Teacher Hack for Grouping Students

You’ve got a great hands-on, standards aligned activity that you’ve planned and prepped for.

Everything’s ready to go and you’re so confident that it’s gonna be that good that you secretly hope your admin walks in during the activity.

And as you are explaining the project to your sweeties, you realize you totally forgot to think about who their partner or group would be…

Sound familiar?  This has been me time and time again. #realtalk  I even once forgot about this during an informal observation and had to come up with partners on the fly like I knew what I was doing the whole time…

I swore I’d never do that again so I came up with a system to group my kids in multiple ways with very little prep!  Let’s chat about grouping students today!

At the beginning of the year when I am finished with ALL THOSE ASSESSMENTS, I sit down and make my grouping lists.  I have 3 lists I make:  literacy skills, math skills, and behavior skills.

On each list, I order my students from most support needed to least support needed.

When it’s time for an activity, I pull out my lists.  (I have them on a ring hanging on the inside of one of my cabinets.)

I find the topic I need.  When I first started this, I had a separate list for reading and writing.  You can certainly do that, but I found that it really was of no benefit to separate them out.  And it was easier to think of the kids with literacy as a whole in mind!  I added a behavior list later on as well.  I use this one for content projects that aren’t necessarily literacy based…like science experiments.

Once I have the list I need, I have a ton of options for grouping right at my fingertips!

Grouping Homogeneously (Similar Ability)

If I want kids in like ability groups, I simply think about how many I want in each group and go down the list.  For example, if we are ordering sentence words and I want to differentiate this, I’ll use this grouping.  Let’s say I want 3 kids in each group.  Then, numbers 1-3 will be together, 4-6, 7-9, etc….

If I want to meet with a small group of 6 to do the activity with me, then I’ll call numbers 1-6 to the back table and then go down the list in groups of 3 after that.

I don’t call their numbers, I call names.  In fact, the kids don’t every really realize that I have a list like this.  I just simply grab the list when I’m calling groups and tell them who I want where!

Grouping Partners Heterogeneously

If I want kids to be in partners by mixed groups, I will split my list in half.  So, for example, with this list of 20 kids I would split it into 1-10 and 11-20.

Numbers 1 & 11 will be partners, 2 & 12, 3 & 13…

The reason why I do it this way is I want to make sure I’m NOT pairing the lowest kid with my highest kid.  When these kids are grouped together, the high kid does all the work and the low kid does a lot of staring off, right??

I want my lowest kid with an average kid.  That way they are strong enough to help my low kids, but not so strong that they take over.

Also, in this scenario, some of my average kids (numbers 8-10) will be with my highest kids.

Again, if I want to meet with a small group, I just take off the first 6 to meet with me and then split the remaining 14 in half and pair 1 & 8, 2 & 9, 3 & 10….

Grouping Heterogeneously

When grouping kids into mixed ability groups of 3+, I do the same thing I talked about with partners, but I split the list up more.

For example, if I want groups of 4, I would divide my list of 20 kids into fourths (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20).  Then, I would put numbers 1, 6, 11, and 16 in a group and so on.

In this grouping, I have a solid balance of low, average and high students.

As I’m putting kids in groups, if I see partners that should be together like numbers 1 & 11 but those kids are like oil and water (you know the ones I’m talking about, right???), then 1 & 12 will be partners and 2 & 11 will be partners.  WHY? Because…ain’t nobody got time for that business, LOL!  But seriously, this is a tool, NOT the law…so use your noggin’ and make it work for your kids! 🙂

Why Use This Grouping Strategy?

I have found this strategy to significantly help engagement in group or partner activities.  It’s well thought out, it allows for small group intervention if needed, and it is so flexible that they are rarely with the same partners. (Anytime a student is absent, it changes up the grouping enough so that even if I mostly use heterogeneous partners they will be different most of the time because of absences!)

Aside from engagement, it’s just plain simple.  Do the work at the beginning of the year when you assess and then you are set for any group activity.  Make new lists after you reassess if you want to keep you lists fresh!  I usually change my lists at the beginning of each quarter!

And last but not least, this strategy is SURE to impress your admins during a formal or informal evaluation.  It’s well thought out, but easy to use “on the fly” too!

Want to use this tool?  Find the digital tool for FREE here!

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