Ah, groups. Students learn best in them – or do they? In my classroom, I started noticing something… When I’d say get into groups of four (or the like), they immediately gravitated toward the same peers. They were either their best friends, or depending on the project, the “smartest” one. (I have indeed had students say, “I want to be with Jilly because she’s the smartest.”) So what other ways can we group students without losing our sanity?
Here are eight different ideas on how you can group your students differently each time. Hopefully, there is one idea you can use.
Group students randomly by pulling sticks or using an app to pick. I frequently use this in the classroom when I want groups of equal size and want students to branch out a little bit beyond their peers. Sometimes they get lucky and end up with their best friend anyway. What can you do?
Group students based on similar academic achievement levels. For instance, the same reading level or math scores. Though some educators frown on this, it is still beneficial. I think the only time it’s NOT beneficial is when you repeatedly do it every time you group students. I use this when I’m creating groups for math (to meet with me) or for literature circles (all reading the same text and level).
Group students based on differences. For instance, I try to look through my class list and decide who are my leaders. Then I sort them out each “leading” their own group (they don’t know this, of course, I privately do this. I would never sort them out in front of the class. Flashback to being picked last in kickball.) I continue to do this so it’s a balance of students who are independent and dependent. I also take note who butts heads and who works well together.
Group students based on their similar interests. Students are typically more motivated when they share common interests in a topic. I remember one year letting some boys of mine independently study (as an enrichment activity) Egypt because they had an interest. It was one of the best presentations ever.
5.) Learning Style
Group students based on their multiple intelligences. If they are linguistic, put them with other linguistic learners. If they are kinesthetic, take an aspirin and then put them together. Like learn from like.
6.) Knowledge of a Topic
I know this one sounds a lot like learning based on interests. To some degree it is- but sometimes we have a lot of knowledge and understanding of something without really having an interest. Students with likeness in knowledge can share information with one another which confirms their understanding and builds self-confidence.
7.) Skill or Strategy
When you are grouping students similar to their skill or strategy, you can fill in any gaps or enrich students who need it most. (Yes, it really is similar to the second one.)
8.) Student Choice
We are back to the beginning of my post. Let the students group themselves. We have all heard that choice leads to success. But maybe have a few rules… You need to have someone new in your group this time, or something.