Tried and Tested - Search for synergy

26th June 2009 at 01:00

Subject: PSHE

Lesson: The power of the group

Ages: Key stages 3 and 4

Supplied by: Chris Shaw, a PSHE co-ordinator from Worthing

1. What is it?

An exercise designed to demonstrate the power of the group. By working together, pupils find all-important "synergy".

2. Who is it aimed at?

I have used this with a wide age range of pupils (14+).

3. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

To show that groups can be much more powerful than individuals when it comes to generating ideas. The lesson should also encourage pupils to develop group working skills and stimulate thinking on the nature of success in group activities.

4. What happens in the lesson?

Form groups and give each group a paperclip and a sheet of paper for all members, plus one for the group. Each individual (no conferring at this stage) writes down the uses of a paperclip - as many as possible. Then you ask pupils to do the same exercise as a group. Ask pupils to give you a total of the scores they achieved as individuals, but not count uses that cropped up many times (three people may say toothpick but it only counts as one). Get them to total their group score. The latter will almost always be greater, ie, the group is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy.

5. How do you know it has been successful?

It's really in the debate. They will naturally think that the group with the highest group score is the winner. But if you are seeking synergy then it's the group with the greatest difference between the sum of individual scores and the group score.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

It is a good kick-off exercise for any group assessed project. It gets children thinking about high-performing groups, not just individuals. They can reflect on group communication processes.

7. Give us three top tips

- State the objective clearly at the beginning, but don't give the game away - or the tactical ones will simply ensure they score lowly as individuals.

- Don't worry too much about the quality of their responses. It's an ideas generating exercise and it doesn't really matter if they are a bit unconventional.

- Cheer pupils up by having prizes for the most original andor funniest suggestion.

8. Useful resources

You could look for survival games on the internet that achieve broadly the same outcomes, but are rather more stimulating than a paperclip. Try


Title: Team-building games

Ages: 7-16

Subject: PE

What is it? A pack of team-building games split into communication, problem-solving and physical challenge games - a bit like The Crystal Maze. The resource is assembled using PowerPoint so can be printed and laminated for pupils to pick up and use. There are notes that provide a guide as to how the challenges can be led.

Find it:

Downloadsviews: 2,169

Star Rating: 5.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today