Spell and Count

You need approximately 10 minutes and 5 to 7 participants to conduct this improvisation exercise. Spell and Count requires no supplies or equipment. It encourages collaboration and active listening.

Have each group sit around a table or stand close to each other.

Ask group members take turns spelling the word teamwork, each person contributing the next letter during his or her turn.

After the group completes this spelling task, ask the members to count from 1 to 8, each person saying the next number when it is her turn.

Now ask the group members to count from 1 to 8 and spell the word teamwork. Each member should contribute either the next number or the next letter during his or her turn. Tell players that they have to finish both tasks immediately after one another. In other words, nobody can say "eight" unless the next person can say "K", the last letter in teamwork.

After the group has completed this activity, introduce the final challenge. As before, the group members have to count and spell at the same time--with these additional restrictions:

  • Group members should avoid eye contact. They should not look at each other.

  • Group members cannot say anything other than appropriate numbers and letters.

  • Any member of the group can spontaneously begin the activity by saying the first number or letter.

  • Members of the group should not use a systematic procedure for taking turns. Anyone should feel free to jump in with the next number or letter.

  • No person can take two turns in a row. For example, Alan cannot say "one" and "T" immediately after each other. However, if Alan says "one" and Barbara says "two", then Alan can say "T".

  • More than one person cannot say the same number or letter. If this happens, the activity has to begin from the beginning. For example, if Alan says "one" and both Barb and Chuck say "two", the group has to start all over again.

Wait until the group succeeds so you can end the exercise on a positive note.


Conduct a discussion using appropriate questions to elicit the following learning points:

  • Tune into the group to make your team look good.

  • Talk and listen (instead of talking and waiting to talk).

  • Contribute quietly. Let go of the need to control.