5 Ways to Build Better Student Groups

Student group work is an integral part of 21st-century classrooms, but figuring out the most effective way to distribute your class can be perplexing. Make this most of this classroom opportunity and try new ways of matching students with these five strategic ways to build meaningful student groups:

Student groups will allow more peer collaboration in the classroom.

“Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth.” – Sir Ken Robinson

Readiness Student Groups

Use student achievement data to cluster students in a variety of ways. Heterogeneous groupings allow you to pair students who have already mastered the content with those who could benefit from peer coaching. Homogeneous groupings are great for differentiation because they allow teachers to push the high performers with more advanced work while also freeing up more class time for groups that need more time with the teacher while others work independently. Building these groups can be as simple as using a spreadsheet to sort scores from a recent assessment and grouping students accordingly.  

Style Student Groups 

We know that every student learns differently so have your class take a learning styles inventory survey and group students based on the results. You can design unique learning experiences for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning groups. For example, an elementary math lesson on illustrating fractions could have one group of visual learners drawing while another group of tactile students manipulating tangram shapes.

Interest Student Groups

Allow students to opt into areas of interest. This approach is especially effective for literature circle as it allows students to self-select books or activities that match their passions. Students in interest groups are likely to be highly invested in the content, and self-selection can add an additional level of student ownership. Crafting a student survey (or copying this survey we made using Google Forms) at the start of the school year can be a great way to begin planning for interest based groups. 

Characteristic Student Groups 

Consider the many other identifying characteristics of your students, and you might come up with some creative new classroom groups. You can use any variable from date of birth to favorite color and everything in between. For example, you might kick off the year by grouping students based on their previous homeroom teacher or simply their favorite ice cream flavor.

Random Student Groups

While methodological grouping is an effective way to focus learning experiences, sometimes it is fun to build totally random groups so students get a chance to interact with different peers. Apps like Team Shake and Class Dojo’s Group Maker allow teachers to create randomized groups of any size almost instantly (and can help you manage those groups too).  

 

There are many ways to facilitate peer learning by creating small groups of students. Whatever method you try, be sure to monitor student performance to understand which groupings are most effective. Don’t be afraid to try new groups too! Change will keep your group time feeling fresh and exciting.


Teachers, what other ways do you group your students? What approach leads to the most student success? Let us know in the comments!

How’s Teaching? – Take Back Summer Conversations

For educators like us, we’re constantly asked about life inside the classroom. No matter who inquires about teacher life, these conversations can sometimes feel repetitive and perfunctory. It’s time to flip the script and refresh the way both you and your community think about teaching. Rather than regurgitating the same stories from the past school year, use these conversations as a rewarding opportunity to learn from those around you in a way that can actually enrich your teaching this fall.

How is teaching?

Here are four people you might encounter this summer and how to make these conversations more meaningful and authentic for both of you.

Supportive Friend

This may be your childhood bestie working in a completely different industry who supports you unconditionally but knows very little about what it really means to be a teacher. Your friend has already heard of the many ups and downs of the past school year, so why not ask them for input as you get ready for the new year. Your family and friends all use tools that did not exist when they were in school. Use this as an opportunity to understand what skill sets are really critical for youth to develop to prepare for the future workforce.

Flip the conversation and ask: What are the major skills you wish you had learned before graduating high school? What technology do you use most in your industry today? 

Professional Acquaintance

This could be the new professional acquaintance you met at a summer professional development who teaches in a totally different community from your own. Teachers often compare and contrast campus and district life, so use this as an opportunity to learn about the innovative things happening in their classroom.

Flip the conversation and ask: What do you plan to do differently in your classroom this year? What technology resources have provided your students with the best learning experiences? 

Clueless Stranger

This might be a person you meet at a coffee shop or a friend’s party who knows very little about the world of education. This individual very well may comment on how easy teaching must be, especially when you are out on summer vacation. Push your new friend to consider how they too can support student development. You might have even just identified a new student mentor!

Flip the conversation and ask: What are your go-to tools to enhance, organize, or streamline your own life and work? How could a student use these same tools to get the most out of their education?

School BFF

This is the one teacher friend who really gets you. You may not see each other every day during the summer, but keeping up with them is an important way to mentally prepare for the new school year ahead. You and your school BFF will inevitably reminisce on the past year, and focusing on victories is essential. When you catch up, think about how you both can build on what went well during the previous year rather than agonize over anything that went wrong. You and your campus buddy can prepare for next year by capitalizing on good summer vibes.

Flip the conversation and ask: What was your biggest win last year, and how can we take that one step further this year? What are you trying to learn before the new year begins?

 

These are just a few of the people you may encounter that will inevitably ask you about your work. Similar conversations happen in every industry but can be particularly meaningful for educators. When you encounter summer small talk, use these moments as an opportunity to reflect and motivate yourself ahead of the coming school year.