Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Feb 10, 2022

Storytelling School with The Moth: Monthly Storytelling Activity #46

by The Moth Staff

Lesson #46: Games for the Virtual Space

Happy February from Storytelling School with The Moth! This month’s post will be a little different from our usual offerings. We know that some of you have unexpectedly found yourselves facilitating virtually again, and we wanted to share some modifications of our favorite games that work even on Zoom. 

First of all- why do we play games in our storytelling workshops?

Storytelling and the Physical: It might seem weird to play games that get you out of your seat when all we’re doing is telling stories—we’re not acting them out! But storytelling is actually physical. Bodies and brains are connected, and we want participants to be aware of their bodies, at least to some extent, and to activate their creativity in different ways.

Building a team: Playing games that get participants engaging with each other with laughter, humility and new challenges gets them relating to each other a little bit before they start confiding in one another. It’s important to remember that this is a tough thing we’re asking them to do, and takes a lot of trust!  If we practice buy-in, it will come more naturally.  

Participating without the spotlight: If everyone’s being silly at the same time, it allows reluctant or shy people to ease into having attention paid to them. This is important for the choice of game! There are lower-focus games to start a residency or workshop with, and more daring, risky games for when people all know each other well. Choose a low risk game if you have uncertain participants or find adaptations that allow participants agency in how they engage.

Choose a game or activity that you yourself are comfortable playing. If you model being okay with something, people will get on board with you


GAMES For the Virtual Space 


Why Play? 


Send participants into partnerships (either in breakout rooms or semi private spaces). Give them 4 minutes to come up with 3 things they have in common. When they come back to the group they will need to share those 3 commonalities but cannot not use any words. You can either leave it up to the group to figure that out or give them ideas such as using props, acting or drawing it out. 

Time for small group connection, non verbal communication, getting to know you

Read my lips

Like the game ‘Telephone’ but lip-synced. The facilitator puts an order of participants in the chat. The first PARTICIPANT starts by silently mouthing a phrase, the next person private chats what they think the phrase is to the third person. You continue alternating between chat and silently saying the phrase until you reach the last participant, who reads the phrase in the chat out loud.

Silliness, Focus

First/Last/Best/ Worst

Facilitator uses a random word generator, pre-populated with any list you’d like. Each participant takes turns with a new prompt.  Tell us a brief story about the first/ last/ best OR worst… (random PROMPT WORD ex. “Teacher”, “Birthday”, “Friend”, etc.) and then whoosh it to someone new. If you don’t want to answer the prompt you receive, you can ask for a new one. It helps to use the chat to remind folks that they can choose between “first, last, best or worst….”

Brainstorming story ideas

Body Snatchers

Directions: Facilitators decide three random personal questions (ex: Favorite Dinosaur, Something you like to do outside, Least Favorite Smell--the sillier/more specific the better). Participants are separated into random pairs for 1(ish) minute. During that time, they should introduce themselves and share their answers to the three questions. At that point, the participants “swap” identities. Everyone is separated into new pairs. 

This time, each participant will introduce themselves as their NEW identities (the names and answers of their previous partner). This goes on for 2-4 rounds. 

At the end, the group reassembles. Each person introduces themselves with the information of their most recent identity. After each person introduces themselves, check in with the REAL person to see if the answers that were shared at the end were correct. 

Get to know each other, to loosen up energy, practice listening 

Build a tweet- 

The group builds a tweet one word at a time, each person saying one word. You can go around in a circle, or create a list/order of names in a Zoom chat. When someone decides the tweet is over they say "hashtag" and then whatever they think the hashtag for that tweet would be. Start over with a new tweet.

Warm up game, team building

Mind Meld

Essentially everyone is trying to get to the same word. In person, everyone is in a circle.  Create an order in which to take turns (you can move around a Zoom screen or down a participant list) and share it in the chat. 

Choose two consecutive people (person 1 and person 2) to begin by each saying a word. Next person 2 and the person on their other side each say a word to find the middle ground between those two words, with the end goal to say the same word at the same time. Go around the circle until the goal is achieved or the game is no longer fun. In Zoom, make a list of everyone's name in the Zoom and put in chat, that will be the order. Person 1 and person 2 start by each saying a word and then person 2 and person 3 go next to try to find the word in the middle of those two words (ie saying the same word at the same time). Next up is person 3 and person 4 and so on and so forth until two people say the same word at the same time.

Team building, something not related to stories

Fake Expert/ Inventor

Version 1: The group knows what the object is, but the ‘EXPERT’ was sent into a breakout room and did not see it. The group can interview the EXPERT and they have to answer confidently. See any video of ‘Pitch Please’ on Ellen for an example.

Version 2: The EXPERT knows what the object is, but the group does not. The EXPERT must describe the object and it’s uses without explicitly saying what it is. The group guesses the object in rounds.

Silliness, teambuilding, descriptive language

Alien, Tiger, Cow

Each word has a movement and a sound:  Alien = fingers making antennas, “beeep beep beeeep,” Tiger= hands as claws, “rawr,” Cow=hands as ears, “moooo.” 

The goal of the game is for everyone to do the same movement and sound effect. 

Facilitator Counts to 3 and everyone chooses which movement and sound to do. Keep resetting and trying again until everyone has spontaneously done the movement and sound in unison. (NOTE: no strategy or planning can happen, the group just has to get to the same character organically.) 

EXTRA CHALLENGE: once you have been successful try again, this time you can never do the same sound and movement combo two times in a row, how does this change your strategy?

Loosen the group up and build some team working skills

Fortunately/ Unfortunately

Directions: Participants decide on a predetermined order. Participants tell a story together as a group, with each participant sharing one line of the story. 

The FIRST PARTICIPANT shares an opening line, and then a second line which starts with either the word FORTUNATELY or UNFORTUNATELY (ex: It was  a beautiful day in Brooklyn. UNFORTUNATELY, it was a Tuesday so everyone was at work). 

The SECOND PARTICIPANT then shares the next line of the story, starting with whatever sentence starter the FIRST PARTICIPANT didn’t use. (ex: FORTUNATELY, the Brooklyn Borough President said everyone could have the day off to go to the beach). 

This continues on until everyone in the group has shared a line of the story. After the story has been completed, one participant reads the whole story through.

Variations: Try choosing an “Inspiration Image” to share before the game, so that participants are “telling the story of that image.” After the story has been written, try to gather ideas for what a title of the story could be! 

Warm up listening skills and practice being imaginative/non-judgemental

In the manner of the word

2-3 students go to a breakout room while the rest of the group agrees on a very specific adverb:  

  • (ex.bravely, frantically, jealously, awkwardly, delicately, dreamily, obediently, youthfully, lazily, arrogantly, etc. )

  • When the others return they take turns asking the rest of the students to perform actions ‘in the manner of the word’ until they guess it correctly. 

    • Dance in the manner of the word

    • Tie your shoes in the manner of the word

    • Blink in the manner of the word

Specificity of language/ word choice. This might be helpful for a group that needs some practice being expressive


A storyteller describes a character in their story as accurately as possible in a set (short) amount of time. While they’re listening, everyone else tries to draw that character as they picture them. The storyteller then shares a real picture of the person to compare to the drawings and picks a ‘winner’. 

Listening, descriptive skills

Spot the differences in the background

(Virtual) Have one person spotlight

Give everyone 30 seconds to observe that person’s zoom box. Then that person turns off their camera and gets to make 3 changes. It can be to their background, their personal look, anything visible in the zoom box. Then they turn their camera back on and the rest of the group gets to guess what 3 changes were made. 

Observational skills, chance to interact with environment, good for small group

Loaded Questions

Virtual: Ask a question and have each person send their answer privately to the facilitator. The facilitator then reads then answers outloud anonymously and one person guesses whose answer was whose. Guesser should guess an answer for each person before finding out if they are correct. Usually best if the question asker is also the guesser.

Some example questions:

  • What would be the title of your autobiography?

  • If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

  • If you could have dinner with any celebrity who would it be?

In person: same process but people write their answers anonymously on slips of paper.

Getting to know you and self reflection

Listener, mover, speaker

This activity involves 3 participants. One mover, one speaker, one listener. The Zoom host can pin those 3 videos. The Listener closes their eyes. The mover then does 3 movements. After each movement the speaker describes each out loud. The mover should then repeat the same movements again. The speaker can describe them again, in the same or different ways. Then the Listener opens their eyes and tries to repeat the 3 movements. At the end the mover and the listener can do the movements side by side to see how they look similar and different. 

Build observational and listening skills, fun

Bad Rap

Person 1 starts by saying a sentence that ends with an easy word to rhyme, ex. "I went to the farm looking for a hen." And then the whole group chants "bad rap, bad rap, bad rap." Person 2 says the next sentence that would end with a word that rhymes with Person 1's sentence BUT doesn't say the last word, ex. "But I had to write it down so I grabbed a..." (the word would be pen). Person 3 has to fill in the blank with a word that makes sense but doesn't rhyme, ex. "paint brush." The group chants "bad rap, bad rap, bad rap" and then Person 3 begins with a new first sentence, like Person 1.

Warm up game

Description Game 

Directions: One participant is sent away to a separate space (separate breakout room on Zoom). While they are gone, they are thinking of a theme/category (i.e. Holidays, Candy, Birthday Party, etc). While they’re gone, the rest of the group collectively decides on a number 1-10. This represents a place on a value scale, with 1 being the “worst” and 10 the “best.” Once the group decides on a number, the other participant is let back into the room. 

At that point, they share the category with the rest of the group. One by one, the rest of the group uses descriptive language to try to describe something in the specified category at the agreed upon value. 

For example, if the category was CANDY and the value was 2, a participant might say “A fun-sized Snickers bar that’s been squashed in the bottom of someone’s backpack for a few days.”

The object of the game is to get the person who was not in the room to guess the group’s number. 

Practice listening skills, to warm up descriptive detail part of the brain 

Huge thanks to the many Moth instructors and EDU Team members past and present who contributed to this database: HannaH Allen, Micaela Blei, Delia Bloom, Julian Goldhagen, and Catherine McCarthy among others… 

The Moth Education Program works with young people and educators to build community through storytelling workshops, performances and innovative resources. To learn more, visit themoth.org/education

The Moth Education Program is made possible by generous support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Charitable Trust, the Kate Spade New York Foundation, and Alice Gottesman, and The Paul & Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation.

Additional program support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the New York State Council on the Arts, ConEdison, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.