Alien Greetings

Before you begin, think about...

  • A lot of what we communicate is in our body language rather than our words. When we greet each other, we accompany our words with body language (gestures, facial expressions) that we take for granted, but in fact are gestures that we learned from the environment we grew up in.
  • In what ways do you greet others? How do you greet an older relative, a teacher, a friend, a team-mate, or someone you have never met before? What gestures and expressions do you make when saying “hello”?
  • What if you were to say hello in a completely different way?
  • Do all people greet each other in the same way around the world?
  • How did people greet each other during the pandemic that is different from what they might typically do before?
  • How do we check that we have consent before touching someone else’s body or belongings?

Variation 1: Focus on Responding to Each Other

  • Students walk around the space introducing themselves to one another. At first allow them to do this however they feel comfortable (probably with a handshake or a wave, depending also on public health protocols).
  • Students create greetings that might be used by aliens on a strange planet. They walk around and introduce themselves, using their new greetings. You may encourage students to mimic each other’s greeting in turns (e.g., partner A shares their greeting and partner B responds by imitating partner A, then partner B shares their greeting and partner A responds by imitating partner B). Encourage students to use large movements, small movements, different body parts, sounds, etc.
  • Students form a circle. One student demonstrates a greeting, and the group echoes the movement presented. The activity continues around the circle until every person that would like to share has demonstrated a greeting.

Encourage students to develop an alien language with their actions. They will try to greet each other in the language and match the type of language the person that is greeting them is using. For example, one alien might use a series of zaps and zooms for their language. The person they greet will listen to their greeting and try to match it using zaps and zooms. Then they might greet another person using beeps. Not only is it fun, but they really must listen and model others.

Variation 2: Focus on Non-verbal Communication Skills (Tone of Voice, Body Language)

  • Students walk around the space introducing themselves to one another verbally.
  • Ask the players the greet each other in a specific way. Encourage them to continue walking around the room, greeting different people each time. Here are some suggestions (adapt for group):
    • Greet someone you do not really trust.
    • Greet someone like they are a long-lost friend.
    • Greet someone who has bad breath.
    • Greet someone like you are a merperson.
    • Greet someone like you are a superhero / supervillain.
    • Greet someone like you are a businessperson very late to a meeting.
    • Greet someone like an elderly person who wants someone to talk to.


  • Did you easily come up with a greeting? Was it difficult?
  • Did some of the greetings make you laugh?
  • What might the benefits be of laughing and having fun? Why do you think there is the expression: “Laughter is the best medicine.”?
  • Do you think that sharing a silly moment with a classmate helps you to see aspects of that person that you don’t usually see?
  • How does it feel to use different body parts and sounds to greet each other?
  • How might using a variety of greetings help to make everyone feel included?
  • How might our class greet each other to include everyone? What are some options for greetings that we might want to do?
  • How does having special greetings for the people we know help us feel connected?
  • How might someone with a different way of greeting others (e.g., because they grew up in a culture different from many of their classmates) feel when they learn a new type of greeting?


Wheelchairs are a physical extension of someone’s body and should not be touched without permission. We always have the right to say no to physical touch that does not feel safe to us. Respecting someone else’s boundaries helps us to feel close to them and to build trust and respect.

Cultural Norms:

We create culture by choosing to follow social scripts (e.g., greetings that become common practice) and we can interrogate these to understand common social scripts from other “cultures” or to make our own social scripts more inclusive and invitational.