Ask everyone to find all other people who also identify with a particular criteria you announce.
For example, ask each person to find all others who have the same colour eyes, or were born in the same season, or prefer tea over coffee, etc.
Video Transcript for Getting Into Teams
presented by Mark Collard
There are times when you need more than one team. So it could be a matter of for example you’ve written… Let’s say you needed four teams. You’ve written the numbers 1 to 4 on a whole series of paper and you basically hand out or they pull out of the tin that number. Everyone who’s got the 1 joins the Team #1.
That’s okay. It’s kind of been around for a long time though. There’s far more interesting ways of actually doing that activity, but that’s definitely relevant. Another one would be and let’s just try this out right now, I’m looking for four teams and I want teams of nine people. Go. Nine people.
(people getting into teams)
Alright. So here’s a great example.
So we have a team of nine, team of nine, team of nine, and then we’ve got a few left over. Now you could find another system that randomly divides them up if you’ve got even numbers of people if that was important or you could use the old scientific method and say hey, two people from each of your groups come and join over here. And you end up actually starting from a fun place randomly and move them into a group that actually gives you that number.
Here’s another way in which you could do that. Right now I’d like you to form into groups of four, four groups, to groups of four people. Groups of four people. Any group of four. Someone over here is looking for a partner. Partner. Partner. Oh, great. So you guys can be my volunteers. So I’m a part of your group.
What I’d like you to do now is to form… I liked your elephant from before, so we’re going to form an elephant. One person, I’m going to be that person, is going to form the trunk. So we’re placing one over the top of the other and the bottom arm grabs the nose. That’s the trunk.
I’m going to have two of my friends, one will have a very large ear on one side and a large ear on the other side, so could I have two ears connected to my trunk, and if you could be our tail that wags in the wind, okay? Or you could do it any way you like.
Okay. So ready? One, two, three. Go ahead and make your elephant now. Go ahead and make your elephant. Make your elephant. So just remember whether you’re a left ear, a right ear, a trunk, or a tail. Alright. Good.
(people forming elephants getting into teams)
Alright, hold it there. So remembering I was going to use a technique that would end up in four even teams. I’ve actually done that, because right now I’m going to ask all of the trunks to get together over here, all the left ears over here, right ears over here, and tails over here.
Trunk, left, right, and tail.
(people getting into teams)
To repeat, all take a few steps in, you can come a little closer. So now we’ve got four random teams. Here’s another quick one and then I’ll describe one more and then we’ll move on. But another quick one would be right now I’d like you to think of a number, and it’s either 1, 2, 3, or 4. So ideally what I’m going to end up with are four groups because everyone who’s thinking the same number is going to be in the same group. So if you’re thinking 1 you’ll be with all the other people thinking number 1.
But here’s the kicker. You can’t say your number. You can’t say hey, I’m number 2, what are you, or you can’t like use your fingers or even clap. That would be a great way of doing it but the way that I’m going to ask you to do it right now is to shake hands.
So for example, Tim you’ve got a number in mind but you’re not going to tell me. Silently but laughter is permitted, we’re going to engage in a standard, normal, common garden variety handshake. But we are going to shake each other’s arms the number of times of the number we’re thinking.
But the key to this is that when you get to your number hold firm and don’t go any further so it’s clear to your partner that you’ve reached your number. Naturally if you haven’t reached your number you want to keep shaking. For example…
(shaking hands with partner getting into teams)
Alright, so clearly I was a 1 because I shook once. Tim was either 2, 3, or 4 because he wanted to keep on going. Have a little laugh, you’re not talking, keep going. But let’s say we did actually shake the same number of times. We stick together and now we look for more people, more of our brethren to join our group. So all of the 3s will find each other, all the 4s will find each other, and so on. Got the idea? Go.
(people shaking hands, getting into teams)
Find yourself a little home and stand there. Make your groups quite distinct.
Okay. Alright. Stay there. We had numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, and now I’m concerned we’ve got five groups. So where are the 4s? Alright. Where are the 3s? 2s? And the 1s? More often than not the least number of people.
I’m not sure why the 1s and the 2s are often less than the 3s and the 4s when put together. My theory is we just love shaking hands and that’s why we want to do it so often.
Alright. So there is a selection of random and fun and engaging ways of dividing your group into smaller groups and groups of say five, six, seven, or eight or whatever that number might be.
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to separate according to the categories or groupings you are about to announce.
For example, if the category is ‘primary colour of your pants,’ everyone wearing blue will group together, all those wearing black pants will get together, etc.
Simple two-group splits:
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 cooking or cleaning up.
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.
Preference for tea or coffee.
Preference for bad news followed by good news, or vice-versa.
Simple multi-group splits:
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, 4 …).
Oldest, youngest, or 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 to get to the program (car, bus, bike, walk).
Type of blood group.
Here are four ideas that require a little more explanation:
Compounding Teams: Starting with pairs (see Getting into Pairs,) ask each partnership to join with another. Then, these four people join with another four people, etc, until you have the required number of teams.
Split Pairs: Ask everyone to join with a friend or someone they know. Propose a scenario in which each pair must choose between two alternatives. For example, each pair is given one canoe and one kayak, or a bunch of strawberries and a bunch of raspberries, roller blades or skateboard, etc. Ask all those who chose a particular option to form a team.
Which Animal: Ask each person in your group to think of three (or whatever number of groups you need) animals. Ask everyone to shut their eyes, imagine all three animals in front of them, and then all but one of them run away. When they next open their eyes, they are to make only the noise of the animal they have imagined is left remaining (ie it is presumed that not everyone will imagine the same animal.) Similar creature sounds are the cue for forming a team.
Group Initiative: Make the task of forming the teams a group initiative. Allow your group to divide up in any manner they choose, but they are required to meet certain criteria. For example, an equal balance of genders, age and skill/experience levels. This technique may take longer, but the process will be valuable, and possibly illuminating. See Empowered Teams for more details.
If you’re looking for some fun and random ways to form pairs or partners, take a look at Getting Into Pairs.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you’re looking for an even split, and can’t find a method to achieve this goal, simply move a few people (“Hey, you and you, move over here…”) to even out the groups.
On occasions, some people 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 balanced your teams will be, and the more comfort and trust will develop within your group.
To break down cliques, nominate a category that would separate particular clique members you are concerned about, eg the colour of their tops.
If you can find the time, there is a lot of value to invite newly formed teams to share something about themselves before you move on. Ask them to share something about a topic you nominate, eg an Olympic sport they would love to compete in. It can take just 30 seconds, but the energy and bonding that can occur during these moments is priceless.
Here are some random team-forming 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).
50-50 Split: In pairs, ask one person to kneel down next to their partner. Invite all those who are standing to form one team and all those who are kneeling to form the other team. A great way to separate friends/cliques.
Puzzle Teams: In advance, cut up X number of large pictures (where X is the number of teams you require) into the required number of puzzle pieces. You should end up with one puzzle piece per group member. Mix all of the pieces in a large receptacle, and then randomly distribute the pieces. Once a picture has been formed, the people holding those puzzle pieces belong in a team.
Props: Take a look at Climer Cards, a versatile deck of cards which are brilliant at forming random teams.
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 arms crossed on chest, their month of birth, last digit of their phone number, 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 teams 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 teams chosen 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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Useful Framing Ideas
Rarely do the traditional methods of ‘pick two captains’ or the old ‘count off’ method of 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, produce balanced teams (in terms of players, skill levels or both.) Can you remember these being used at school? Maybe you still use them today? Now, while these tried and true group-splitting methods may work as such, they are about as much fun as they are self-esteem building exercises – not! We’re not going to do that today. Instead, I would like you to…
There is no one particular source for all of these creative ‘getting into teams’ ideas – they have been learned and refined over many years in the field. That said, many of these techniques are shared in the following publications: