Getting into groups, pairs, partners, trios, etc.

"Although this is not an activity, there has been much talk about methods used to split a class into teams or groups. Recently, a young student wrote to "Dear Abby" about the fact that his P.E. teacher picked captains, who then chose students for teams. This, of course, is an outdated system. Young people can be very hurt by always being the last to be picked, and the "good" athletes are put in a superior position by either being chosen as a captain, or by being one of the first to be chosed for a team. There are many different ways that teams can be split up. The following are some that have been used successfully."Nicolas Fraire (San Jose, CA)
*Below is a list of more than 40 ways in which to come up with partners and teams.  Use those you like and skip those that you do not.  Most of these ideas were posted on PE-Talk and the USPE listserves.
(credit is given when known, please let me know if I missed any names.)

Ideas  5-10            11-15                16-20                21-25                26-30            31-35         36-42

        Several PE teachers Thoughts on Choosing teams        
1. Magnetic strips
I use magnetic strips (Craft item) that  I cut in 1 inch pieces to put students names on with labels.  With this done I use sheet metal boards (mine were made by a shop teacher), and place students in groups or teams without continually rewriting their names. ( color code the labels)

2. Muscle Puzzles-as above using muscles and locations(shapes cut help also)
(*adaption of Curt Hinson,DE) activity
3. Colored circles
Colored circles which match the pinnie colors work for quick and easy team selection.  As you take a circle, you then get a pinnie which matches. (Cathy Beam,PA)

4. Velcro letters
Give each child a letter with velcro on the back of the piece.  Have the students move around the space.  Once all students have a piece ask them to locate a sign which has their letter.  Each sign has a word dealing with the topic of the day.  Forexample; in a soccer lesson sample signs might read: K I C K  or G O A L or F O O T.  Each child then sticks their letter on a sign.  A letter can be used only once. (Tom Stoddart,NJ)

 5. Looney Tune Partners
    I have a deck of Looney Toon playing  Cards. It contains pairs of all the characters. When the class comes in I shuffle 12 pair of cards for 24 kids. If  the class is uneven I throw in a joker.  I deal the cards and that is their "Looney Toon Partner".  The person with the joker gets to pick the two he/she
wants to work with.   (Kathleen Leadley Green Bay,WI )

 6. Using "Count Off" with style        (Ask the students to get into groups of 4.  Groups of 3 or 5 work well also, depending on the class size and the number of students  per team.  Give them 10 seconds to find a group.)
      From this point, I vary what I do!!!!
     a.   One time I will create larger teams, by combining the different small groups, as a whole.
     b.  Another time, I will have each person in a group count off, and then I combine the 1's together,
        the 2's together and so on.
     c.  Another way is to have each student in class choose a partner. Sometimes they stay with their
        partner and sometimes I split the partners.  (Dan McGee MI)

7. Choose the teams myself
When I want to have a round robin tournament that will be ongoing for several weeks. I simply go through my gradebook, and choose the teams myself. I know my kids very well, and the teams have always been very evenly matched

8. Deck of cards
A method for splitting up teams is simply by using a deck of cards. Have each student pick a card. This will give you the option of splitting up into small groups (by numbers) or 4 teams (by suit) or 2 teams (by color).

9. Slips of paper
Another way of splitting a class into groups is by writing each student's name on a piece of paper and drawing names. This gives you the flexibility of forming small groups or large groups. You decide how big the groups will be. With so many different ways to split a class into groups or teams, there is absolutely no reason to use the "captain-choice method.
    Another way to do slips of paper
I use the roll and place all students names on a sheet of paper.  Leave room for cutting out names.
I then, cut out/off the names, fold, and place in an envelope.  Just prior to starting the game, we 'draw'.  I actually pull names from the envelope, place in front of them on the desk.  Making sure all see, I then "stir"  these names, then begin picking names for teams.  Students are then placed at
specified areas around the floor. Of course, I make a big deal out the the names I 'draw'.(AtRisk95)

(Items # 10 to 23 Joe Gallo and Barb Tantala ,PA)
10. Famous Pairs
For groups of 2 (pairs), assign each student a name :mustard and ketchup, PB and jelly, hot and cold, etc. Have a "mustard" find a "ketchup", a "PB" find a "jelly", a "hot" find a "cold", etc.

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11. Puzzled People
Cut a group of 3x5 cards in two pieces, make different shapes, have students locate and  match to get a partner.

Find someone with the same/different  eye color, hair color, clothing, foods, movies, hobbies, etc.

13. Famous trios
 On cards or paperwrite famous trios.   Peter, Paul, and Mary- The three bears(mama bear, papa bear, baby bear)-Three Stooges - Do, Re, Mi - Theodore, Simon, Alvin - etc.
14. Sports puzzles
Laminate pictures of sports or sports figures,teams, fields, etc. and cut into 4 or more odd shaped pieces. The students with the matching pieces must find each other. I even have the kids come up with their own team name based on the puzzle.  For example a balloon picture> " The High Flyers"

15. Quotes puzzles
Laminate famous quotes and cut into 4 or more odd shaped pieces. The students with the matching pieces must find each other.

16.Colored clothespins
Pass out different colored clothes pins. Matching colors determine the teams. Clothespins can also be labled with letters, terms, shapes, etc.

17. Numbers:
 Students count off in 4's, or 5's, or 6's, etc. Split teams by using numbers. All the 1's are a team, or 1's and 4's are a team, etc.   You can combine and "re-combine" the numbers in any variety of ways based on t he groups size needed.  I even let the kids choose which numbers will work together sometimes.

18.Index cards
Use index cards with the students name on the card.  I use these for taking roll also.  Randomly draw the cards from the box for teams, partners, etc.  If you wish to group boys and girls, use 2 boxes.  You may even allow the students to draw the cards, although this takes longer.
Another way to use index cards
 I have the large size index cards for each student. I use the index cards to keep personal records. These cards also come in handy for choosing teams. If I want to make fairly even teams in terms of ability, I pre-arrange the cards into teams, and then just call out the teams. Most of the time, I just mix up the cards in front of the students. I ask one student to tell me when to stop mixing. When he or she says stop. I call out the names in the order they came  up. (WEISSICE)

19. Four corners:
Give students a choice of cartoon characters (or sports, desserts, fruits, amusement ride, or...) and have students write down their choice.(this prevents changing to get with favorite friends) Now have students go to the corner of the room of their choice.  Allow groups a minute to discuss why a particular corner was chosen.   Now you can make teams from same or one from each corner.

20. Hands in the air:
Have all students choose to put right hand up, left hand up, both, or none.  Students should decide in their head first and silently.  On the count of "3" all raise hands.  Allow students to match with a similaror different student as you instruct.
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21. Alphabet soup:
Use the first or last names and match by letters. -  a-f, g-k, l-q, etc.

22. Birthdays:
   Use the month, day , span of days (1st-6th).  You can even do this one without talking.  Line all the students up by age/month/day of month.  Now you may combine the children into needed groups.

23. Either/or Choices:
  Pose a question to the class and have them record response on scrap paper.  Star Wars or Star Trek, apple juice or orange, plain pizza or toppings, hot dog or pizza,etc.  Once again now put the students together with similar or different "choice" partners.
(Items # 10 to 23 Joe Gallo and Barb Tantala ,PA)

 24.  "Free agents" 
In all my 5-8th grade PE classes, I chose the teams.  It is my goal to have every student have an opportunity to work with every student in the class.  It also avoids any student being picked last.    I tell students at the beginning of the year that they are all my "free agents" and I might have to trade them to teams at some point. (Michelle Rollins , AZ)

25. Secret Draft
I start the semester by using their squads as teams until I get to know their abilities, competittive level etc. We recently "picked teams" in this way. I chose 4 girls who have good skill ability and have shown that they can be fair. I gave them the class list, a piece of paper and a place away from everyone else. I told them that they were to fairly divide the class so that they felt their teams were 
equal. This did not take the whole class period and I think the girls enjoyed doing it this way. No one knew if they were picked last or first. (Chris Wagoner , MI)
 Another way to do secret choosing
On the rare occasion that my students choose the teams...I choose one person for each team.  During the class warmups these people look at my seating chart for the class and choose teams (leaving their names off).  I then have them draw teams.  This ensures that the "captains"
have made equal teams because they aren't sure which one they are going to get. (Krista Winn )

26. Four lines
Four lines and 1&2 versus 3&4 ; 1&4 then chose every other person to go with 1&4.
(Gerry Cernicky,PA)

27.  "Clothes make the teams"
Sports or College shirts, the extra just chose to go to either team if uneven ; white shoe laces and other color ; blue and red clothes - yellow and black,etc.  (Gerry Cernicky,PA)

28.  "Rookies"and " If you think you won, you did."

THE BEST    I have found out is to very carefully and methodically take the importance of WINNING away. Being VERY competitive myself was hard work for me to do and THIS WORKS. Also, during
the activity, establish "Rookies", or those players that are chosen to switch teams at any time when one team is behind or needs help. NOW! when we leave class , if someone asks who won,reply" If you think you won, you did." Plus, during the activity , I'll "forget" the actual score or I'll say BLUE by one point or half a point and soon they'll concentrate on and more teamwork.
(Gerry Cernicky,PA)

29. "Top Draft Picks only"
We let captains choose some players on their teams and the rest we split up on the teams so that NO ONE is chosen last! The kids don't complain and they are usually pretty fair because all of the better athletes are split up early! No one looks sad or disappointed that they were put on a team and when we are going down the line telling them what team to go on they usually figure out how to arrange themselves in line so that they may end up on a team with someone they want to be teammates with and IT ALL WORKS OUT! It is very successful for us. (B. Conrad 342)

30. Several ideas from New Games:
Choose teams by birthdays, people born on odd days of the month over here, even days of the month over there. First six months of the year versus last six months. Spring and winter versus fall and summer. Astrological signs.
     Have people, on the count of "Blue Sky," hold up anywhere from one to ten fingers. "Green fields, red earth, blue sky. Go!" All the people holding up an even number of fingers on one side, odd fingers on the other. (submitted by Todd Strong)
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31.  "Put Your Foot Down"
I also sometimes just make everyone take off one shoe and I then throw shoes to one side of the gym or the other (works well with 4 teams and the kids always seem to have a laugh watching me toss shoes around).   (Diego Wells in Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

32. A "TAB-ulous" idea
To form teams I have a extra large can with a sock over the top.  Inside I placed 2 sets of 10 tabs that are made out of construction paper and laminated.  I have my students get into two lines, one line of  boys and one line of girls.  I count the number of boys (ex. 12 boys) and  then I put in 6 yellow tabs and 6 black tabs.  I mix them up in the can and pull the tabs out one at a time and that is the team color the first  boy is on, and then I continue until all the boys in the line have been placed on a team.  I then do the same thing for the girls line.  I have used this technique for several years and the students usually don't  complain since it is a random pick.  Teams are not always fair, but at  least my students don't have their feelings hurt.   (Kimberly A. Fruchey)

33.  Cross Your Heart
A great way to pick teams is to have students cross their arms across their chest.  Amazingly (at least I was amazed) it almost always works out to about 50% cross right over left, and the other 50% cross left over right.  (Andrew Hershey,Seattle WA )

34. Whistle Numbers
During warm up activities , I would ask the children to move around the gym in various ways( skipping, low to the ground, high as they can, etc). Every few seconds blow your whistle- or which ever signal you choose- the number of times you want a group of children to be. Ex) 3 blasts, groups of three. After a few rounds of this make the groups bigger and... you have your teams already made. There may be a few stragglers, put them where you see fit. Or you could "add' groups together to get the desired number of students together. 2 groups of 3 make teams of 6.
(Angela  Slaunwhite)
35. Dice are Nice
Each student rolls a die. The 1,2,3 make a team, the 4,5,6 makes another team. Or any combination  of numbers rolled. (I have used  a box for them to roll the dice in to keep it under control.)
(Angela  Slaunwhite)

36.  Back to back splits
I will sometimes tell them to stand back to back with a partner, and then one partner is on one team and the other partner is on the other team. Sometimes when I have them pair up I will split them down the middle so that they can be with their partner. (TSenoj)

37. Waist pinnies
I pick by handing out our waist pinnies, or counting in ways that the students have know idea how the numbers will be grouped. (i.e. Count off by 12's and then group them anyway that you
want!!) (Mary Ruth Hammer Pittsburgh, PA )

38. Tongue depressors
I have used tongue depressors on which I put  numbers. I shuffle the sticks around and then hold them in my hand, hiding the numbers. Each student picks a stick and then I choose the numbers
which make up each team. Sometimes I use "odd and even", sometimes 1-8 and 9-16, and other times call out random numbers. Some are not happy with this method, but do realize that even when the teams are not equal, it was the "luck of the draw" that caused the situation.
(Annette Poston Bethesda, MD )

39. Kids Count
This is the method I use to "choose" teams in my 3-5th grade classes: first I count how many kids are in class and ask the kids how many should be on each team  (ie. if there are 24 kids in class, they would come up with 12 on a team). Then I tell them to make two fair teams, which includes both boys
and girls, using the number they came up with. They go to two orange lines which are about 8' apart, facing each other, and after some self-changes, sit when they feel the teams are fair and even. The only rule is they can't tell someone else to change teams; they can only move themselves. It still
amazes me how well this works and how fair the teams end up. NO ONE is "chosen" - last, or otherwise - and the kids have ownership of the resulting teams. (Kathy Wells  Beaverton)

40. Topics of Interest
I often pick names pertaining to a upcoming holiday, sporting event, weather events, looney tune characters, colors, trees, etc. such as Rudolph the Reindeer, Frostys, grinches, whos or witches, ghosts, skeletons, pumpkins, leprechauns, trolls, giants, etc.  Often I give them a topic ie xmas, football  teams, countries, and they choose the names.....or I'll have them count off, and combine 1&3, 2&4, etc.  I change the combo of numbers.  Choosing partners usually works well in getting fair teams.......Forming groups of 4? and combining groups works too. (Sugaly)

41. Silent Selection
I have not seen this method of making teams and I wanted to share it.  It works well with 4-8th grade. Tell the students what the most important skill of the game is.  Everyone in the room is aware of each other's skill in a given area.  I ask the class to stand on two lines about 10' apart from each other.  It does not matter how many are on each line.  The object is to make two (or X) teams that will be equal in skill.  The teams do not have to have the same number of people on them.  Everyone begins standing up.  You are not allowed to talk, point or make any gestures of any kind. If you do you will be assigned a team and must sit out the first 5 minutes of the game.  The only thing you can do to change the teams is to go over to the other team.  If you think the teams are fair, you sit down.  If you sit down and then someone moves, you may stand back up.  You may move back and forth as many times as you need to.   When everyone is sitting down, I ask one more time if everyone is happy with the teams.  Yes, this does take a few minutes the first time you do it.  The next time is much faster.  The teams usually work out to be very fair.  If they are not, we stop the game and start over.   This method seems to give the students ownership of the team.  It also makes them think about their skill level.  You must be very strict on the talking and gesturing part.  This is where someone's feelings will be hurt.  (Larry Satchwell )

42. Color Cards(integration anyone???)
For my younger students, especially 1st grade, I use cards with the color words printed on them. This was an idea that the 1st grade teachers and I thought up together. The kids needed reinforcement of their reading of the color words.  I made about 8 of each color (red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, black, brown) and laminated them. As students come into class, I hand them each one and
they need to go to the cone that is the color of their word. (Actually, I haven't used black or brown because I don't have any cones in those colors. (Marcey Seigel)

(Send your idea to me and I will add it to the growing list.  Joe,  )
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During my 16 years of teaching I have experimented with the various ways of dividing classes into teams or groups for activities.  The students obviously want to be with their friends (and who can blame them.)   I soon discovered that   my  responsibility  was not to inhance their current friendships, but  to teach them the value of physical activity and how to work in a group.  In real life with usually do not get to "pick our teams",  we have to learn to work with the team we are assigned with.  This means we have use our strengths to help in the team effort,  and to help others to find and develop their strengths so they to can help the team.  The bottom line is that  people hate to be chosen last, we should never put kids in such a situation.  When people tell me they hated PE in school it usually comes out that it involved a feeling of poor self-esteem directly related to how teams were picked in their classes.  My philosophy is that each individual should be able to work on personal improvement in each and every activity that we do.  Evaluate each student based on their core information, not by a comparison to others in their class.  This requires Pre-test in all activities which is a lot of work, but in the long run our students will enjoy it much more.  I always pick the teams using a variety of counting and dividing methods so the students can not "plan ahead"  and seat themselves in sequence.
 (Carl E. Benson  West Grove, PA)

I can't believe anyone would use  "choosing teams"  please don't tell me you're doing that thing where kids stand up and call out who they want on their team.  I can't imagine any better way to damage a kids desire to participate. If you make pe a place where every kid is "safe"  your
discipline and participation problems will al but disappear.  I teach in an inner city elementary school (95%at risk population) and have a great time with the kids in PE. Kids know that their ego is safe in PE. (Val Rossman )

There are so many wonderful ways to chose teams the past week BUT I have found out a better solution and causes little problems. Take the emphasis out of WINNING. Try activities that highlight performance than an overall winner. During the activity, I begin to keep score and then gradually
FORGET...EXAMPLE: After the game/activity(Floor hockey)....Did you pass to a teammate? Did you score, Did you block a shot ? Did you do better than last week? If you think you won , you did! I have red and blue sticks - when I start with the score(1-0) etc. I 'll say red , blue , blue , red scored. Then I'll ask what color did you think you heard the most? Good for your team. This takes time and by teaching good sportsmanship is a plus....When I first start(in my gym), I say go to the yellow mat side, go
to the bleacher side by alternating each student. Also, during the game, if one team gets ahead, I have  free agent/rookies , who flip flop between teams...Gradually, the method of chosing teams becomes moot but use interesting shirts , short sleeves, cartoon shirts, high tops , low top shoes, sisters, brothers, color clothes, birthdays and eye color. (Gerry Cernicky,PA)


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