Paper Products

There are many ways to divide people randomly using various products made of paper. Keep in mind that your goal is to have an equal number of people in each group. Whatever method you use should include a variety of colors or shapes. Here are a few ideas that might help.

Playing cards can be used to divide people into four equal groups. To do this, find out how many attendees you will have, then select that number of cards sequentially from each suit in a deck of regular playing cards (e.g., assuming a group of 24, you'll need to pick out all the 1-6 cards of spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds). Next, mix the cards up so that the suits are not together. As people enter give them a card randomly. When the time comes for an activity, you now have two ways to divide participants. You can either have all people with a like suit join together, or you can have all 1s, 2s, and so on group. Either way, you end up with four equal groups.

Using construction or colored paper in various colors is a second technique. Select the number of colors based on groups desired. Cut the sheets into equal pieces or use entire sheets. Either pass them out as participants enter or put the paper at their tables/chairs. And, just as with the cards, when you're ready for an activity, have people group by the color of their paper.

The paper can also be used in an activity in which participants list items or share ideas by passing written comments from one person to the next. Each person adds an additional piece of information to the sheet, then passes it on. This is a variation on a brainstorming process called brain writing often experienced using a flip chart page. In that activity participants go from one flip chart sheet to the next adding comments or ideas to a prestated question or issue at the top of each page. Basically, they use previous ideas stated by their peers to stimulate new ideas of their own.

Colored 3 x 5 (7.5 x 12.5 cm) or 5 x 7 (12.5 x 17.5 cm) cards also can be used to group people. Another alternative to colored paper is to put various colored dots in the corner of white 3 x 5 or 5 x 7 cards.

Cutout shapes can be created and used for many activities to gather information and to group your participants. For example, you can create a variety of shapes (e.g., stars, hearts, light bulbs, circles, squares) using the templates found in the Tools for Trainers section of the appendices. Reproduce these on bright colored paper, cut them out, and put them in a pile in the center of participant tables before a session. When ready to group, ask each participant to select from the pile so that there are an even number of each shape from each table (e.g., two stars, two hearts, and so on). Next, based on the subject matter for your activity, have them write comments, statements or ideas on their shapes. They then gather with other participants based on the shape they all selected. Once grouped, they discuss the issue or topic. When they finish, the shapes are taped to a wall or flip chart page. During the break others can view all the ideas, suggestions, or comments.


To gather feedback on how things are going during your session, pass out a single-shaped cutout (e.g., a light bulb). Use a variety of colored paper—bright neon colors add a splash of color and pizzazz to the room. As with other grouping methods, ensure you have an equal number of colors.

Next, draw a large image of a hand on a flip chart page and at the top write "Give Me A Hand. ..." Spray this page with artist's adhesive (available at craft/art supply stores or see the Resources for Trainers section in the appendices) and post it on the wall or on a flip chart easel by the exit door. Before a break, or lunch, conduct an activity in which participants write on one side of their cutout "plus" (+) and list one idea, concept, or suggestion that they have experienced thus far in the program that will be useful. Then, have them turn the cutout over and put "minus" (-) and list one thing they would change about the program if they were facilitating it. Tell them that they can pass if they can't think of anything to write.

Divide participants into groups based on the color of their cutout and have them share the positive ideas they've gathered. By doing this, they are rethinking what has been covered as they list something, then again as they discuss it and hear what others have written. All three opportunities to revisit information covered helps to reinforce the learning that has already taken place when the original idea was presented earlier.

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