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Group Process: X's And O's (Naughts and Crosses)

Brief Description/Purpose

Help players understand some of the factors that affect group process, leadership, communication in groups, conflict and more. An incredibly simple exercise, at least on the surface, but one with amazing possibilities


Small groups

Age Appropriate

Teen, Adult

Ideal Group Size

This exercise can work with overall groups of at least 15. It's done by dividing the entire group in various sub groups of DIFFERENT SIZES

Time For Exercise

The actual exercise would takes only a very few minutes. The debrief however, will vary in length depending on focus and depth of discussion. I'd go for 20 minutes and up for the debrief


Conflict, leadership, group communication, group process, decision-making, group size

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Divide the class into groups of differing size,  from pairs to groups of eight. You need an EVEN number of sub-groups. Explain how the x's and o's game works (each team takes a turn placing either a cross or a circle in the grid with the goal of having three in a row.

Choose two of the groups to play a round of x's and o's. The groups should be of different size.

Draw a large grid (the traditional x's and o's one) with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines on a flip chart or blackboard.

Play the game out between the two groups. Offer NO help, suggestions, guidance, etc on how to operate except to say the group must place their symbol.

Repeat this with the other pairs of groups.


Once each team has played a game, ask this open ended question:

How did each of the groups DIFFER in terms of how they played the game?

 Guide the discussion to focus on the specific topic you are using the exercise to examine. That might be how conflict is resolved, or how a leader emerged, or the effects of group size.

Other questions you can ask:

  • How did the larger groups perform compared to the smaller groups?
  • Did you notice anything about leadership formation in the different groups?
  • What can we learn from the fact that the larger the group, the longer the decision takes?

The possibilities are almost limitless.