Brad's Blog

Jazz up team selection

Jazz up team selection

Tuesday 18th October 2016

If you are training or teaching and wish to place your group into teams then let's go for something more creative than 1,2, 3 etc. Here are my top ten favourites to jazz up the movement into teams. In most cases you can develop curriculum specific links and tease out some wider learning and acknowledge learners who can explain and/or elaborate.

1. Colours
Assuming four teams label four tables orange, red, green and purple by standing coloured card on stationary stands on each table. Buy a bag of Starburst sweets and drop into a hat the number of sweets you need according to your preferred team sizes. Then ask each learner to dip their hand into the bag. A purple sweet move to the purple table, orange sweet move to the orange table etc. You can do the same thing with other brands of sweets but ensure wrapped sweets for good hygiene. If you don't like the idea of using sweets then in advance of the lesson place coloured dots in the top right hand corner of the handouts or worksheets. When it is time for the team task invite the learners to move to the relevant table according to the colour of their dot.

2. Jigsaw
Cut relevant photographs into pieces. Perhaps in an IT lesson a photograph of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg etc. Learners select a piece of a photograph each and assemble the 'jigsaw' into the relevant photograph. So select whatever fits your subject, chefs, poets, business leaders, hairdressers or photographs of cars in Motor Vehicle, or a holiday destination in Travel and Tourism etc. You could also cut up relevant logos or it could be a name of a place or an event printed out in large font and cut up.

3. Restaurants
Place the titles of different restaurants on the tables or ask restaurants for a copy of their menus to identify the tables. Then invite each learner to put their hand into the hat and select a meal. Pizza you are on the Italian table, Korma you are on the Indian table etc. Reflect learners backgrounds. If you have learners from Poland then ensure you include a Polish restaurant in the mix etc. The food choices may not be known by other learners and this creates an immediate talking point. If you want to toughen this up and especially on a catering course then instead of restaurants use the titles of dishes like paella, lasagne etc. The learners select an ingredient from the hat and are invited to match to the relevant dish. You might add in some controversy by adding chorizo to the paella recipe!

4. Pop groups
Place the names of pop groups on the table tops and remember not to show your age by selecting the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Spice Girls etc. You are so old! Reflect the music scene of the learners. So hand into the hat and if I pull out Perrie Edwards I'm on the Little Mix table or Ally Brooke and I'm on the Fifth Harmony table or James McVey and I'm on the Vamps table etc. You could achieve the same thing with football teams and similar categories.

5. Holidays
Label your tables with favourite holiday destinations like Paris, Rome, Berlin etc. If I pull out the Brandenburg Gate from the hat I'm on the Berlin table, the Eiffel Tower I'm on the Paris table and the Spanish steps and I'm on the Rome table etc.

6. Films / TV shows
Place the titles of popular films or TV shows on the table tops and then invite your learners to dip into the hat. If I pull out Captain Kirk then I'm on the Star Trek table, or Sam Neill and I'm on the Jurassic Park table or Colin Firth and I'm on the Bridget Jones table etc. Or you could use well-known quotations from the film or toughen it up further with more obscure quotes or clues to the relevant film or TV programme.

7. Events
Name your tables after historical events like Battle of Hastings ( currently topical), Great Fire of London or Tolpuddle martyrs or Apollo space mission etc. If I put my hand in the hat and pull out 1066, I'm on the Battle of Hastings table, or George Loveless and I'm on the Tolpuddle martyrs table, or Pudding Lane I'm on the Great Fire of London table, or Neil Armstrong and I'm on the Apollo table etc. As a variation the events can be themed in terms of relevant subject developments e.g inventions in engineering, scientific discoveries, theories in psychology. If you teach English then tables named after poets or writers and the learners are invited to match a stanza from a poem or book title or a quote from a book. If you teach Maths then place an answer to some arithmetic or a formula on each table. Invite learners to select a question card from the hat and they work it out and sit at the relevant table. Make it as tough as you like.

8. Trees
Do you know your trees? Label your tables with the names of trees and in the hat drop in photographs of the relevant leaves or better still take a walk in your local park and collect leaves from the relevant trees. You could vary this with a piece of fruit on each table top e.g. apple, orange and in the hat put the names of varieties of apples, oranges etc.

9. Wacky facts
Decide your wacky fact e.g how long is a typical strand of spaghetti or less wacky how many miles from Lands End to John O'Groats or what is the hottest temperature ever recorded etc. Buy a wacky facts book for an endless supply. If you are placing into four teams then label your four tables with four answers. Only one of the answers is the correct one. Invite the learners to discuss the range of answers and to sit at the table they think holds the correct answer. Keep the range fairly tight so that there is not an obvious wrong answer and this should produce a distribution across all four tables. Reveal the correct answer and if too many are seated on a particular table then simply move a few learners to even out. If you use your creativity you can get lots of relevant curriculum specific links if wished.

10. Flags
Place a flag on each table top and invite the learners to pull from a hat the name of a country. The learners sit at the relevant table. You can toughen this up with obscure flags and remember to select flags that might reflect the backgrounds of some of the learners. You can vary this with matching the photographs of Prime-Ministers or Presidents with countries or matching cities with countries etc. Or label the tables with the names of countries and the learners have to match fact cards to the relevant country. Capital cities might be too easy unless you've selected obscure countries otherwise names of rivers, a mountain, key export etc.

Try them out and use your own creativity to dream up more. Send me any further ideas at and I'll acknowledge and include in my Great Lessons textbook to be published next year.