Working with groups


Who am I?

Ask participants to sit in a circle. Explain that you are now going to call out some categories of people. Anyone belonging to a particular category must move quickly to sit in the middle of the circle. If they belong to the next category mentioned they should stay there. Otherwise, they must quickly rejoin the circle. Possible categories include: people with pets, people who play a musical instruments, people with bikes, people who have been to the USA, people who have been to Cork or Belfast, etc.

Introduce your Partner

Ask participants to pair up with someone that they don’t know – encourage movement. Ask participants to find out a number of pieces of information about their partner e.g.:

  • Name
  • Occupation/role
  • Where they live
  • Favourite hobby
  • Major likes/dislikes
  • Greatest fear/ambition

Ask each participant to introduce his or her partner to the group.


Ask participants to arrange themselves alphabetically according to their first name. This could also be done using other determinants for example, according to:

  • Height
  • Number of letters in you name
  • Birthday
  • Length of thumb, etc.


Ask participants to sit in a circle so that they can see each other. Then ask the first participant to introduce him/herself by name and to state an adjective that best describes them. The next person should do the same for him/herself and then also say the first person’s name and word. The third person has to do it for him/herself and for the second person, and the first person.


  • Stipulate that the word a person chooses to describe him/herself must start with the same letter as their name
  • Ask them to name the animal that they think they are most like
  • Ask them to make a gesture (e.g., clap, wink, hop) when they introduce themselves

Find Me!

Materials: One card per participant.

Distribute one card to each participant. The card should ask for 4 pieces of information – preferably one physical characteristic. Ask participants to complete the card. Collect cards from participants and redistribute. Ensure that everyone has another person’s card and not their own. Ask participants to find the person whose card they have and sit beside that person.

Find Me!
My eye colour is………………………
My main hobby is………………………
I live in…………………………….
My favourite savoury dish is …………..

Trust games

Ask the group to divide into pairs, find a space on the floor and sit opposite each other. Ideally, the pairs should be people who don’t know each other and of different genders. For the next set of exercises people should ignore the other pairs and concentrate just on their partner.

My Kinda Music – Ask the pairs to chat about their favourite music without making eye contact. Repeat, this time staring at each other.

Tell All About It – Next say that 1s must tell 2s animatedly something they are really excited about. The 2s, meanwhile, must completely ignore what is being said to them. Swap roles and repeat.

Mirror Mirror! – Explain that 1s are mirrors and 2s have just got up in the morning. The 2s go to their mirrors and do whatever they do first thing – actions which, of course, the mirrors faithfully reflect. After a few minutes 2s become the mirrors. The 1s are going out for the evening and want to look their best; they prepare in front of the mirrors…

Trust Me – Announce that both partners can’t hear or speak, so the exercise must be done in silence. The pairs must now sit-to-back and link arms. Without breaking the link, they must stand up. Once they are standing, announce that the 2s are also blind and must close their eyes and be led around the room by their partner. Then reverse roles.


Warm up-Icebreakers

All Change!

Ask participants to arrange their chairs in a circle. As the facilitator, stand in the centre of the circle. Explain that the object of the game is to sit down or remain sitting but that individuals must change seats when the facilitator’s statement is true for them. Call out a number of statements e.g.,

  • All change if you’re wearing black shoes!
  • All change if you’ve ever dyed your hair!
  • All change if you’ve seen a named film!
  • All change if you’re single!
  • All change if you’re male!

Are you Alert?

Materials Required: Tray with 30 random objects, worksheet for each participant.

Prior to the workshop, prepare a tray of 30 unrelated items and cover the tray. Inform the participants that they will have 1 minute to look at and remember the objects on a tray. Uncover the tray for 1 minute and cover again once the time is up. Distribute a worksheet with 30 rows to each participant. Ask participants to write down the items they remembered. Allow 3 minutes to do this. Ask individuals to state the number of items that they remembered. The highest score wins. Ask the participant with the highest score to call out his or her list. Offer a prize for the winner.

Alternatively, before disclosing the highest scores, give participants the option to pair up with one other random participant (assuming you have an even number). Explain to them that they will incur a penalty of 3 if they do join up and that they will share the prize if they win.


Ask participants to kneel on the ground in a tight circle with shoulders almost touching and place both hands on the floor in front of them. Then ask them to hook arms around the elbow of the people on either side of them, so that their left hand is in front of the person to their left and their right hand is in front of the person to their right – the two hands in front of each participant should now belong to the participants on either side of them. Instruct participants as follows:

  • Slap the ground with one hand, and moving in a circle clockwise, each hand slaps the ground in turn. Allow this to continue for a few rounds so that everyone has understood the game. Explain that if someone does not slap the ground when it is their turn or if they slap out of turn, they must put the hand behind their back and take it out of the game.
  • One at a time, introduce new rules giving each one a chance to develop before introducing the next one: Two slaps of the ground causes the direction of rotation to reverse.
  • No-one can ‘two slap’ if someone has ‘two slapped’ in the last three rounds.
  • Speed up the game

The last person left with two hands in the game is declared the winner.

Human Knot

Divide participants into groups of 6-8 and ask them to stand in a tight circle facing each other. Instruct participants to close their eyes, put their arms out in front of them and to grab two other hands from the circle. Whenever everyone has two hands, they should open their eyes. The group must now un-knot itself without breaking any hands.

Topic Specific / Lead-Ins

Topic Lead-Ins can:

  • Indicate participants’ knowledge or feeling towards the subject
  • Identify learning needs and expectations
  • Encourage the sharing of information

Word Tree

Materials Required: Flip chart or board

Generate a list of words related to the topic of the workshop, e.g., in a Poverty workshop, ask participants to give key words relating to “Cause or Effect of Poverty.” Participants may suggest: ‘war’, ‘trade’, ‘hunger’, ‘corruption’, ‘disease’, etc. Write all suggestions on the board, clustering by theme where possible. You can use this opportunity to introduce essential terms or to focus the workshop on specific areas.

Ball Brainstorm

Materials Required: A light ball e.g., beach ball

Announce the topic or question you wish to introduce. Instruct participants to throw the ball randomly to each other. The person who catches the ball must make a statement about the topic/question before throwing the ball again.

Exploring Through Questions

Some broad ranging questions posed by the facilitator can serve to identify participant learning needs and goals, encourage the sharing of information and resources, and/or surface resistance to learning. Participants can respond to questions randomly or in order. Try to ensure that everyone in the group makes a contribution.

Examples of generic questions include:

  • What are your expectations of this session?
  • How would you personally define the topic?
  • What positives can we assume about the topic?
  • What negatives can we assume about the topic?

Rights and Wrongs

This activity introduces a human rights perspective on development and underdevelopment issues. Ask the group to think about their own rights:

  • What are they legally allowed or not allowed to do below the age of 16?
  • At 16? At 18?
  • How are these rights decided?
  • Are they sensible?
  • Fair?

Use this discussion to introduce the broader issue of human rights and development.

The list below summarises the rights we have, as defined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The group should use this list to identify those articles within the Human Rights Declaration that are relevant to them:

  • How does the group’s view of their own rights compare to those in the UN Declaration?
  • Are there noticeable similarities/differences?
  • Does the group feel that these rights apply to everyone regardless of race, colour, sex, language etc.?
  • Does the group feel that the Declaration is still accurate and relevant, despite being written in 1948?


Ideas and Activities for Senior Ages

(samples from the CD: 80:20 Development in an Unequal World)

This section includes suggested activities suitable for introducing development issues with senior age groups. They are downloadable in pdf format.

Ideas and Activities for Junior Ages

This section includes suggested activities suitable for introducing development issues with junior age groups. They are downloadable in pdf format.

Stimulus / Trigger Sheets

(samples from the CD: 80:20 Development in an Unequal World)

The following ‘stimulus/trigger’ sheets are designed to stimulate/trigger thinking and debate about the specific issues covered.

  • Sustainable Development – ideas for practical activities, photographs, case study, suggested further information to assist in understanding the issue of sustainable development.
  • Gender and Development – exploring the issue of women’s rights and the impact of gender discrimination on society, both in the developing and developed world

Note: featured photo: all different all equal, youth art piece on display at Hi Rez Youth Centre (2014) copyright Hi Rez Youth Centre.