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Large groups of people can be awesome and provide enormous amounts of contagious energy…but they can also bring chaos, distractions, and even destruction.

If you are leading a large group and want to create a sense of intimacy for learning to occur, you have to break them up.

11 Creative Ways to Split a Group Into Smaller Groups

Large groups provide a diversity of thought and experience that can’t be match with smaller groups…but they can be hard to lead. Cliques form. Participants disengage. I lose my voice from trying to share instructions. People feel left out. A kid gets lost in the woods.

Sometimes large groups are necessary, but more often then not I find myself needing to break the really large groups into smaller groups. So, I scoured our resources and found our top 11 ways to overcome the amoeba effect.

If you like to watch check out the video, if you like to read check out the notes below…if you like step-by-step see the bottom of the page.

11 Ways to Separate a Large Group into Smaller Groups

1. Arm Cross – Go ahead and cross your arms. If you are in a room with other people ask them to do the same. Chances are great that you cross your arms the exact same way every single time.

The interesting thing is that most of the human population is completely split on this matter. Fifty percent of you will cross with your right hand on top, 50 percent of you will cross with left on top. Use this to split a group in half…and talk about comfort zones if time allows.

2. Bubble Gum – This team split requires a handful of your favorite (and not so favorite) pieces of gum. The more variety the better. Give each participant a piece of gum and give them a chance to chew to their heart’s desire. Feel free to even have a bubble-blowing competition. Split the group depending on color, size, or flavor. Viola, you have a minty fresh split for your group.

3. Clumps – Four! Seven! Eleven! Provide the group with a number and encourage the large group to divide into smaller groups. You can do this as a high-energy or low-energy activity. Perhaps even medium energy if you are feeling frisky. Our good friend Mark Collard explains this activity very well.

(You can learn more of these activities from Mark on Playmeo)

4. Color Sort – Go through the office and grab things of different sizes and colors. If you have loads of extra money buy some colored pencils, paint swatches, or pipe cleaners. Lay these items on the floor or table. Invite the participants to grab a color they prefer or particularly enjoy. Group up by color.

5. Core Groups – Create core groups at the beginning of the day by any desired criteria (experience, age, location, size…actually don’t do it by size). Invite the core groups to create a handshake and/or symbol for their group so they can find each other later.

6. Dr. Pepper – The easiest splitting on the list. Instead of doing the classic “1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2” split, assign each participants as either a Dr. or a Pepper. Doctors go to one side of the room, Peppers go to the other side. Boom. Done.

7. Full House – Grab an old deck of playing cards. Pass them out to the entire group. I enjoy throwing them all in the air “52 Card Pick Up” style. Split the students by suit, number, or color.

8. Hand Clasp – This group split requires audience participation. Go ahead and clap your hands together and keep them in that position. Look at your thumbs. Which one is on top? Much like the Arm Cross split, typically this will split the entire group in half. Righties go on one side, lefties on the other.

9. Mix or Match – You have probably seen this one before at a conference, meeting, or camp. Before the event begins, place different symbols, letters, colors, or numbers on a name badge to separate the group later. You can also do this on name tents, folders, or foreheads. 

10. Show Me Your Sign – At the beginning of the event teach the group three-four-five different hand signs/signals. Throughout the day ask the participants to show their sign. Participants can not show the same sign as the previous time and invite the participants to group up depending upon their sign. 

11. Sole Mate – One of our all-time favorites we learned from the fine folks at Project Adventure way back in 2007. I typically build up this group split with loads and loads of embellishment. I instruct the group that we have one super-duper important reason for gathering today…to find our sole mate.

While the group is groaning in anxiety I then let them know their sole mate is the individual in the group whose sole of their shoe most closely matches the sole of your shoe. That person is indeed your sole mate. If the participants are struggling to find their sole mate, I encourage them to settle and match up with whoever is left.

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