Split into groups

Groups are needed for many games, methods or actions. A recurring topic with this is “How are the groups divided?”

There are basically three ways to do this:

  • The participants divide up the groups themselves.
  • The group leadership determines the groups.
  • It is left to fate.

In addition, there are some mixed forms, for example letting the participants decide within certain fixed criteria. There is, of course, no one best method for dividing groups. Which form is suitable depends on various factors. Considerations on the following points are helpful in deciding on a variant:

  • What is the purpose of the groups: Is it a competitive game where the groups are supposed to perform similarly? Should the groups get along well with each other, maybe even exchange personal things? Should the participants be brought into contact with others?
  • How much time may be used for grouping? (ratio to game length)
  • Are there conflicts in the group? Are individuals excluded or are there participants who should not be in a group?

I describe here a few methods that can be used to divide groups and advantages and disadvantages from my experience. If you are clear about the questions above, choosing the best method will certainly be easy.

The participants look for groups themselves

It is announced how many people should be in a group. Then everyone gets to choose their favourite group. Guidelines such as “There must be one boy and one girl in each group” can be set.
Advantage: simple, relatively fast, little preparation, mostly trust within the group
Disadvantage: there are always the same people in a group, sometimes there are discussions or individuals are left over and no one wants them in the group (flexibility in the size of the group helps here), sometimes very different groups in terms of performance.


All participants go outside the door. Chairs are placed in the room in groups so that there is a seat for everyone. The participants go into the room one by one and find a place. Each person can choose individually where he or she would like to sit. If the last ones don’t feel comfortable in any place that is still free, everyone goes out again.
Advantage: Everyone can find a group in which he or she feels comfortable and wants to discuss personal things.
Disadvantage: Very lengthy.

Let vote

As many participants as there are to be groups go to the front and are allowed to ask for one person in their group at a time.
Advantage: If those who choose are from a clique: Mixed groups, mostly relatively similar performing groups.
Disadvantage: danger that the same people are always elected last because they are unpopular.

One divides, the other selects

Two participants are brought to the front. One of the two divides into two groups. The other person chooses which group he/she wants to be in. The person assigning the group must then take the other group.
Advantage: If participants know each other very fair groups
Disadvantage: the other participants might discuss

The group leader divides

As the group leader, you decide who is in the group with whom (according to a pre-determined plan).
Advantage: fast, possibility to influence the groups and to compose them as desired.
Disadvantage: Often resistance from the group, if the group is not good, it is the group leader’s fault.

“Sort clothes pegs” game

Click here for the description “Sorting clothes pegs”.
Advantage: the group leader can determine groups and make it seem like randomness, mixing of participants
Disadvantage: time-consuming, you have to think carefully beforehand about what you want to look out for when distributing clamps.

Game “Find Group”

Click here for the description “Find a group”.
The group cards can be distributed randomly or deliberately assigned in advance by the group leader.
Advantage: fun, possibility of influence by group leadership, mixing of participants
Disadvantage: time-consuming, possibly cheating

Game “Find a Couple”

Click here for the description “Find couples”.
For groups of four or six, couples can come in one group. For example, the first who found each other and the last who found each other etc.
Advantage: fun, possibility of influence by group leadership, mixing of participants
Disadvantage: time-consuming, possibly cheating

Dividing with playing cards or objects

Each participant draws a playing card. Then the participants look for the others with the same colour. It can also be sorted by gummy bear colours, different items from a bag…. It can be deliberately mixed according to certain criteria. For example, participants of one age group can draw from a pile to mix the age groups.
Advantage: fast, mixture of participants
Disadvantage: Preparation of cards/items, possibly cheating

Counting through

The classic last step: the participants count through, for example 1-2-3-1-2-3 for three groups… Then those who have said the same number get together.
Advantage: fast, simple, mixing
Disadvantage: Secretly swapping places, sometimes people forget their numbers (in any case let them say the numbers themselves!)

Tip at the end: Generally, it is a good idea to alternate the methods. Each variation is cool and fun once, twice or maybe three times. But when the group has to sort itself by animals for the fifth time, it usually finds it stupid. Then variety is called for.

Dieses Spiel ist auch auf German verfügbar.