  • Promotes student participation
  • Encourages intellectual risk-taking


AmyRuth McGraw uses icebreakers to improve student learning and motivation. Ensemble-building exercises encourage a more personal connection to class discussions and course material and help students to take the intellectual risks necessary for deep understanding. 


AmyRuth McGraw, MFA, MA

Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Studies


Encourage intellectual risk-taking in the classroom through ensemble-building exercises.


The "Yes" Game

00:04 - 00:11

The classroom is an ensemble and we are together working towards something.

00:11 - 00:55

So a game that I have played both with my drama students and my ASL students, and now have played also with a group of faculty members is a group -- is a game called The “Yes” Game. This game involves a whole group standing in a circle. The leader starts: the leader looks across the circle and tries to find someone who is making eye contact with them. When you find someone who's making eye contact with you, you point at that person. And by pointing, what you're really doing is asking. The unspoken question is: Can I come take your spot? And that person that you're pointing at says, “Yes.” So once someone has said “yes” to me, then I get to go and have their spot.

00:55 - 01:17

The goal is not to run and knock them over and push them out of the circle. The goal is to, Well, I'd like to have that spot, but you're gonna need another spot before I get there. So now it's their job to point to someone else in the circle who is looking at them. That person is gonna say, “Yes.” So now they have a place to go. So I am gonna walk very slowly across the circle and I hope not to get there before this person has vacated their place.

01:17 - 01:36

It's very telling to me who wants to walk very quickly across the circle because they don't want to be, again, the center of everyone's attention: even though no one is watching you walk across the circle, you're still in the middle of the room. And so that's – I also kind of file that away.

01:36 – 02:20

It’s really validating to have an exercise where everyone in the class has an opportunity to say “Yes” to the to the group, to individual people. And one of the things that I talk about when we're done playing the game is that this game is so much like a classroom for me. Because if you're not in the game, if you're not looking at people ready to make eye contact, if you're staring at the ceiling, or hanging out looking at the floor, then no one's gonna point at you. Because you can only say “Yes!” to someone who sees you pointing.

00:02:20 - 00:02:46

And I think my classrooms are like that: if you're not ready to say “yes” to the material or to the people in this room or to the idea of being here and being a student, then you can’t play. You can’t participate. You can't learn what this class has to offer. And so as a metaphor that game is particularly powerful. But even as an exercise of being able to say “yes,” it's also very powerful.
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