Grouping Learners Using Props
There are many reasons for creatively finding ways to group your participants in a learning environment. Many of them relate to the concepts of brain-based learning which emphasizes factors such as novelty, fun, and movement to stimulate brain neurons in order to enhance learning.
To make your life easier and save time when trying to come up with creative ways to effectively organize participants into small groups, try using small toys or props. Simply decide some item related to your session theme and gather an equal number of various colors or types of the toy or prop to use in identifying team members.
Grouping Learners Using Props by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author
To use any type of item for identifying group members, count the total number of people in the room, divide equally based on the number of groups you desire for an activity or discussion, and then select an equal number of different colored or shaped toys or props. Randomly place one item at each learner’s seat location before they arrive. When ready to group them, just announce where they should gather for a group based on the type or color item they were given. For example, if you were doing a train-the-trainer program focused on brain-based learning, you might use a small colored rubber brain-shaped pencil erasers. People with yellow brains would go to one corner, blue, another, and so on.
Here are some suggestions that may help get you started.
- Different denominations of play currency or coins are effective for a bank teller or cashier training;
- Brain erasers of different colors can be used in train-the-trainer or creativity sessions;
- Various colored smile faced items can be used for customer service programs or virtually any other topic. For example, stuffed animals, hacky sacks, or foam balls;
- Colored fish exemplify successful programs/projects when things are “swimming along”;
- Foam stress toys in shapes related to your session topic (e.g. cell phone for telephone skills training or smile face balls for customer service training);
- Assorted zoo animals can add fun to virtually any subject or when discussing stress or a high energy topic when things are hectic (e.g. It’s a zoo around here);
- Assorted insects or bugs help in activities when discussing pet peeves or things that “bug” participants either in customer interactions, or the workplace;
- Colored spinning tops made of plastic can emphasize high sales or improvement levels (on top of the world);
- Back scratchers made of wood or plastic can be related to ways of “reaching or attaining a goal”;
- Sheriff’s/Law enforcement badges can be tied into concepts of taking charge, authority or ownership of an issue;
- Rubber ducks made of rubber or plastic might be used to remind people that sometimes things are not always what they are “quacked up” to be (when discussing problems or how things can go wrong in a specific situation);
- Handheld novelty shaped pencil sharpeners can stress the need to point out the need to ask direct questions or “get to the point” when doing customer service or interpersonal communication program;
- Footballs, baseballs, sponge balls, or similar small items may help emphasize teamwork or “getting on the ball.”
These simple, yet fun approaches to group formation can get people laughing and be a novel way to save time rather than the traditional “count off” method that many trainers and educators often use.