My students participate in many small groups throughout the semester. To learn to work in groups made up of different personalities, intellects, philosophies and learning styles, I divide the groups using a variety of ways:
- Students give birthdays. I write these on the board and then put closest birthdays together. I also do this with last four digits of phone number, house number and parents’ anniversary.
- What did you eat for dinner last night or breakfast this morning? Beef people form a group; pizza people form a group; etc.
- What color is your family car? Like colors work together.
- What color is your bedroom, bathroom, house, coat? Like colors work together.
- What career would you like to have? Like fields work together.
- Write a number on a piece of paper without letting anyone else see. Close numbers work together.
- When students enter the room, I offer a basket of different kinds of candy. Students selecting the same kind form a group.
- Students draw from a deck of cards which I have presorted with three kings, three queens, etc. if I want groups of three, four if I want groups of four, etc. Like numbers work together.
- Students wearing red work together, blues work together. One day stripes work together, plaids work together, boots work together, tennies work together.
- Students line up, and I put the shortest with the tallest, next tallest with next shortest, etc.
When asking for student responses, I write the answers on the board. Because students might give false answers so that they work with a friend, I sometimes take the top student in each column to form a group rather than having all “pizzas” work together. They don’t know how I will form the group, and I usually get honest answers. We find this to be a fun way to form groups, and it helps students get to know each other.