Student Groupings

It is extremely important to choose appropriate groupings for certain activities – a lab experiment is effective based on whether it is in small groups, individuals, or a whole class. Changing grouping styles creates variety and promotes interest as well as provides signals and cues to students as to how to behave and prepare appropriately for groupings.

A Whole Class Grouping Is:

  • Important to promote community
  • Useful for direct instruction
  • Good for class discussion
  • Can be good for “teacher talks” about behavior, performance (when affects all) – eg. why we do fire drills, etc.
  • Facilitates note giving and dissemination of housekeeping items

Groups of Four Students Are:

  • Useful when you do not have enough lab equipment
  • Helpful in doing a project that requires a large amount of work or has many parts
  • WARNING: Be careful, a group this large easily falls prey to: distraction, non-participation, students pairing and being at odds

Grouping of Three Students Is:

  • Small enough to keep all students on task
  • Big enough to conduct lab experiments
  • Great for projects and in-class work
  • Majority rules (in disagreements, decisions can be made because it is an odd number)

Pair/Group of Two Students:

  • Great for completing independent work faster, more consensus, easy to pair up if desks are in rows
  • Must have enough materials for many small groups
  • Gives students an easy first audience to articulate their thoughts
  • One-on-one, less intimidating (good for quiet students)

Individual Work:

  • Very important!
  • Students must be able to execute tasks alone
  • Students should be given practice before a test
  • Encourages focus for certain tasks such as note taking, problem solving, reflection
  • More accountability since class-work should be quiet

There are many ways of choosing group formations as detailed below:

Mixed Ability Groups:

  • Efficient, one student is able to help others
  • Be careful not to continually burden particular students
  • Some students may take the opportunity to slack off
  • May draw out some students as stronger than you thought
  • Think about each students strengths and pair accordingly

Homogeneous Ability Groups:

  • Students all must work (relatively) as hard as each other
  • Can be frustrating for students
  • Groups of lower ability may need more scaffolding
  • Some groups will finish MUCH earlier than others
  • Less intimidating
  • May draw out some students as stronger than you thought

Random Formation of Groups:

  • Good for start of year (eg. alphabetically)
  • May set yourself up for social issues or other problems
  • Good for brief activities (one to two periods or less)

Forming Groups Purely for Classroom Management:

  • Focus solely on smooth classroom management
  • Good for transitions: retraining students/when there has been a shake-up of some kind

Student-Initiated Groups:

  • Only after you have established yourself as in charge (first project of year is assigned groups and mostly in class)
  • Do not allow students group themselves early in the year
  • Use as a “treat”
  • For a unit consisting of an in-class project or lab where you would like students to select their partners

As with anything classroom management related, there are always things to look out for!

  • resistant attitudes
  • romantic relationships
  • malevolent relationships
  • familial relationships
  • consistent slackers
  • consistent bullies/bosses
  • student stress
  • habitual partners

And there are things to make groupings as effective as possible:

  • remember to be equitable
  • start from the beginning by being consistent with when you switch groups
  • write notes to yourself
  • be a frequent visitor
  • change up your visiting habits
  • be enthusiastic
  • be firm
  • ask students who they want to/never would sit with

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