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:
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!