Ask everyone to find one other person who also identifies with a particular criteria you announce.
For example, ask each person to find someone else who has the same or similar colour top, or length of hair, month of birth, number of letters in their first name, etc.
Video Transcript for Getting Into Pairs
presented by Mark Collard
In this next exercise I’m going to demonstrate and you can help me demonstrate a variety of ways in which we can randomly ask people to form a partnership or a pair or a group of two.
We’re all familiar with the standard. It’s like okay, pick a partner. And as we said earlier they just simply gravitate to their friends. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, however for the purposes of building interaction and strengthening relationships with others that’s often not a great strategy.
So having a few things up your sleeve can actually A. make it more fun, a bit more randomly provide opportunities for people to get to know each other. Your task as I describe each of these is to apply it to yourself so that we actually demonstrate what it looks like.
For example, I’m going to ask you to find just one other person right now who’s wearing similar type of shoes to you. Go. Just one person, similar type of shoes to you.
(people getting into pairs)
Okay. Good. I’m going to give you a medley. Here’s a series more. I’d like you to think of the last digit of your mobile or cell phone number. My number is a three. Most of you probably all went all the way through your number to work out the last number, right? It’s a reality. Alright I want you to find one other person, so again you’re forming a partner, who has the same last number as you. Go.
(people getting into pairs)
You could be my partner. And if you don’t have a partner just find anyone close to you that has fingers. There, fantastic.
So another little technique that I found useful that if you don’t happen to have a partner or you may still be looking for your partner is just raising your hand. That just means that hey I’m still looking for a partner, and eventually those people find each other. Whether the match was correct or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about randomly inviting people to mix.
Here’s another one. Go ahead, you’ve already done it. Cross your arms in front of you because it’s a bit cold out here. Find someone who is not doing the same as you. So if you’re a left arm on top find a right arm on top.
(people getting into pairs)
Couple more. You’ll note that they’re pretty random. So we’re now going to ask you to think of the month of the year in which you are born. I was December. I’m going to go find a partner who was also born in December. Go.
(people getting into pairs)
Last one, just a little bit different. I’d like you to think of, and don’t say anything yet, just to yourself. I’m going to mention three animals: elephant, cow, kangaroo. Elephant. Cow. Kangaroo. Think of just one of them now, elephant or a cow or a kangaroo, any one of those.
You only have one animal now in mind. Find one other person the same as the animal you’re thinking of but do it in a way that represents that animal. So make the sound or the movement of that elephant to find your partner. Go.
(people pairing up as they are getting into pairs)
So there’s great benefit in providing a series of random methods, strategies, to divide large groups into pairs. Earlier today we did a series of activities that invited a large group to split into two teams. What were some of those methods just to remind ourselves? What were some of the methods we used earlier today that split the larger group into two teams? We had you either side of a rope. What were they?
Colour spectrum, so one end of the colour spectrum and the other end of the spectrum were two teams. Good. What else?
Crossing the arms. All those with left over got together. All those with right over got together.
Thumbs. Right thumb on top or left thumb on top.
(Which half of the year you were born.)
Which half of the year you were born, so January to June together, July through to December.
(Odds and evens.)
Odds and evens based on…
Birthday, yes. Or it could be your house number or the last two digits of your mobile phone.
How To Play Narrative
Have you ever gotten tired of asking people to “find a partner” and wished there was another way? Then this post has your name written all over it.
Ask everyone in your group to find one other person who also identifies with a particular criteria you announce. For example, ask each person to find someone else who has the same or similar:
Colour of top, pants, socks, etc
Type of shoes worn
Month/season of birth
Length of hair
Height, or size of hands, feet, thumb, ears, etc
Colour of eyes or hair
Favourite car, animal, ice-cream flavour, TV show, etc
Same last digit of their street address
Choice of holiday destination selected from three possibilities, eg Hawaii, Swiss alps, Hong Kong.
Favourite genre of movie, sport, book, etc
Number of letters, syllables or vowels in their name
Here are four techniques that require a little more explanation:
Look Up Look Down: Form a circle facing inward, and on your command, ask everyone to “LOOK DOWN” at the ground, and then on your command, “LOOK UP” directly and purposefully to the eye level of another randomly-chosen group member. If two people happen to look at each other (ie by chance,) they depart the scene as newly-formed partners, the circle contracts, and the pairing continues.
Extended Fingers: With hands behind their backs, everyone extends a certain number of fingers on one (or two) hands. Once ready, ask everyone to reveal their variously extended digits in front of them so that others can see them – the task is to find another person with the same number of exposed fingers.
Thumb or Pinky: Same as above, but ask that only a thumb or pinky finger is extended.
Fold In Half: Form one straight line – according to a random fit, or by way of a particular criteria such as height, date of birth, the last two digits of home telephone numbers, etc (see Mute Line-Up for more options) – and then fold the resulting line in the middle so that each person ends up facing another person to become partners.
If you’re looking for some fun and random ways to form teams (or more than two people), take a look at Getting Into Teams.
Practical Leadership Tips
Inevitably, there will be a few stragglers, so invite them to pair up with anyone close to them.
If you have an uneven number of people in your group, invite a colleague or yourself to jump in to form a pair.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using the words ‘pick a partner.’ But, good programming suggests that you use it sparingly (there are just too many other fun ways to form pairs) and later in your program (if at all) when your group is more familiar with each other. Further rationale for this approach can be found in the sections which discuss playmeo’s programming philosophy.
If you can find the time, there is a lot of value to invite newly formed pairs to share something about themselves before you move on. Ask them to share something about a topic you nominate, eg the pets they have at home. It can take just 30 seconds, but the energy and bonding that can occur during these moments are priceless.
You could integrate the mixing strategies of Getting Into Pairs as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The stronger the relationships in your group, the more likely individual team members will feel comfortable pairing up with any other member of the group. A particular preference to pair with one person and not with another may reflect dysfunction within the group. Therefore, the frequent use of a variety of random techniques to form pairs (or small teams) can help to break down these social barriers and build pro-social relationships.
Only when individuals are given the opportunity to interact and share can they start to understand and learn more about other people. And when these opportunities for interaction are based on nonsensical or random factors such as shoe colour or certain preferences for doing things, some social barriers can be diminished or perhaps eliminated altogether. This greater comfort will make any conversations regarding the development of full value behaviours easier to lead.
Here are some random pairing ideas which involve simple props:
Same Suit: Randomly distribute a deck of playing cards to your group. Ask everyone to find someone holding a card of a similar suit, or the same face value (eg King, 9, Ace, etc.)
Pick A Number: Ask everyone in your group pick a number (written on a piece of paper, prepared in advance) out of a hat. Each person looks for another who is holding a matching or paired number.
Pick An Object: As above, but write the name of an animal, or car or any object on the pieces of paper.
Take a look at We Connect Cards, a commercial set of fantastic questions which will help your group interact and connect with random partners.
Handy Props: Take a look at Climer Cards, a versatile deck of cards which are brilliant at forming random pairs.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Many of the variations shared in this activity can be exercised online, eg last digit of their street address, the colour of one’s clothing, eyes, hair, etc.
If possible, employ the breakout room function of your favourite online conferencing software, eg Zoom. It may be possible to divide your group into X number of pairs randomly or you may have the option to personally allocate certain participants to particular rooms.
Check out this clever software from Flippity that will instantly and randomly create X number of pairs from a list you provide within a Google Docs spreadsheet. Follow the instructions to produce your own groupings and then share your browser screen, if required, with your group.
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There is no one particular source for all of these creative Getting into Pairs ideas – they have been learned and refined over many years in the field. That said, many of these techniques are shared in the following publication: