The Shape of You
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This is a fun and quirky activity to break the ice and get to know each other or a warm-up exercise that could set the tone for collaboration activities.
Analysing what the shapes mean, reflecting on our own personality traits and traits of others can lead to discussion about how to work with various personality types in a cohesive and productive way.
In face-to-face class the instructor should have copies of the geometric psychology document to distribute or have it projected for students to see. For online classes, the instructor should be able to share their screen and show the document or share the document in the chat
- Tell students to draw five simple shapes, they can be big, small, or whatever size as long as they are separate and all on the page. Square, circle, triangle, rectangle, and a squiggle. The instructor can model the shapes on a whiteboard if necessary.
- Next, tell the students to rate the shapes from 1 being the shape they like the most to 5 being the shape they like the least.
- Tell them that these shapes represent personality traits, that the shape you chose as number 1 represents the strongest part of your personality, and the shape you chose as number 5 represents traits that are a small part of your personality.
- Explain that you will put them into pairs or small groups to discuss what they think each shape represents. You can model the discussion by doing the first shape with them. For example, if you choose square, you can ask the following questions “What traits or qualities might a person have who chose a square as their favorite shape?” Try to elicit four or five characteristics. Another question could be “What kinds of activities does this person like doing?” Emphasis that they are not talking about themselves, or the shape they chose yet. After modeling one shape, put participants into pairs or groups (randomly assigned breakout rooms), and give them 5-8 minutes to discuss.
- Now, as a big group again, ask for someone to share what their group thought a shape represents. Focus on one shape at a time and ask questions such as “What did your group mention about a square?” After you get several responses, share your screen or if in-person, ask the students to read what a square represents. If your group seems open and comfortable enough to share their shapes in a larger group, you can ask, “Who chose a square as their first shape?”, “Do you agree or disagree with the traits listed here?”, “Does anything think they are a ‘square’ but they chose a different shape?” and so on.
- Repeat this for all five shapes. You might have some participants that share openly that they strongly agree or disagree with their shape’s traits. You might have some that share personal examples as to why they agree or disagree.
- At the end, remind participants that this isn’t a personality test, but a way to talk about themselves and reflect on who we are. This might be a good opportunity to emphasise how a variety in ‘shapes’ meaning personalities makes for interesting collaboration and although it might not be easy, it’s good to see how different personalities working together can create something that is beautiful.
- Drawing time: 1-2 minutes.
- Pair or small group discussions: 5-10 minutes.
- Larger class discussion of each shape: 10-20 minutes
- Estimated total time (depends on how vocal group is and the size of group) 16-30 minutes.
Adaptations and examples
If the group size is small, the activity can be done without breakout rooms.
If breakout room functionality isn't available, Google Slide would be used, the teacher could put one shape per slide and assign groups to silently write characteristics on the slides.
If an objective of the course is to promote collaboration, you can have students reflect on how they feel about working with people of varying personality types. Perhaps, they can give an example of a time they worked with someone who differed from them or ways they can try to better cooperate with others.
If the class seemed to enjoy the activity, you can ask them to do this ‘personality test’ with their family or friends and next class, they can report back on the results.
Ability to put participants in breakout rooms, see adaptions if not applicable.