Here are some options for making decisions in groups. Remember, you still have to make a decision about your decision making process! Here’s an idea about how to do this: allow a small group or single person to sign up to take responsibility for facilitating the decision making (by choosing a decision making process), so that the group knows they have consented to that person (or that group) in advance! This way, respect and “buy-in” for the process and the labor of carrying the group can be built, in advance.

– VOTE: we hear 10-18 proposals for how the time can be used from 5:15-6:30, clustering them into 4-5 basic proposals, and we vote on them with dot votes, allowing the proposal with the most votes to win
– RANDOM: we put all options in a basket and pull one option out, allowing chance to determine how we work together from 5:!5-6:30
– STAND ASIDE: if you don’t care, put your vote here
– WORKING GROUP: a small working group forms, and we consent to their authority, allowing this group to take 15 minutes to work together, to tell us how the class will run, they will be in charge from 5:15-6:30
– CONSENSUS: we hear 10-18 proposals for how the time can be used, clustering them into 4-5 basic proposals, and then we go through clarifying questions, hear any objections or stand asides, and see if we can reach consensus after continuing this process for a few rounds
– “TYRANT” RULE: a.k.a. a working group made up of teachers. You allow Melanie and I to come up with a process, consenting to our authority, and allowing us to control of your time together

NOTES/TOOLS: Dot Vote, Social Barometer, Straw Poll with Thumbs up/down, and Pirate Pad!



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WEEK 1: August 29th



  1. Have the group read this list (projected or written) and choose the letter that best describes the way they work in groups, writing it down on a note card and keeping it private.
    • A- I like to lead a group from the start.
    • B- I like to sit back and wait for someone to take the lead; only when I know others’ positions will I try to influence events.
    • C- I don’t like to make direct contributions to group discussions, but prefer to do things quietly, building alliances with others.
    • D- I am easy going and let others run the show. Only when things go against my wishes will I intervene.
    • E- I prefer not to take the lead, but rather to carry out practical tasks that the group decides upon together.
  2. Collect all the cards and turn them over anonymously, seeing the group “DNA” and talking about what might be easy/hard in this group.
  3. Source: p178 “Participatory Learning and Action: a Trainer’s Guide” IIED Participatory Methodology Series, taught to Caroline Woolard by Christopher Robbins

 Name Game: Circle of Names (variation 1)

  • Stand in a circle
  • One the periphery of the circle, one by one, say your name and make a gesture you do every day, making the sound of that gesture (no words). Do this three times (exaggerate), and then the group will repeat the pattern. 3X—3X (call/response).
  • One by one, go into the center of the circle. The group will repeat your name and your gesture pattern. 3X. The third time, very exaggerated.
  • Objectives: warm-up physically; look at what you see; listen to what you hear; “dynamize” (=animate) all the senses; develop improvisational skills; develop an awareness of self-sculpting; develop self-confidence; build group integration.
  • Source: Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Augusto Boal

Asset Mapping  (variation on The Cold/West/Big Wind Blows)

  • Organize the space so that there’s a circle of chairs with one seat less than there are people in the room
  • Explain that this is a movement activity, so if someone has no desire/ability to move a lot, they can be the note-taker
  • Everyone sits in a chair, and the “extra” person without a chair (me, to start) stands in the center of the circle
  • The person in the center calls out a skill that s/he has, or something s/he has access to (ex: a boat, rich people, cooking)
  • If you have that thing as well, you have to get up out of your seat and find a new seat to sit in
  • Whoever doesn’t find a seat (since there’s one less seat than people) will be in the middle and have to announce a skill they HAVE to the group. If you get scared, say something simple (like, “I know how to eat ice cream”).
  • The note-taker doesn’t get up at all, s/he is responsible for tallying the things we HAVE (how many people get up per HAVE)
  • This continues for 15-30 minutes, as long as you are generating energy. 
  • DISCUSS the HAVEs the group just found out about… look at the list the facilitator made.
  • OPTIONAL: Turn to the person on your left (or someone you don’t know) and say which HAVE is most valuable to you. Why? Discuss.
  • OPTIONAL: Break into groups of 3-5 and come up with a way to continue circulating information about the HAVES and NEEDS in the room. A shared spreadsheet, a FB group, a notice board, open-office or mutual aid hours, etc. Then present these ideas to the group and identify people who will move forward on implementing/experimenting with 1-2 sharing systems.
  • Source: Where the West Wind Blows, taught to Caroline Woolard by Aimee Lutkin, taught to her by the Wooster Group

WEEK 2: September 12th

Charles Bernstein Poetry Experiments

  1. Divide into pairs
  2. Choose a poetry experiment from the Bernstein list here.
  3. If poem is based on a random prompt, use this as a seed, then work with your partner to edit the poem into something you both like
  4. Consider chaining the effect.
  5. Examples:
    • Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else’s, then your own) and translate it “English to English” by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or “free” translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several differnt types of homolinguistic transation of a single source poem. Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for “translation” from person to another until you get back to the first author.
    • Tzara’s Hat: Everyone in a group writes down a word (alternative: phrase, line) and puts it in a hat. Poem is made by creating lines from the words that are picked in the rder that they are pulled from hat. (Solo: pick a series of words or lines from books, newspapers, magazines to put in the hat.) Cf.: a site for that randomizes:
    • General cut-ups: Write a poem composed entirely of phrases lifted from other sources. Use one source for a poem and then many; try different types of sources: literary, historical, magazines, advertisements, manuals, dictionaries, instructions, travelogues, etc. See cut-up engines listed above
    • Substitution (1): “Mad libs.” Take a poem (or other source text) and put blanks in place of three or four words in each line, noting the part of speech under each blank. Fill in the blanks being sure not to recall the original context.


  • Divide into pairs, each person looking directly into the eyes of the person facing him/her.
  • One person is the “subject,” and the other is the “reflection.
  • Each subject slowly and silently undertakes a series of movements and changes of expression, which the “image” must attempt to copy as simultaneously as possible, down to the smallest detail
  • The two silently agree to swap roles, trying not to disrupt the continuity.
  • Finally, both attempt to be “subject’ and “reflection,” both leading and following at the same time
  • This is a process of subtle give and take, push and pull
  • Process in pairs. (3-5 min)

Complete the Image

Variation 1: frozen pair, audience analysis

  • The facilitator ask for two volunteers, asks them to shake hands, and tells them to freeze.
  • The facilitator asks the spectators what story they see.
  • Spectators try first to notice little details about stance posture, means of engagement, facial expression, point of contact, and then create possible stories about what is going on, who these people are, and what might have just happened.
  • The facilitator asks one person to leave the frozen pair, creating an incomplete image.
  • The facilitator asks for another person to enter the scene in a new way.
  • And asks the audience to describe the new story, how it has changed.

Variation 2: self sculpting pairs, no observers

  • Divide into pairs.
  • Each pair shakes hands and freezes.
  • Without speaking, silently agree on who will leave.
  • That person leaves, circles the scene, considering how to reenter in a new way to change the image / scene / story.
  • They reenter and re-freeze for a moment.
  • The other partner leaves and does the same: considers, re-enters, re-freezes.
  • Do this for several minutes. Don’t over think, just do.
  • After the facilitator calls the exercise to a close, briefly exchange thoughts with your partner on what you did, what happened, what it was like.
  • Facilitator points out dynamic as metaphor for Paulo Freire methodology steps (= express, see, analyze, act). The image is also a situation: step out of the situation, taking critical distance; assess your options for coming back in; then come back into the image by re-postioning yourself in relation to your partner, but without moving your partner. The result is a new image, a new situation. You have changed the image/ situation by stepping out and then coming back in differently.

WEEK 3: September 19th

Carnival In Rio
From Augusto Boal, by Frances Babbage

  1. This is a an exercise that encourages participants to fill available space with movement and sound. It’s helpful to precede this exercise with other simpler games involving rhythm. Boal has many, involving clapping, gestures, noises etc (Games for Actors and NonActors, 1992, pg 88-101).
  2. Form groups of three and stand side by side in a line. On instruction by the facilitator, person A voices an individual rhythmic sound, which s/he continues to repeat, cycling in a loop (Optional: combine this with a repetitive gesture). B and C copy this as best they can, so all 3 are now producing the same rhythm. Next, B is invited to create their own repeating sound rhythm (which A and C imitate), and then C does the same, so each group learns 3 different rhythms.
  3. The facilitator gives an instruction like, “return to your original rhythms,” whereupon each participant returns to their original sound rhythm and the room is filled with cacophony. Then the facilitator gives the instruction to “unify your group” and each group of three must collectively choose to settle in on a single rhythm. This must be negotiated while you are doing it, without discussion.
  4. Then the facilitator gives the instruction to “unify all together,” whereby all the trios come together in a circle, and slowly, settle on an individual sound rhythm, without speaking, which they acknowledge and repeat. This usually somehow manages to happen! The facilitator gives a final instruction to “choose when to end,” whereby the group, without speaking, end their sound pattern.

WEEK 4: September 26th


Topic: In this class (as in other semester-long classes at the New School), the conditions for equal participation in collaborative* projects are present, making collaboration possible.

*Working from the understanding that collaboration is: “a process in which semi/autonomous actors interact through formal and informal negotiation, jointly creating rules and structures that govern their relationships and ways to act or decide on the issues that brought them together; it is a process involving shared norms and mutually beneficial interactions.” [Thompson, Conceptualizing and Measuring Collaboration]

Debate Structure

The class is divided into six teams, with three speaking in affirmation of the topic (conditions for collaboration are present, collaboration is possible), and three in negation (conditions for collaboration are NOT present, collaboration is NOT possible). Each side should have two teams of three people, and one team of two people. Two-person teams will deliver the FNR and FAR speeches. Three-person teams will deliver the 1/2 AC/NC speeches. Review the order of speeches and explanation of their content to determine how to split teams. Every two or three-person group should select one member to speak.



























(1AC) The First Affirmative Constructive Team will present on why the topic is true. 1AC will outline how the topic has proven to be true, what its benefits have been, and why continuing is in the general best interest.

(1NC) The First Negative Constructive Team will present an argument disagreeing with the premise of the topic. Contentions can illustrate several ways the system is failing, or a counterplan can prove where changes in the status quo would make a positive difference.

(2AC) The Second Affirmative Constructive Team will offer further elaboration upon the benefits of the status quo. This step can introduce personal anecdotes, philosophical reasoning, statistical sources, and/or expert testimony to support its argument.

(2NC) The Second Negative Constructive Team will specify the ways in which the conditions of the topic are not being met. Contention-based arguments can be structured similarly to the 2AC, while counterplan arguments should present the counterplan, how it would be implemented, and its expected outcome.

(FNR) The Final Negative Rebuttal Team will restate the foundational points of their argument. This is often done while directly refuting affirmative points, and tying in how these rebuttals unequivocally prove the topic to be untrue, or in need of the more beneficial counterplan.

(FAR) The Final Affirmative Rebuttal Team will reaffirm their agreement with the topic, how their case guarantees and benefits the topic, as well as an overview of how their case answers the negative argument.

In routine competitive debate, cross-examination period is used to deconstruct and exploit the flaws of the opponent’s argument. For this exercise, cross-examination will be a discussion on what conclusions the group may come to after having been presented with detailed analyses on both sides of the issue.

(1AC) First affirmative constructive (2 – 4 minutes)


Opening – state your name and partner’s name and that you are speaking for the affirmative; express pleasure for opportunity to debate the topic; state the resolution

Define key terms

Present your thesis statement to show where you are going, e.g., This is a serious problem and the present system will not solve the problem; our plan will solve the problem


Describe the issue, using a combination of logos, ethos, and pathos

Support the affirmative case with 4 –6 contentions, have at least 3 supporting pieces of evidence and reasoning (save at least 1 for rebuttal)

Establish the need for change – why this is a serious problem (qualitative/quantitative)

Establish the harm of the present system – people or other living beings are hurt physically, emotionally, financially, socially

Establish how the present system contributes to the problem

Briefly introduce your plan and how it solves the problem


Summarize your position.  Say “Thank you.”

(1NC) First negative constructive (2 – 4 minutes)


Greet – state your name and partner’s name and that you are speaking for the negative; express pleasure for the opportunity to debate the topic of ____

Either accept the affirmative’s definitions or correct definitions presented by affirmative

Describe the issue from the point of view of the negative

Introduce your case with your thesis statement: “We intend to prove that there is no need to  . . .


State negative philosophy by presenting 4 – 6  contentions; have at least 3 pieces of evidence and reasoning to support them (save at least 1 to reestablish during rebuttal)

Refute the need for change; explain why the status quo is preferable (defend present system)

Deny that the present system contributes to the problem

Why there is no reason for change; diminish significance (quantitative/qualitative)

Why change could be worse than the present system

Attack the need for a plan, possibly why it will cause more harm than good

(Optional advanced strategy! You can accept that the status quo could be changed in a MINOR way; then introduce a counter plan that is significantly different from the affirmative’s plan.)

Clash: Refute affirmative’s points with evidence and reasoning


Summarize the negative case so far.  Say “Thank you.”

(2AC) Second affirmative constructive (2 – 4 minutes)


Present overview of the debate so far, contrasting affirmative and negative positions

Defend definitions of terms and topicality, if necessary

Present a thesis statement to show where you are going, e.g., _______ is a problem that must be solved and our plan will do it.


Attack the negative philosophy defending the present system, especially harm and significance

Clash.  Directly address each of the specific challenges issued by the negative

Reestablish why change is necessary

Explain your plan with details; describe the benefits of the plan, how the plan will solve the problem  Conclusion

End with an appeal to adopt the resolution.  Say “Thank you.”

(2NC) Second negative constructive (2 – 4 minutes)


Review / reinforce negative philosophy

Present thesis, e.g., We will prove that there isn’t a problem, that the plan is bad, that the plan is unnecessary


Present contentions, attacking the plan as undesirable, unable to solve needs, or unnecessary

Practicality, workability – specific elements of the plan

Solvency – demonstrate that the plan is not capable of solving the problem

Disadvantages – explain that more harm will result from the plan than the status quo

Injustices – explain that the plan affects some individuals or groups more than others

Deny the supposed benefits of the plan

If the affirmative neglected to present a plan, make a HUGE deal of its omission

Clash.  Counter all affirmative challenges directly and specifically

Refute the affirmative case as a whole


Summarize problems of the plan; say: That is why we cannot adopt the resolution.  Thank you.

(FNR) First negative rebuttal speech (2 – 4 minutes) – summarize and reiterate

Clash:  Refute the arguments introduced by the second affirmative, point by point

Again attack affirmative’s justification for change. Summarize the entire negative block

End with instructions: We must not allow . . .

(FAR) First affirmative rebuttal speech (2 – 4 minutes)

Refute negative’s plan objections; point out fallacies in reasoning

Rebuild your case at major points of attack; offer new evidence to support your contentions

Clash.  Respond to all the arguments from the second negative constructive arguments and first negative rebuttal; defend and re-support the arguments you can.

What is New School Debate?

The New School Debate Team often takes a different approach to debating than other schools. We focus on issues that are important to us and things that we learn in class. Instead of only discussing the ins-and-outs of the topic and topic-area, we try to relate it to things that are going on in our world and issues that are important to us. Some examples of this have been undocumented students discussing their experiences on an immigration topic, and active members of the OWS movement arguing on a resolution about democracy promotion. Other areas of interest that have become critical to New School cases include: critiques of capitalism, queer theory, race theory, feminist theory, as well as philosophical motions from Rousseau to Ranciere. Established in 2007, New School Debate competes nationally in college policy and parliamentary debate. Both styles of debate offer options for varying levels of experience, from novice pairings to varsity competitors, with tournaments available to fit any schedule. Consider joining the team!


Colombian Hypnosis

  1. Variation 1: pairs
    • The facilitator first models the interaction through “self hypnosis,” then with a volunteer.
    • The group then divides in pairs to do on their own.
    • The pairs silently agree on who will be the Guide, and who will be the Guided.
    • The Guide slowly raises their hand.
    • The Guided is “hypnotized” by the hand, focusing their eyes on the palm, following it wherever it goes, keeping their face within 6 inches of the hand, mimicking the angle etc.
    • The pairs move freely throughout the room.
    • The Guide should move throughout the space, explore the space, guide the Guided into different positions and trajectories, to encourage them to use their body in different ways (mindful of not causing pain!)
    • Slower and smoother is usually better.
    • Switch partners, repeat
  2. Variation 2: trios
    • One person guides two people, one with each palm.
    • Facilitator talks throughout about coordinating beginning of the movement without words, and about synchronizing transitions and ending;
    • Two hands may do entirely different things
    • Actors share information about physical limitations, if relevant.
    • Roles: 1 guide, 2 guided.
    • Decide without talking who will be the first to guide. Alternate guiding roles.
    • All in silence. Move slowly.
  3. Variation 3: Circle
    • One person A volunteers to stand in the center of the circle.
    • Each group member silently chooses a part of A’s body to be “hypnotized” by.
    • A then moves about very slowly and the whole circle must follow their chosen part
  4. Variation 4: Octopus
    • One person volunteers to be the Center, they raise two hands
    • Two volunteers join, each being “hypnotized” by one of the hands.
    • They in turn raise their hands.
    • The group branches out in this way, until the entire group is “chained”
    • The Center begins to move very slowly.
    • Mayhem may potentially result.
  5. Objectives: coordinate movements with another person; build cooperation and trust; examine the leader/follower relationship.
  6. Group processes activity. What skills did you use to do what you did? What did you experience? Did you observe anything? Did the activity make you think of anything you experience in your daily life?

WEEK 7: Oct 10

Discussion of class roles and communication structures

  1. Sit with your reading discussion partner
  2. Go over Starhawk’s 10 informal roles within groups, and write down the top 3 you think you took on in the reading discussion partnership for this class, writing them to themselves. Share these roles with each other, and tell stories about how and why this is normal or unusual for them
  3. Look over Jo freeman’s suggestions for sharing power (pasted in the bottom of this email), and come up with the top 3 they’d like to use when working in a group or partnership in the future (10 min)
  4. Get into quad’s, discuss how communication and power sharing happens in the class in general, make suggestions based on Freeman’s list (10 min)
  5. Report back to the big group (10 min)

Starhawk describes 10 informal roles within groups, positioned as peripheral to any group to central to any group. Have you moved from one position to another in a group? Have you moved between the lone wolf (feeling critical, superior), the orphan (assume others dislike you), gimme shelter (looking for reassurance, visibility), filler (feeling unimportant), the princess (sensitive to all tension), the clown (never serious), the cute kid (needing approval), the self-hater (perfectionist, never satisfied), the rock of gibraltar (reliable, but wanting the group to need you), the star (most important person)? Explain.

Jo Freeman’s Suggestions for Sharing Power:

While engaging in this trial-and-error process, there are some principles we can keep in mind that are essential to democratic structuring and are also politically effective:

1) Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures. Letting people assume jobs or tasks only by default means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot so easily be ignored.

2) Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to those who selected them. This is how the group has control over people in positions of authority. Individuals may exercise power, but it is the group that has ultimate say over how the power is exercised.

3) Distribution of authority among as many people as is reasonably possible. This prevents monopoly of power and requires those in positions of authority to consult with many others in the process of exercising it. It also gives many people the opportunity to have responsibility for specific tasks and thereby to learn different skills.

4) Rotation of tasks among individuals. Responsibilities which are held too long by one person, formally or informally, come to be seen as that person’s “property” and are not easily relinquished or controlled by the group. Conversely, if tasks are rotated too frequently the individual does not have time to learn her job well and acquire the sense of satisfaction of doing a good job.

5) Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. Selecting someone for a position because they are liked by the group or giving them hard work because they are disliked serves neither the group nor the person in the long run. Ability, interest, and responsibility have got to be the major concerns in such selection. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have, but this is best done through some sort of “apprenticeship” program rather than the “sink or swim” method. Having a responsibility one can’t handle well is demoralizing. Conversely, being blacklisted from doing what one can do well does not encourage one to develop one’s skills. Women have been punished for being competent throughout most of human history; the movement does not need to repeat this process.

6) Diffusion of information to everyone as frequently as possible. Information is power. Access to information enhances one’s power. When an informal network spreads new ideas and information among themselves outside the group, they are already engaged in the process of forming an opinion — without the group participating. The more one knows about how things work and what is happening, the more politically effective one can be.

7) Equal access to resources needed by the group. This is not always perfectly possible, but should be striven for. A member who maintains a monopoly over a needed resource (like a printing press owned by a husband, or a darkroom) can unduly influence the use of that resource. Skills and information are also resources. Members’ skills can be equitably available only when members are willing to teach what they know to others.

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