Splitting Up Large Groups for Activities

I don’t know about you, but I always cringe a little bit when an educator comes down the line counting off “1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2” to split up into small groups. It certainly gets the job done, but we can do better. If done right, splitting up your large group for an activity can be a part of the learning experience instead of just some mundane task you have to do.

Small Group vs. Large Group

Large groups benefit the educator by being able to get information out in an efficient manner and having everyone understand the big picture of what is happening. Small groups encourage the learners to have deeper conversation, develop communication skills, and actively participate in their learning. It is important to note that “small” isn’t necessarily defined by the number of participants; but instead by collaboration and discussion being integrated into the learning process.

Favorite Ways to Split Up

Here are some of my favorite ways of splitting up a group:

  • Deck of Cards: Hand a card to each learner and have them go into their group based off of number, suit, or color. Make sure to go through the deck beforehand and only hand out the cards that you need for the size group you desire.
  • Forced Choice: Have everyone get into a group size based on the amount of groups you desire, then give options for each group member to choose. New groups are then created with those that chose the same option. For example, if you are looking for four groups, have everyone get into a group of four. Then have each member choose either Head, Heart, Hands, or Health. Everyone gets one choice and every option must be chosen. Then all the Heads group up, all the Hearts group up, and so on.
  • Arm/Thumb Cross: Ask the learners to either cross their arms or lace their fingers with one thumb over the other. Split the group based on which arm or thumb is on top.
  • High Five: Have everyone raise their hand high and find someone else to high five with. Once the crisp high five is given and put their hands down so that everyone else knows they are partnered up.
  • Color Sort: Have crayons, colored pencils, or anything else colored laid out and have participants pick one up, then have them group up based on their color.
Splitting Up Cliques

If I am working with a group that knows each other, I typically like to split up friend groups so that they can get to know others and broaden their social skills. You can manipulate the deck of cards or color items to achieve this goal. The forced-choice activity is great for this too because they typically group up with their friends for the first group and then are split up.

So next time you need to split up a large group, consider these engaging options before just counting off.

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