T4T - Dividing Partners

Excerpt from Jennifer Stanchfield's book "Tips & Tools: The Art of Experiential Group Facilitation":

My favorite way to divide participants into groups or teams for an activity honors both participants' needs for a sense of control and choice over who is going to be their partner and practices compromise. This method can also help you subtly separate specific participants to mitigate behavior problems and increase diverse interaction.

Which one? Partner Decision Making Team Dividing Method: This is a fun and engaging way to divide partners into teams, and help participant's practice communication, decision- making, and consensus, and making a compromise.


· Have everyone find a partner. (With student groups you will find participants often pick a buddy you would rather they are separated from which is fine because they will be splitting up soon. This method of dividing honors their need to partner with a friend because it gives the friends something to do together before they split up).

· Present a hypothetical situation with two choices. For example: You are going to go paddle on the lake, you go to the dock and there is one canoe and one kayak. Who is going to take which? Or you go to an ice cream stand and the freezer has broken down, there is only one cone of chocolate, one of cookie dough. Who gets which? Cookie dough's become one team, chocolates the other. I have used: cotton candy flavors, roller blades or skateboards, toboggan or saucer sled etc. etc.

· Groups of all ages buy into this method of dividing teams without "pre-arranging" themselves the way participants often do with the old 1,2 count off method. I think it could be because they get to have the connection with their friend first- you are honoring their need to pair with who they are comfortable first before sending them apart.

· It can be surprising how intense the discussions and negotiations around these imaginary decisions can be! Again- it is a great way to help practice and reinforce conflict resolution, positive decision- making and the idea of compromising-coming to consensus.

Reference: "Tips & Tools:  The Art of Experiential Group Facilitation". Jennifer Stanchfield, Wood 'N' Barnes Publishing 2007

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