Musical Chairs

Materials: Chairs, a music-playing device, flipchart paper, marker, multicoloured paper

Exercise description


A few days beforehand, the participants are split into four groups. The training team makes a list of who is in what group. Each group is assigned a colour (e.g. blue, purple, green, red). The training team determines instructions beforehand that will discriminate two groups: the blues to lose, and the purples to win.

When the exercise begins, all members of the group must be marked as belonging to that group (e.g. they can attach a paper in the colour of their group to their chest).

Two rows of chairs are set up back to back. There is one chair fewer than the number of participants.

Instructions to participants: “You move around the chairs while the music is playing. When the music stops, everyone is supposed to try to grab a seat. If you manage to sit in a chair, you win a point for your group. The group with the most points wins.”


Each group is also given additional secret instructions.

The green group: to help the purple group win;

The red group: to try to make sure the blue group loses and to try to get as many points as they can;

The blue group: to check that no one is cheating;

The purple group: to be careful they don’t get hurt.


As the exercise progresses, there are fewer and fewer chairs (the training team takes away one, two or more chairs each round).

The people who do not manage to get to a chair continue participating in the exercise but cannot win a point for their group.

Examples of instructions prepared by the training team beforehand, knowing who is in which group:

Persons whose names begin with A, D or N will stand in front of a chair while the rest move around.

Those born in 1975 should count to five before sitting on a chair.

You will stand in two circles around the chairs: an outer and an inner circle. All those born between May and August will be in the inner circle.

The trainer reads one of the prepared instructions and lets the music play. The participants move around the chairs, sometimes dancing, until the music stops.

If two or more people sit on the same chair when the music stops, the training team act as referees and say who’s out, and if it happens to involve someone from the blue group (in this case), then they are definitely out. The training team should conspicuously discriminate against the blue group, always taking away their chair, accusing them of cheating, writing on the board that they have fewer points.

The game of musical chairs should last 15 minutes or so.


Each group, one by one, is asked the following questions (starting with the winning group):

What instructions did you receive?

How did you feel in your group?

Did you notice any discrimination?


Then they are told about the secret instructions.

How do you feel now? Did you notice anything?

What could have been done to prevent/stop it?

How does this experience relate to real life?