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Any games / ideas to split learners into syndicate groups?


I'm looking for ideas to divide a large group of people (40) into syndicate groups, and in such a way that it also works as an icebreaker!
Your suggestions greatly appreciated.
Lisa Jones

8 Responses

  1. Splitting Learners
    Here are a couple of suggestions based on approaches I’ve used:

    1) Ask everyone to line up in birth date (not year) order. Then choose appropriate points in the line to split learners up.

    2) Ask everyone to line up according to where they were born. The furthest North at one end, with the furthest South at the other.

    The beauty of these two exercises is that it tends to mix people randomly, but also gets people talking to each other.

  2. Dividing people in to groups
    There are obviously dozens of ways to divide groups. Here are a few more:
    1. Give people cards with a well-known theme tune/song written on it. Then, just by humming, people have to find others in their group.
    2. Give people cards with a theme but don’t tell them what it is (eg pizza, pisa, mafia, fiat; olympus, zorba, Kos, feta; etc.)
    3. At the start put a code on their name badges (a colour, a number, and a letter – perhaps using 5 colours, 6 numbers and 8 letters). Then at various times divide the group according to one of the categories.
    4. Get everyone to change seat so they are sitting by different people. Then sort groups by where they sit.
    5. Put name plates or badges in a hat and pick teams.
    6. For a mix of experience/age/grade, get them to stand in a line according to one of those criteria and then go along the line saying a, b,c,d,e,a,b,c,d,e,a,b….
    7. Ask them to form in to groups of however many based on a criteria you set (eg work with as many as possible of the people you know least)
    8. Get some different coloured sweets and hand them around, then get them to form according to the coloured sweet they chose.
    9. Do musical chairs, everyone moves around and then grabs the nearest seat when the music stops.
    10. In the break put post-it messages to the underside of the seats.
    That should keep you going for a while!

  3. animals
    I use colourful sea animal characters (i bought in the early learning centre), I decide on how many I want in the groups and i divide up the animals accordingly – I have a brightly coloured material bag that is passed round and the participants chose an animal… it always causes great excitment “are you a whale” “no i’m a dolphin” etc… I put a sample animal in the centre of the empty chairs and ask participants to find their groups – it always breaks the atmosphere and gets people talking and laughing (they often take on the personality of the animal…) and it ensures that the groups are randomly chosen. The animals cost about £5 (buy two boxes so you have enough for larger groups).
    Try it out

  4. Sweet Dividers
    I like the comment by Anne Marie about using animals. I have done the same but using types of sweets. This means a group are the fudge group, a group are humbugs….and you can interpret meanings from this of course!
    I have also used the line up but done it with the title of the book you would most recomend to others. This generates a lot of discussion but watch out if doing this with students as a huge number of them all tend to say “Harry Potter”

  5. More ideas for dividing groups
    Here are a few I use (some are similar to those of other contributers):
    1. using Winnie the Pooh cards (purchased from The Training Shop), I get people to pick a card and then find others with the same character
    2. I make up a packet for each participant. The packet has their name written in a colour, and contains any handouts, work sheets, post-its, etc., that they will be using during the session; sweets the same colour as used for their name; and a similar coloured scented pen (they have to give this back at the end); and sometimes a Winnie the Pooh card (different characters for people in the same colour group). This generates interest and excitement at the beginning of the day and gets them discussing what is in the packet and guessing what each thing is for, it incorporates several groupings which I can manipulate beforehand (to ensure that people coming from different workplaces mix with folk they don’t know; and, perhaps, that more experienced and less experienced people have a chance to mix. I also try to ensure a mix of genders in the groups, as well. It also has the advantage of saving time in giving out materials during the day, as they have everything they need in the envelope. The loan of the scented pen is an Accelerated Learning technique. The only problem with this is having to quickly re-do envelopes if participants drop out.

  6. length of service
    If your syndicates are going to be working on things where experience is relevant get people to line up in order of their length of service in the organisation/industry. Then allot numbers up to the number of syndicates you want and send all the 1s to table 1, 2s to table 2 etc, this way each syndicate has a mix of the old’n bold and the sweet n innocent.

  7. Use limericks
    Select a few limericks. Write each individual line of the limerick on a peice of paper.
    Randomly give each person in the room one line of a limerick. Participants need to try to locate who in the room has the other lines in their limerick. Find all your limerick line owners and you have your random group.

  8. Here are three ideas:
    Random Grouping
    – Snap
    The aim of this exercise is to randomly select pairs. Using a graphics program and a selection of clip art, make up a set of duplicate designs or drawings so that you have the same number of ‘playing cards’ as the number of participants. Deal one card to each member of the group and have them find their partner (who has the duplicate card).
    – Standard Tools
    In order to divide the group, simply follow the same overall approach but you can use different objects, e.g. instead of sweets – you can use numbers, names, objects, colours, etc:
    Have a number of sweets brands or flavours that tally with the group numbers you want to form, e.g. For groups of 4, select 4 mini mars bars, 4 mini twix bars, 4 mini bounty bars, etc. The individuals are then asked to choose a sweet – whichever one they have chosen determines the group they will be in, e.g. all of you who have chosen mars bars will work together.
    Alternatives: plastic farm animals (4 pigs/4 sheep/4 cows,etc), coins (4 x 1p, 4 x 2p, 4 x 5p, etc).

    – Paper Cuts
    If you need to split you class up into groups, you can add an element of randomness by offering your students a fringed card and inviting them to tear off a strip and indicating where each group should be situated. E.g. Have a specific number of ‘cats’, ‘dogs’, goldfish’, etc written on the card/paper & they help themselves:
    “You are now going to split yourselves into two groups. Please take a strip. Everyone got one? OK, Hands up cats. Hands up dogs. Excellent. Cats down this end of the room, dogs over there by the window”.


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