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Creative Methods for Making Teams

     Before we start, I want to remind you that one of the worst ways to create teams is to let the kids pick the teams.  Keep in minds that our students self imagine is at a fragile stage, therefore there is no reason to subject a student to the painful consequences of being the last person picked.  In my opinion, there are way too many other ways to creatively and safely (mentally) divide, group and pair our students.

No Equipment Needed
Floor markers
Poker Chips

No Equipment Needed:
     1.  Grouping/Pairing - At the beginning of the year, during my cooperative games, I play a game called data processing.  This is a game that gives my students time to practice grouping into whatever size group I desire.  During this time we talk about our rules of grouping which include:
          1. No turning anyone away.
          2.  As soon as you have the correct number, join hands and sit quietly.
          3.  If you are having trouble finding a group, raise your hand and look for others.
          4.  No leaving a group once you are joined.
     To help make sure that the same students are not always grouping together, I may have them walk briefly and shake hands with as many other as possible, then I will call the group size.  I also stress that just because they are in a group together, does not mean they are going to be on the same team, so many times, to insure that they are not grouping with friends, I will have them group, then split the group into teams (see 3 & 4 below)
     So using grouping, I may: .
          1.  Call for groups of 4 students per group and those are my teams. or
          2.  Call for 2 boys and 2 girls per group.
          3.  Call for groups of 4 then assign each player in each group a number (color, letter, animal, etc.),1 through 4. and all 1's go together, 2's together, etc
          4.  Also divide groups by alphabetical order, birthday, letters in name, most letters on shirt, by height, 
     I spend a little time on this in the beginning of the year, but it pays off all year long, as I can make teams quickly.  My students can make a basic group of any size in 5 seconds.  I give them 10 seconds for specialty calls, (ex. 2boys, 3 girls per group)
     Just for the record, I highly praise in front of all, students who display any unselfish acts during grouping.  For example, sometimes a group will accidentally have too many, but I give great positive reinforcement to the player who chooses to leave, instead of trying to get other to leave. ( I will make them line leader that day, or give a certificate etc.)
     Also, if there is an odd number, I will have the odd student out join the team of their choice, or I will choose it for them.

     2.  Sit and Stand - Have students pair up following rules as discussed above in pairing.  Now, have 1 player sit and the other partner stand.  You now have two teams, the standers and the sitters.
          A.  Other ways to split pairs (have 1 sit and 1 stand):  Birthday order or (Day only April 2nd is a 2), alphabetical order (first name, last name), number of letters in name (first, last middle), height, shoe size,  number  for letters or numbers on shirt, play a game of rock, paper, scissors or Muk Jee Bah, (any similar game).  Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.

     3.  Counting off - You can always do the old school numbering off.  Students line-up and have students or you count-off down the line, 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4, to create 4 teams.  you can also use letters, colors etc.
          A.  Change this up by having more numbers than teams.  For example, count off by 6's  then group the 1's an6's together, the 2's and 5's together, and the 3's and 4's together, to create 3 teams. 

     4.  Similarities - Another way to get the kids thinking is to have them find a partner or partners with whom they have something in common. for example: find a partner with whom your shirts have something in common, or your shoes, or pants, etc.  take a little time after they have found a partner, to let a few partners explain what they found in common.  If there are some left over without finding someone in common, I will let the class help look for commonalities.
     You can make this as specific or basic as you desire. 

     5. Quick Splits - To quickly make 2 teams have the students divide into two groups by:
          1.  Birthdays (Jan - June) team 1, rest team 2
          2.  Birthday (odd number day) team 1, evens team 2
          3.  Have students sit Indian style ( if their left leg is over the right) team 1, right over left team 2.
          4.  Use you imagination, anything that will be about 50-50 will obviously work.

     Many times during the year, I will use cards to divide my teams.  This does not take long as I just hand each student a card as they walk into the gymnasium.  They do have to follow a couple rules, regardless of what type of card I use.
          1.  No showing your card to others
          2.  Do not bend, twist or damage cards.
     Types of cards to use are unlimited.  I use playing cards, pokemon cards, old maid, uno, Jumbo size cards, matching cards, flash cards.  The more creative the better.
     Playing Cards:  Group student by suit, or group students by number,  Group students by a sum of two numbers (find a partner whose card and your card add up to 10. 
     Specialty cards:  Students group by picture, numbers, colors, animal, again, depending on the type of card you use, possibilities are endless.  I like to use math problems, so students must find a partner who added, subtracted, etc equals a certain number.
Of course, using cards takes a little preparation to organize the cards to match your class size and teams needed, but I know from my grade book how many is in each class so I just add or remove cards as necessary.  When you collect cards from the students they should be in order, this makes it very easy to organize for the next class.
     Just for the record, I get a lot of cards from my collection drive.


I have a colleague who uses floor markers (stickers or paint) to divide his primary students into groups/teams.  On his floor he has five columns of different shapes, one column is stars, one column circles, etc.  Each column contains five or six of those shapes.  This creates a design of 5 columns and six rows (use whatever numbers you need).  Each row is a different color. So the Blue row would have 1 of each shape, th red row one of each shape, etc.
     Students are assigned a particular spot to sit on when they come to class, they may keep this assigned spot of 3 or 4 weeks (you decide the time).
     Anyway, he can now group his teams by colors or by shapes: or combine with other types of grouping as discussed in the no equipment section. 

     You can use short games to divide your class into 2 or 3 teams (Maybe more but I have not tried any yet, have you?).  Have class pair-up (as described in grouping pairing section above) then play a game of
          1.  Rock, Paper, Scissors - Have students play 1 game or best of 3.  Winner sits 
          2.  Muk, Jee, Bah - play 1 or best of 3
          3.  A game of daggers - 1 point or best of 3
          4. Gold, Silver, Bronze - 3 teams
     You can use any number of games. however, I suggest avoiding games of skill to divide the players.  Keep the games simple and try to use games of luck.

     This is another good way to group players, if you have the equipment.  I was playing a game that I call Hills and Valleys.  This game requires a lot of dome markers or cones (at least 1 per player), and uses two teams distinguished by pinnies (vests).  Anyway, at the end of the class, I would have the students hide their vest under one of the markers.  When the next class enters, they will sit by a marker.  When I am done explaining the game, they will put on the pinnie found under their marker. voila, instant teams.
     I am still tinkering with a way to hide pinnies in a small container or any other way to make this work without needing the markers.  If you have tried anything similar please let me know.

During my square dance unit, I will use poker chips to pair my students.  I use 20 red and 20 white plastic poker chips (you decide the number you need.  Anyway, I number each color 1-20, using a permanent black magic marker.  After I go over all the rules to my activity, I will have the girls pick from 1 color (from a hat or bowl so they cannot see), and the boys from the other color.  I will then call the numbers to make my sets and positions.
     Of course, these would work with any other activity the same as playing cards, you could pair by numbers, or by the sum of a math problem, etc.
     Just for the record, I get plenty of poker chips through my collection drive.

This is just a few of the ideas that I have been using.  If you have any others that you would like to share, then please e-mail me at Ideas@MrGym.com

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