This a good exercise for quickly assessing the ability and attention levels in a group. It can work for any age and is good for groups small and large, including classes of about thirty. It can also be a starting point for a number of related exercises.
For very young children it may help to take along a ticking clock as a prop in case the only ones they've come across are of the silent digital type. A pendulum clock would be wonderful but is obviously impractical. However, the pendulum image is very useful and I have portable clockwork metronome (pictured below) that I take along for this purpose. Its tick is suitably audible and regular. It's a great talking point but I stop short of passing it around.
Before you begin, arrange your group in a circle so that everyone can see every one else. If this means moving chairs and tables then so be it.
- Explain to the group that you will imitate the ticking of the clock by taking it in turns to tick and tock around the circle. If you, yourself, are a 'tick' then Albert, immediately to your left, is a 'tock'. Beatrice, sitting next to Albert, will be a 'tick' and Cuthbert on her left, a 'tock'. Continue demonstrating this by allocating ticks and tocks to Dorothy, Edmond, Felicity, Gawain and Henrietta. By now everyone should have got the idea and will probably carry on ticking and tocking around the circle when you stop.
- Stop them if they have carried on and check that everyone else understands what they are supposed to be doing. Now say you will count yourself in. Don’t explain why. Either count "One Two Three Four" or "One Two Three And". This is just an attempt to establish some kind of pulse and is very likely doomed to failure.
- Count yourself in and say 'tick' and look expectantly at Albert, helping him with his 'tock' if necessary. Follow the sound around the circle, giving eye contact to each child and continuing to mouth the words silently. Stop when it gets back to you. Don't be tempted to go round twice. If you didn't know already you have learned whether you have an odd or even number in the group. You also know if anyone needs further explanation of the exercise.
- Say how well it went but tell group you want to see if it can be as regular as the clock you showed them. By now everyone knows the rules of the game and the next attempt at tick-tocking around the circle will tell you something about the levels of attention and ability within the group.
Remember that it is important that everyone can see everyone else. Otherwise children will find it hard to tell when their turn is coming and this will distort your findings.