Group work can be a student’s best friend or their worst nightmare. Many times in my teaching career, I’ve had students form their own groups for a collaborative project, and it usually ends in chaos. The group of best friends don’t want to leave one person out and ask, “Can we have a group of four instead of three?” or the one shy student that doesn’t say much has trouble approaching others to become part of a group. While it isn’t always a bad idea to allow students to form their own groups, most often I make the conscious choice to group students myself. This not only allows everyone to feel included and less awkward about choosing a group, but it is great for classroom management and pushing students outside of their comfort zone with new people. Here are a few of my favorite ways to group students and why.
The Simple Random Choice Wheel
Or as my students like to call it, the wheel of death (yes they are dramatic at times, shocker!)
This is a tool I have been using since student teaching. Sometimes, I will plug names in ahead of time and have the students chosen before they enter the classroom, sometimes I turn it into a suspenseful game at the beginning of class and have students watch their group work fate spin around and around. The latter can be a lot of fun, but can also lead to a lot of complaints. It is simple to use, you just have to plug your student’s names in and spin the wheel for however many students you want in each group.
Resource I Use – Random Name Picker
The Back of the Classroom Line Up
This is always a fun one for me, and it is a great communication skill builder as well. It can be done many ways, either with verbal cues or non-verbal cues. I will give them a category that they can line themselves up by in the back of the classroom and they have to line themselves up within a certain amount of time. Birthday, height and shoe size are my three favorites, but any topic that is numerical where they have to be in a specific order works well too. Then, you can decide how to pair off from their. Sometimes, I take the students from each end and pair them together, sometimes I pair the students that are standing next to each other. It is versatile, easy and quick to do!
True Colors Personality Pair Ups
If you haven’t heard of the True Colors personality test, it is basically a personality evaluation that groups people into four groups, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue. We went through a small training on this personality test in professional development this year, and it intrigued me to try to group students with students with compatible personalities. For example, if you are blue, you’re typically enthusiastic, love interacting with others and warm. If you’re orange, you are spontaneous, impulsive and bold. Students with these contrasting personality types could do some great work together because their personalities are compatible, they bring different things to the table but still get along well. Now if you were a green, or someone who is very analytical, logical and a perfectionist, you might go crazy being paired with an orange. I have had a few of my classes take this test so far and the results of pairing based on their primary colors have gone well!
What are some of your favorite ways to pair students? What has worked well for you, what hasn’t worked well for you? Leave your ideas and comments below!