Great Game of Power
The Great Game of Power is an activity that explores representations of power through the construction of a visual image made of everyday objects. This strategy explores the relationship between observation and interpretation through the use of the DAR (Describe, Analyze, Relate) meaning-making routine.
Place a set of four chairs (all the same) in a row, along with a water bottle in front of a seated group. Ask for a volunteer to silently arrange the 4 chairs and a water bottle in such a way that, in their opinion, one chair has more power than all the other chairs. Explain that any of the objects can be moved in any direction or placed on top of each other, but none of the objects can be removed altogether from the space. Sit in the audience and wait for a volunteer to arrange the chairs. Once the chairs have been arranged ask that volunteer to return to their seat and to not reveal his/her thinking behind the arrangement. Next, ask the group to interpret or “read” the image made by the chairs and water bottle:
- Describe: What do you see? Describe the way the chairs are positioned.
- Analyze: What does that position represent or make you think of? Why do you say that? What is another interpretation of this position? Which chair has the most power? Why?
- Relate: (Make connections to content) If this image represents a moment in history/a scene from our book/an interaction at our school … what does this image represent? Why? What else could it be?
Encourage a number of different interpretations. Have another volunteer repeat the activity.
- What are some of the different ways we saw power represented in this activity?
- What makes someone or something powerful?
- Who or what is powerful in our world now/was powerful then? Why?
- Remember you can arrange the chairs in any position you wish.
- How is the water bottle positioned in the image? Consider what it represents.
- As a final step in the activity, invite a student to place and pose a body/their body in the image in an effort to take power away from the chair. This leads to reading a body as image in relationship to an object.
- Invite students to make a specific image of power in response to a prompt: Arrange the chairs to represent the author’s argument from the reading. Or Arrange the chairs to represent a democracy. In this version, the person or group creating the image should get to share their thinking after all the rest of the group has completed their meaning-making, since they were working to create a specific interpretation.
- Reading/Writing or Social Studies: Use this strategy to discuss types or systems of government, character relationships, or representations of power within story or history.