What To Do With 40 People Arriving Slowly Over 20 Minutes?

A member wrote to me this week to ask:

What ‘unofficial start’ ideas do you have to occupy a group of 40 students who arrive gradually over 20+ minutes?

I figure that what I shared would be useful to many more members of the playmeo community, so here’s a summary of the key parts of my response:


First, simply relying on the typical approach to this situation (ie just wait until most if not all of the group have arrived) is just plain lazy and smacks of not knowing what else to do.

As discussed here, unofficial starts – as I like to call them – are any strategies (not just games) that facilitate early engagement and amplify the productivity and purpose of your program.

Note, unofficial starts are not just useful at the start of your program but can be implemented at any time the opportunity for disengagement is high, eg straight after lunch, or a long break, etc.

So, if I was faced with the same circumstances, here are just a few ideas I would design and deliver (all of these ideas can be found in the playmeo database:)

    • Alphabet Equations – distribute them in 2 or 3 places to invite your larger group to gather in smaller clumps to solve the puzzles.
    • Wordles – as above.
    • PDQ Test – classic arrival activity that requires no props and will likely welcome some pretty quirky moves from your group. Be sure to include Thumb Wrestling in Stereo, or play on its own.
    • Rope House – I love love love this exercise and can be a really powerful way to frame your program, but it’s also a top-class puzzle.
    • Comets – this one will need some specialised equipment, but it will be worth it.
    • Clapping Game or Copy Claps – I have delivered these two in various ways to groups of 200+ students as they arrived.


I hope this was useful and instructive to you, too.

What fun ideas do you know and use that would productively engage a group of students arriving slowly?

Share in the Comments below…


Comments (1)

  1. Felicity Walter

    These are great suggestions (and very timely as I am running an event tomorrow with multiple schools who are unlikely to all arrive at the same time.)

    Some other activities I use for this purpose are giant jenga, having questions on sheets of butcher’s paper that people can answer as they arrive, having a communal art piece that they can all contribute to (e.g. having brown paper covering a table and sharpies), decorate your own name tag and human bingo (find someone who….).

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