Erica Marx

Word / Sentence at a Time

by for .  

Story is told one word or one sentence at a time



Creates connection
Appreciation of each person's contribution being important, sharing control
Applied: Brings out patterns, themes in a group. Use to open or close a topic.


In a circle, each person adds one word. Punctuation counts as a word (period, exclamation point).

Suggested starts

Tell a known fable to practice (ie. Hansel and Gretel)

Word at a time customer service letter from Ted's blog

Ideas for specific stories

• Best friends in college, on graduation day, remembering the first day of school

•Loving grandparents, remembering when they saw their first grandchild

• Happily married couple remembering their best vacation


• Who was in charge of creating this memory/story?

•What did we have to do to succeed? How would you define a successful conversation?
• Where did we get stuck?
• Where did you feel momentum in the story? What did we do that helped build that momentum?
• What would be different if you listened at work the way you listened here?

Facilitation Tips

If a sentence, let the first person know they will go first to get it off to a good start
Facilitator can walk around the circle and/or points to keep the cadence going
To keep from becoming a disaster story, encourage sensory details instead of plot
If in pairs, switch pairs so people can more easily debrief the process, not the story


Two or Three-word-at-a-time (this is a bit more challenging)
Interview an expert that is made of multiple people 

Use photo cards - Each person draws a card. Their sentence/word is based on the photo card. 

Once Upon A Team w/photo cards
Turn photo cards upside down and spread like deck of cards
Have each person pick a card 

Start the story: Once upon a time, there was a team that got together for 2 days and what they learned.....
First person….tells their story based on their card, then shares card with the group

Debrief: What did you learn? What themes emerged?

Phrase question in the future at the start of a workshop. Creates intentions.
Phrase in past as a wrap up for a workshop.
Use to pull out themes on any topic the team is addressing. 

Use this activity to illustrate... (many things; making space for a list here)

change vs. transition (Bridges model of change) - change is fast, adjusting to the change = transition, takes time & skills.


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