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Randomly Grouping Students

My college students are like charter members of a church. They claim their seat on the first day of class, and from then on, no one else better take it! Since we journal every day, often in groups, the same people were sharing with the same people day after day. This meant the students were not getting to know each other; they were unaware of how others were problem solving, and they were way too comfortable in their group. Things had to change!

So-o-o I asked my students to make name tents by folding a large file card in half. (I know it sounds elementary, but it does help this "old" teacher to quickly learn who is who). On the outside, they printed their name and on the inside, I placed a variety of stickers.  (My students didn't seem to mind.) Based on the sticker I called, the students would group by pairs, threes, fours or groups of eight.  Now, the students would divide up into groups based on something other than their preference.

On Monday, we grouped by 2's according to the color of the dog and cat stickers. Right away I noticed that the dominance of the group had changed, and more dialogue was going on between the partners. We then regrouped to present problems using the order of operations, only this time I used the stars to make groups of 3's. (I used this same idea when I taught math in middle school and high school only the stickers were put directly onto the students' journals which always stayed in the room with me.)  

I also used this strategy when I taught elementary (back in Noah's Day, after the flood), but there was always one or two "sticker pickers" in my class which seemed, in some magical way, to remove the sticker from their desk. To alleviate this problem, I placed the stickers on the desks and then covered them with clear packing tape or contact paper which was not easily removed. If a student moved away, I simply gave the new student the vacant desk or grouped the remaining students according to a different number.

Want to give this a try this in your classroom? Just purchase a variety of stickers. Then decide on the size of the groups you want such as 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's etc. and get to work!

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