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Getting Delegates Into Groups/Pairs



I seem to have used up all of my easy and quick ways to split a group up into pairs/teams during a session.

(E.G Have delegates stand in a line in birthday order (1st Jan to 31st Dec) and use that to form teams or hand round sweets and get the delegates to work with the other people who chose the same colour etc.)

Does anyone have any new ones they would be willing to share?

Thanks very much.

Lucy Sleigh

7 Responses

  1. Splitting up a group
    I often do something very simple such as number people 1, 2, 3, 1 ,2, 3 and so on. Then, all the 1’s on this side, all the 2’s on that etc. It’s not very exciting but it’s quick and effective.

    Also, on the first day of an induction, I find people will sit with others their either know from previous places or others who match their age, race, gender. I tell everyone to stand up, move three people to the left and sit next to that person. Now, this is your new partner for the session.

    Once I get to know the group, I select two team captains and get them to pick team, like at school. I always pick captains who perhaps need a bit more encouragement so that they get the opportunity to be more active. Be careful though, it can backfire if there’s anyone in the group that’s particularly difficult or unpopular. Only really to be used in team where there’ll be ‘no hard feelings’ if not picked until last.

  2. Using playing cards to form delegate groups
    I don’t know if you have this one but if you work out what groups and pairs you will need during your session you can give playing cards to each delegate when they arrive.

    You can then split the group into different combinations eg red and black, suits, numbers, odds and evens, picture and numbers etc.

    You can also do the same with childrens cards eg with animal pictures. To add some fun try asking the delegates to make the noise of their animal and find their partner or group.

    Good luck.

    Denise Amoss

  3. Give each trainee a numbered disk
    I don’t think this is exciting, just inexpensive, easy, simple and it works everytime.

    I use several sets of cardboard disks numbered 1 to 4. That makes it easy to change pairings and group membership. The first activity in pairs would be each person with number 1 to pair off with each person with a number 2, and each person with a number 3 to pair off with a number 4. To change the pairings get the trainees with number 1 to pair off with those with a number 3, and each person with a number 2 to pair off with a number 4.

    For four larger groups, all those with number 1 will join together, etcetera. Or, if you want them to work in fours, get them in 1, 2 3 and 4 groupings. For larger groupings get all the 1s to join together, then all the 2s, and so on. The permutations are endless, the disks can be numbered from 1 to 6 if necessary, and letters of the alphabet can be used instead of numbers.

  4. out of a hat

    when I’m getting my groups to do pair work, I usually just put numbers into a bag, making them pick at random.

    one idea i may try is having 2 bags, one with questions and one with answers and delegates get paired off with their question/answer. So, for example, I may have the question “what is the first element in the periodic table?” in one bag and in the other bag is the answer “hydrogen”. So, the people with these are a pair.

    I also sometimes just ask people to work with someone they havent worked with before, boring but quick and easy!

  5. Link it to the Learning!
    Like all the other suggestions – really liked Sandee Question & Answer idea…some others you might like to consider:

    Geographic Location – designate one part of the room ‘North, South East & West’ and ask them to stand ‘where they come from’ or perhaps ‘where they were born’ (you can get some great results if you have people from different ethnic backgrounds on the course). The simply split them up into geographic areas. This works well because you have control over the group size – splitting up ‘heavily populated areas’ or combining sparsely populated ones!

    Lining up in height order and then ‘numbering off’ (military style). You can (if you so wish) act as the Drill Sergeant ‘tallest on the left shortest on the right, and number off (according to the number of groups you want), by each shouting out “1, 2, 3,…” etc along the line. Then as per other suggestions, the “1’s” get together etc.

    Pre-prepare a set of cards with well known tunes on them. Make sure there are the correct number of ‘duplicates’ for the group numbers. Hand out the cards in random order – no talking only humming or whistling the idea being to find you partner who has the same tune (hence the need for the correct number of duplicate cards!).

    Give them a few seconds to think of some hobbies or interests. The en-mass to find one other person with a similar (or identical) hobby/interest. Once in pairs you can ‘double up again’ to make fours with each pair finding another pair. Not great when you have odd numbers, but so long as the group is divisible by four it works well & is a great ice breaker!

    Make your own up! Think about the theme of the course/event – select some key elements or key word pairs and get them to find their ‘linked word’ for example ‘Sponsor – Owns the Business Case’ on one card & ‘Business Case – Owned by Sponsor’ on another. You can extend this into an icebreaker, energiser or as part of the course learning itself.

    Personally I always try to ensure that everything I get the delegates to do, in some way adds to their learning about the topic – so the last one is one of my favoutites!

    Hope this interests you!



  6. Working in pairs
    I read this article with interest because as we know, it is always interesting to see how others tackle a task. I have given Janes contribution some thought but I feel I would avoid the ‘picking teams’ method. I say this because the ‘no hard feelings’problem would exist every time. The rejection could have an adverse effect on the delgate and be a barrier to learning. Additional problems exist of disruptive students getting together or a delegate failing to pick a close colleague or line manager. The system of dividing the group into pairs or groups is always a winner and the benefits are enhanced with regularly changing the groups or pairs.

  7. association
    I have a series of cards, i use associations for groups of 2, things like Tom and Jerry, Pie and Peas, for 3’s I use the 3 tenors, or knife, fork, spoon and so on for groups of 4 (beatles, teletubbies) and 5’s (vegetables, fruits. depending on how i need them splitting I put the cards in a bag and the group have to find their group members. this encourages them to talk as they have to ask each other what is on their card.


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