Thursday, September 8, 2016

Effective Grouping Strategies

By Rachel Barry

As part of my yearlong goal of building relationships, I am constantly having students switch seats to get to know one another and not just work with their friends. This should help students get to know one another, foster collaboration, feel comfortable asking questions to peers and myself, learn to use their resources, and ultimately stay engaged. My classroom is now made up of whiteboard tables, which was part of a four classroom remodel of innovative furniture to engage students in their learning.  My room is setup in the following formation:

With this new furniture, I am exploring new ways to group students.

Randomized Seating

To start each skill, students are randomized in groups using the Team Shake app.  I randomize students because most of our skills are new to all students, so everyone is starting from the same base of knowledge. Some students may have some additional prior knowledge, which will only enhance the discussions and support in those groups.

Students will typically stay in these groups for 2 days, to build on their connections from the start of the topic. Sometimes during these two days, students need to be redirected or maybe I find that a group or two do not work well together. This moves me into the next grouping...


To switch things up, I use Team Shake again to create pairs. The first person listed stays where he/she is currently seated, and the second person listed goes to find their partner. Now there are new groups of 3-4 students.


This is a loose term here, because some students work harder on the front end of a skill, while others procrastinate and finish right before the assessment. This seating chart is not as a "dig" at any student but as a clear statement of "this is where you are currently achieving".  To have a better understanding of the curriculum of our math department, here is a previous post explaining our leveling system of individualized learning.  Below on the left is what I show over AppleTV to the students, and on the left is the description of how I group these students.

This method helps me to best address each students individual needs. I can focus students who are struggling with the same problems, instead of repeating myself in each of the different groups with individual students. I can also give notes to the students ready to move onto the next part without confusing the rest of the class. The key is that this maximizes and targets my time in class.

No Grouping - Constant Movement

The last method is utilized as a class activity.  Often, I have problems posted on the walls around the room (though now written on the whiteboard tables).  Students move around solving these problems, one at a time, and then move on to the next. Depending upon the class dynamic, I may set up partners or I may allow them to choose their partners.

I'm still exploring new methods of grouping. Please let me know any successful methods that you have found to work - I'd love to steal them!

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