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Make one step forward – group exercise

The exercise can be used in any class or in any student group or in team building process for the following purposes: getting to know and understand the students/team members; developing empathy for other people; building group cohesion; developing the feeling of acceptance and understanding in the group; recognizing and understanding the reasons for deviated and/or extreme behavior; to help understand the personal consequences of being a member of a minority or a subcultural group.

Size of the group where it can be applied: 10-20 persons

Time frame: 60 minutes

Tools necessary: Roleplaying cards


  • Read the task carefully and look through the list called "Situations and events". Adjust it to the group you are actually working with.
  • Prepare a roleplay card for each participant.


1. Create a calm atmosphere, possibly with a calm, quiet music in the background. Ask the participants to keep absolutely quiet.

2. Each participant should draw a card by chance. Ask them to keep the card and not to show it to anyone.


  • You are an unemployed, single mother
  • You are a daughter of a bank manager. You study economics at the university.
  • You are a full-time mother with 6 children, not able to (re)enter employment.
  • You are a young, disabled man, who is able to move only by wheelchair.
  • You are a 17-year-old girl with Roma cultural background, who hasn’t finished primary school.
  • You are a HIV infected, middle-aged mother.
  • You are a 24-year-old unemployed boy with Roma cultural background.
  • You are an illegal immigrant.  
  • You are the President of a political youth organization, the “parent party” of which is currently in power.
  • You are a son of a Chinese immigrant. Your father owns a successful fast food chain restaurant in the country.
  • You are the daughter of the ambassador of the USA to Hungary.
  • You are the owner of a successful export-import company.
  • You are retired, formerly worked in a shoe factory.
  • You are a girlfriend/friend of a heroin dependent young artist.
  • You are a child of a young unmarried mother.
  • You are a 27-year-old homeless man.
  • You are a 19-year-old son of a farmer.
  • You are a rich university student.
  • You are a mother on maternity leave who is beaten regularly by her husband.
  • You are an unemployed woman with Roma cultural background with 5 children.
  • You are a teacher working with disadvantaged children.
  • You are a headmaster and your school is mainly attended by disadvantaged students.  
  • You are a teacher working in an elite school.    
  • You are a headmaster and your school is mainly attended by elite students.   

3. Let’s ask the participants to take a seat and read their roleplay card.

4. Now ask them to imagine themselves into their roles. To help them, read some of the following questions. Leave a pause in between the questions, thus ensuring them some time to react and create images about their new personality and the way of life they lead.

  • What did your childhood look like? What kind of house did you live in? What kind of games you played? What was your parents’ occupation?
  • How do you live nowadays? Where do you work, with whom do you spend your leisure time? What are you doing in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening?
  • Where do you live? What is your monthly income? What do you do in your spare time? What do you do when you are on holiday?
  • What makes you upset, and what you are afraid of?

5. Now ask the participants to keep absolutely quiet while lining up beside each other (like at a starting-line). They should hold each other’s hand.

6. Tell the participants that you are going to read a collection of situations and events.  Every time, when, according to the role, the participant’s answer is “YES”, he/she should make a step forward. In case the answer is “NO”, he/she should remain where he/she is.

7. Let’s read the situations one by one. Let’s pause after reading each statement so that the participants can make the step.

Situations and events which make one step forward or make one stay.

Read the following situations. After reading a situation, leave time for participants making the step forward, and ask the participants to realize where they are compared to the others.  

  • You have never got into a financial crisis during your life.
  • Your living conditions are fairly good, and you have telephone and television.
  • You feel that your native language, your religion and cultural affiliation is accepted in the society where you live.
  • You feel that your opinion made on various social and political issues is heard.
  • People turn to you for advice on various issues.
  • You are not afraid of being arrested by the police.
  • You are aware where to turn to for advice and help in case you feel in need of it.
  • You have never experienced racial discrimination / You have never felt discriminated because of your origin.
  • You get social and health care meeting your needs.
  • Once a year you can afford to go for a holiday.
  • You can afford to invite your friends for a dinner to your home.
  • Your life is interesting, you are optimistic regarding your future.
  • You feel that you can learn and you can practice the profession you have chosen.
  • You are not afraid of being intimidated or being attacked in the street.
  • You are not afraid of being intimidated or being attacked in the media.
  • You can vote both in the national and the local elections.
  • You do not worry about your children when they are at school.
  • You can celebrate, together with your relatives and close friends the most important religious holidays.
  • You can participate in an international seminar held abroad.
  • You can afford to go to the cinema or to the theater at least once a week.
  • You don’t worry about the future of your children.
  • You can afford to buy new clothes at least once in every three month.
  • You can fall in love with the person chosen by yourself.
  • You feel that your expertise is acknowledged and accepted in the society where you live.
  • You can use the internet, and can make use of it.  

Let’s make one step forward!

8. Finally, ask the participants to notice their final position.

9. Now, before starting the evaluation, give them a few minutes to sit in a circle and get back to their original role. 

Discussion and evaluation:

1. Let’s start with asking the participants what do they think has happened and what do they think about the exercise. Then we can carry on with the discussion about the topics arisen and that what they have learnt.

2. How did the participants, making a step forward felt, and how did felt those, who had to stay where they were.  

3. When did those who had the chance to frequently make a step forward realize that others are left behind?

4. Who wished to let his/her hand released?

5. Who found it difficult to lose hold of his mate’s hand? Why? How did it feel to release him/her?

6. Did anybody felt, that there were moments, when his/her human rights were disregarded?

7. Have the participants figured out each other’s role? (At this stage of the discussion they can reveal it.)

8. How easy or difficult it was to play the different roles? How did they imagine the person they played?

9. Has the exercise reflected the society in any way? How?

10. Which are the human rights concerning the certain roles? Can anybody claim that his/her human rights were offended or that he was not allowed to practice them?

11. It is possible to emphasize that it doesn’t matter if other participants think that a certain person could have made more steps forward, if the person thinks differently about his/her own situation (we see it differently from outside, but things happening inside a person will define, when he/she makes a step.)

User’s guide, equipment:

  • Role play cards: one card per participant
  • Free space: a corridor, a large room (15-20 meters), free space, where the participants can comfortably form the line, and there is enough space to move forward

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ESLplus - European Learning Space on Early School Leaving

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