Classroom Management

The Group Knot is a perfect activity to do at the start of the school year to find the leaders in the class.  Make them your partner to help as they will lead the class with positive behavior.  That is one of the top 5 classroom management techniques:

“Find ways to make your hardest kid your favorite kid,” said Karen Yenofsky, turning a nearly perfect phrase and triggering an avalanche of teacher love. “When you connect with them… it makes everything smoother.”

I have been using the Group Knot since I first starting teaching computer science in the 1990’s.  This was when coding used the go-to statement.  Using that caused knots that caused programs to be hard to debug.  That is no longer an option in programming.  But, I found this a wonderful way to discover who the leaders in the class were and guide them to lead to make the class productive.  Also great for leadership training for teachers to build ISTE leader Educator Standards.

I now use it to teach CS Themes: Communication, Creativity, Perseverance, Debugging, and Problem Solving.

In playing this game you will untangle a knot of arms made by a group of friends.
If you are sitting around at a party with the girls on one side and the boys on the other,
this is a fun game to break the ice.

Circle(s) of 8-10 students (larger circles are difficult, but challenging)

Perseverance, organization, listening, cooperative planning

GAMEThe Group Knot — one person reads the directions

  1. Stand in a circle with 8-10 students, HOLD HANDS.
  2. Let go of hands, reach into the circle with your right hand.
  3. Take the right hand of another student.
    — DO NOT take the hand of the person next to you.
    — If an odd number of students, have the person left over take someone�s left hand.
  4. Reach into the circle with your left hand. Take the left hand of another student.
    — DO NOT take the hand of the person you are already holding
    — DO NOT take the hand of the person next to you.
  5. Now get untangled without letting go of the hands you are holding.
    — Stress, DO NOT LET GO. PERSEVERE!!
  6. The result will be a new circle like in step 1.
    — The order will be different and some people may be facing outward.

Computer Science involves understanding programming language concepts and how these are applied to problem solving. The essential elements I want my students to learn in CS are all practiced in the Group Knot:

  • To think
  • To be organized
  • To follow directions
  • To communicate
  • To code a computer program


  1. Could your knot be untangled?
    — Some knots cannot be untangled, but those are rare.
    — Knots can result in a chain.
  2. Did your group persevere and solve the problem?
    Are perseverance and patience essential skills in problem solving?
  3. What happened if you were day dreaming or talking and did not listen to the directions?
  4. Why are organized, specific, descriptive instructions important?
  5. Did one uncooperative person in the group ruin the ability to solve the problem?
  6. If your group gave up and started a new knot, what did you do differently the second time?
  7. Which groups were the fastest?
    Did those groups have a leader who took charge, saw a solution to the problem
    and gave directions to other students on where and how to move to get untangled?
  8. Did you meet a new friend? Would this be a good party game to get people communicating?
  9. What is the relationship of the group knot to the steps in problem solving?

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