We often find ourselves as teachers doing activities where our students need to work in groups or pairs. This could be a quick Think-Pair-Share or Turn and Talk activity or a larger group project. It can be difficult to have to create effective groups for our students to complete their work each time. It can also be challenging (and time consuming) to create random groups. I've come up with 6 ways to quickly and easily group your students for different activities. I'll also share some great apps at the end that can help you group students as well.
1. Food Pairs
These food pairing cards are an easy way to group students. Not only are they cute (not essential, but definitely a bonus!), but they are engaging to students. You can pass them out on each student's desk randomly, or you can make a conscious choice about each pair. After receiving a card, students walk around the room to find their partner. This also gives them a brief brain break and helps get them up and moving.
2. Popsicle Stick Sorting
Another great way to pair or group students is to use Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. I really like how versatile using a tongue depressor can be. You can write on it or glue something on it to reuse again and again. This is also a great way to practice or reinforce core concepts. You can do math like the ones pictures below, or tie in other subject areas.
3. Synonym Cinnamon Rolls
Another fun and engaging way to group your students is to use "Synonym Rolls". Students are given a card with a word. Their partner has a synonym for their word. They are given a card and them must walk around to find their partner. This is a great way to practice synonyms and create random groups.
4. Deck of Cards
Using a deck of cards or flashcards can be another great way to group students. You can use a regular deck of cards or Phase 10 cards like shown below. You will go through the deck and pull out 4 of each number. Then you'll pass them out to your students. (Just remember to pull out sets of 4 that match up the number of students you have and not more, or you'll have kids without a group.) The students walk around until they find all 4 numbers.
5. Flashcard Sorting
You can also use flashcards to sort students. You can have them find the commutative fact, the same sum/product, even and odd numbers, and more.
6. Student Grouping Cards
I saved my favorite for last. These cards help you sort each student 4 different ways. You can sort students:
- Shapes (4 students per group)
- Color (3-4 students per group depending on how many students in your classroom)
- Even and Odd (2 kids in a group OR 17 kids in a group)
- Letters (2 students per group)
It takes a bit of planning and mapping out, but once it works, it's beautiful. You can designate different groups for different purposes. For example. You could make the letter groups be a high and a low student for when you need a high/low pair. You could also make the shape group range from high to low. The possibilities are endless!!
I usually printed them out on card stock and laminated them. Then I put a Velcro dot on the back so I could easily switch the cards if needed.
Apps and Online Options
If you don't want to worry about any printing/cutting/sorting, there are several apps available to randomly group your students.
1. Class Dojo: Class Dojo has many great features and one of them is randomly creating groups for your students.
2. Randomly: This is a free app that lets you randomly pick a student or create groups.
3. GroupMaker: For a small fee, this app lets you create random groups for your room. You can also group by gender, performance level, and more.
4. Google Sheets: Follow the step-by-step guide to create groups using Google Sheets.
5. Random Group Creator: This web page helps you create random students groups.
6. teamistr: For a very small fee, this app helps you create teams or groups quickly and easily. There are no adds or popups which is a bonus.
Groups Not Working Well Together?
Sometimes our kids have struggles working well in groups. One way I found to combat that is by using Partner or Group Punch Cards. Each time a student works well in a group or partnership, they get a punch on their card. After 10 punches they earn a small reward. These punch cards are highly motivating and really help reinforce good behavior.
Creating groups in your room will hopefully be a lot easier!