Traveling to work this morning I was thinking of ways to get my students to collaborate better in big groups. This is something that students (and adults) are generally pretty bad at, so in my pastoral time I often look for games and activities that allow students to work on these skills. Passing a 7-11, I came up with the idea of buying a chocolate bar (Twix, in this case) and offering it as a prize to students. The catch would be that whilst I came up with the prize, the group would need to design the tournament to decide a winner. The rules would be as follows:

  • The competition would need to be fair, giving each student an equal chance (no arm wrestling, mental arithmetic, etc)
  • Consensus of all students would be required to determine a winner.
  • There would need to be a clear single winner.
  • If there was no winner by the end of our time together (20 minutes), I would eat the Twix in front of the students.

At first the students seemed a little confused, but they quickly got to working out how a winner might be decided. However, things quickly broke down, with too many voices, many of which were dissenting or off topic. I encouraged the students, gave some hints, cajoled a few and then gave out some harmless insults suggesting they could not do it, and I was going to be eating the chocolate any moment. After a few failed attempts at a leader taking control, and with time ticking down, one student suggested I pick a number from 1-100, and each student take a guess at it. The closest unique number would be the winner. It was quickly decided that this was the way to go, a number was picked (735 out of 1000 in the end) and a winner was quickly decided.

Sadly, I did not get to eat the Twix.

To end the activity we had a quick discussion about why the students almost did not succeed, and came up with the following reasons:

  • They had to brainstorm out the bad ideas to get to the right one.
  • They needed the pressure of the impending deadline to make a decision.
  • They initially lacked a leader, and students willing to be led.

At the end of the day I think they developed their ability to work collaboratively in a large group, one student left with chocolate in hand, and another left knowing he had stepped forward to be a leader to his peers. More than I achieve in most days at school, and it was only 08:30. I am left wondering what variations I can build into this to make it more useful or versatile.

Note: chocolate thumbnail image from freefoto.com, CC BY-NC-ND.