A great activity for helping a new class or tutor group to get to know each other

A quick-fire energiser, inviting pupils to consider which categories they fit. They also find out various things they have in common or difference with each other. And, in the prototype negotiations, they make fast decisions, enjoying the improvisational activity of choosing freely within a series of shifting structures. This is a great activity for helping a new class or tutor group to get to know each other, or even a new team of teachers!

Teacher says:

‘In this activity you need to find things out about each other quickly and sort yourselves into groups.

‘Each group is identified by what you have in common regarding the category that I call out.

‘Let’s try it – the category is pets.’


The pupils might split into just two groups – those with pets and those without. If there are more than ten pupils, encourage them to find further or different ways of splitting; for example, dog owners, cat owners, used to have a pet, never had a pet.

Teacher says:

‘A group means at least two people, so no one is to be left on their own. For example, if the category is weddings, and everyone has been to one except for one person, that cannot be the basis of the groups. You might need to find a group who have been to weddings this year, and a group who haven’t.’ Other categories to call out might include:

  • siblings
  • holidays
  • transport
  • TV programmes

As the categories get more interesting, so the pupils may take longer to identify which group is which, and to choose which group they are in (often they will qualify for more than one within any category – for example, in transport some families may own bikes, a car and use the train).


  • ‘What have you found out that you didn’t know before – about the others?’
  • ‘What about yourself?’
  • ‘How did you decide what to do when you had a choice within a category?’
  • ‘How did you feel about breaking up the groups so quickly?’
  • ‘Were there some people you were inclined to stick with no matter what the category?’

Absolute Zero

Time Energy Level Individual Team Visual Verbal


15 Minutes ** **** *   ****


A way of ending a lesson that taps into creative, improvisational resources, while summarising learning (or activities). It’s a pupil-centred way of finishing, and allows individual scope for expression. It usually results in some amusement when pupils read out their efforts.

Teacher says:

‘Find yourself a partner with whom you would like to summarise your learning.

‘Starting with the letter ‘A’ and finishing with ‘Z’, write one sentence starting with each letter of the alphabet, to record what you’ve learned during this lesson.’


‘Now take turns to read your A to Z to the group.’


  • ‘Any difficulties?’
  • ‘Anything else you’d like to have said?’


Do this individually (perhaps for a writing skills or individual creativity event) or in larger groups.


Paper and pens.

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, September 2005.