Announce a particular category, such as ‘colour of eyes.’
Ask everyone to find all other people in the group who identify with the same category.
Repeat, with a series of two-group and multi-group categories, to successfully mix your group.
Video Transcript for Categories Group Game presented by Mark Collard
Try this out. Interlock your fingers in front of you this time.
Now without me telling you where to stand. I am giving you some responsibility here now.
I would like you to find everyone doing the same thing as you are with your thumbs. It might be right thumb on top, left thumb on top, maybe side by side, maybe they are tucked in, or you got no thumbs at all. Find the other people the same as you.
Who are you guys up here, lefties? (Righties)
And over here? (Wrong) I think that would be left. Lefties over here.
Are there any others? No others, maybe side by side or tucked in? No, not today? That’s okay.
It might have been that you were like that. You could have been just like that there, but you felt uncomfortable. Would it be very easy to quickly just go, switch, okay so now I can be with someone else?
That is okay, but there are times when perhaps it is more difficult to lie. For example, I would now like you to divide up according to the type of shoe you are wearing. Not necessarily their brand name, it could be what they are made of, what you use them for, their colour, how many holes are in them, how much you spent on them. Find other people the same as you, type of shoe.
Running shoes, look out for these guys doing tag games over here. Over here. What are they called? (Metros) Metros, okay.
Note that we are in three groups. Now if you are working with an exercise and the next one might mean that you need three groups. Excellent, they are relatively even, but it may be that it never works out even for you.
Then I’d say use the old scientific method to say hey you and you over here. But what you’ve done is you’ve broken them up randomly.
The same University that I worked with back in February of this year, there were three, let’s call them ‘Anglo’ boys for want of better term. Given there was a very strong foreign student population in this group of eighty or so.
For the first 10-15 minutes it was amazing the number of things that these three boys had in common. You know, they were together the whole time. Clearly not feeling comfortable here, and yet for my program objectives that was never going to work.
They needed to find a way to break out of that little clique, so they can start to actually get to know other people, which is the whole point of the program. So I then needed to find something they could no longer lie about because they could go, “well how many? Oh, three. Okay I am with you.”
I used the colour of their top. They could not lie about that. So, hmm, dammit different colours they are are going to have to be in a different group. That was the first point where I was able actually to get to know somebody new.
So that can be another reason to why the categories can be used. Is that you can deliberately break other’s cliques, and before they know it they are in a different group. Great, this group you go over to that corner, this group you go over there. And off you go, go do whatever you need to do next. It gives it a bit of fun.
Compared to, or to distinguish this to the standard. What is the standard technique that is often used, I know it was used when I was at school, to break a group up? Yeah, one, two, three, one, two, three.
I don’t know about you, but how could you ever police that Ron was number two and blah, blah, blah. It was always like me, I was always way ahead of the teacher doing this so I could be with who? (Friends) My friends.
Now there is not necessarily anything wrong with that, but depending on your objectives of your program, that might not actually achieve the objective.
How To Play Narrative
It is said that the smallest distance between two people is a smile, a laugh or that moment when they discover something they each have in common. This exercise is all about leveraging the latter.
Ask your group to separate in accordance with the categories or groupings you are about to announce.
For example, if the category is “COLOUR OF YOUR PANTS,” everyone wearing blue jeans will group together, all of the black pants will group together, and so on.
Upon identifying each of the groups (I often focus on each grouping and ask its members to label themselves,) I typically announce the next split. You can keep splitting folks for as long as they are having fun, or you run out of ideas. The whole point is to mix people in and out of groups.
Choose simple half-half splits or multi-group splits. Here are some examples…
Simple two-group splits include:
Arm that ends up crossed over the top of the other, when folded on your chest.
Shower/bath in the morning or end of the day.
Preference for washing or drying dishes.
Prefer a dog or a cat as a pet.
Position of your thumbs, that is left or right on top, when you clasp your hands together so that your fingers interlock.
Last digit of your home telephone number. Odd and even numbers get together.
Number of street you live at – odds and evens.
Simple multi-group splits include:
Month in which you were born (12.)
Season of the year in which you were born (4.)
Number of siblings in your family, including yourself (1, 2, 3 …)
Oldest, youngest, in-between in your family (3.)
Colour of your eyes, hair, hat, shirt, pants, etc.
Which shoulder(s) you hold a carry-bag – right, left or both shoulders (3.)
Mode of transport used to get to the program (car, bus, bike, walk.)
If you are looking for an even split (ie equal number of participants in each group,) and yet can’t find a category that fits, simply move a few people (eg “HEY, YOU AND YOU, MOVE OVER HERE.”) to even out the numbers.
On occasions, some kids may find themselves alone, but in most cases, small groupings of commonality will develop. This is a useful learning point – everyone has something in common with others, but also many unique characteristics too.
For mixing purposes, alternate between two-group splits and multi-group splits. The emphasis of this strategy is to invite lots of mixing. The more interaction you generate, the more comfort and trust will develop, and the more success your program will achieve.
To break down cliques, nominate a category that would separate clique members, for example, a distinguishing feature among them such as the colour of their tops.
You could integrate Categories as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how they influence behaviour in different settings.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The awareness this Categories group game can raise about the diversity and commonality of your group makes it a perfect choice for integrating into your programs which seek to build social and interpersonal skills. Acknowledging that we are all different but we all share a common bond is a powerful notion that can positively impact, in particular, the development of one’s emotional literacy.
In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you may wish to invite your group to reflect on the following questions:
How might the diversity and commonality of group members benefit this group? How might it limit you?
What thoughts did you have about how different you are compared to others? What did you make this mean?
What does this simple mixing exercise teach us about self-awareness?
The sky’s the limit when it comes to the types of categories you can announce. Here are some more:
– Preference for good or bad news first when both are presented to you.
– Favourite movie genre.
– Favourite hot beverage.
– Number of televisions in your home.
– The number of materials recycled at home.
– Type of shoes you are wearing (not necessarily their brand.)
– Preference for the way toilet paper spills off the roll – like a waterfall, over the top and forward, or against the back towards the wall.
– Leg you put into your pants, shorts, underwear, etc first when dressing.
– Side of the bed you (typically) get out of in the morning (as you are lying in it, facing the ceiling.)
Highly interactive ice-breaker, energiser & team event.
This or That
Conversation starter that explores difficult propositions.
Useful Framing Ideas
We all have things or attributes in common with other people, and of course, many things which are unique to us alone. Some of these categories or groupings we are not even aware of. Let’s find out how many…
It sometimes seems as if we spend an awful lot of time pointing out differences between ‘us and them.’ Perhaps a more powerful approach is to identify what we all have in common…
You think you know each other pretty well, hey? I’m going to bet that over the course of the next few minutes, you’re about to learn something you didn’t know about someone who you have known for a long time…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this ice-breaker game:
What did you notice as the activity progressed?
What did you hear and see as differences and commonalities were discovered?
What outcomes were achieved during this exercise?
What might this exercise say about our individuality? Our group?
Fun & Interactive ‘Ice-Breaker’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 30 mins, set of ‘Ice-Breaker Question Exchange’ Cards (Print+Play)