By Daniel T. Parker
While searching and shuffling through papers in my desk, I came across a sheet of hints on dividing large groups into smaller ones, a constant activity in conversation classes and almost always a hassle... I haven't tried every one of the suggestions below, but the ones I've marked are the ones that I do like for my own classes.
Tell the students:
"Get into groups of (x) so that everyone in the group has on one item of clothing the same color as everyone else."
"Find (x) other people born in the same season as you."
"Think of the last digit of your phone number. Get together with (x) others who are thinking of the same number."
"Find (x) partners who were born in the same month as you."
"Are you wearing shoelaces? Get together with (x) other people who, like you, are wearing or not wearing shoelaces."
"Count the number of letters in your personal name; see if you have an odd or even number, then get with a partner who, like you, has an odd or even number."
"Think of the your personal name. Now think of the first vowel in your personal name. Find a partner who has the same vowel."
Things to have the students do:
Have the students raise one finger, choosing between thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger or little finger. They can then get into groups with people who have raised the same finger, or, if you want groups of five, you can "assemble" a complete hand (one thumb, one index finger, etc.)
Paper, scissors, rock. You can have three large groups, or as in the last suggestion, you can assemble groups of three with one paper, one scissors, one rock.
Pass out M&Ms or any small candies that come in multiple colors. Group together by color, or make rainbow groups (and let them eat the candy).
Pass out small pieces of paper bearing pictures or names of different foods (for example, hamburger/french fries/soft drink/ice cream) and put all similar foods together, or assemble "balanced meals". A variation is to assemble a pizza, so that each group has one "crust", one "sauce", one "cheese", one "onions", one "pepperoni".... as many "toppings" as you want in the group.
And one especially good one for conversation classes, a lot of fun but it takes more time....
Prepare pieces of paper with short poems or short song lyrics. Pass them out according to the number of groups you want/number of students in each group (if you want ten groups of four students each, prepare ten different poems/songs and have four copies of each). Students begin walking around and reciting the poems or singing the songs, and they must find other students who are reciting/singing the same. When they complete the group, they can sit down together, but all students must keep reciting/singing until each group has been assembled.