Eye on Grouping Students

Learning Groups

“Okay, everyone, find a partner!” and what happens?  Every kid looks to their best friend, grabs their hands, and you’re left with a couple of kids who can’t find a partner.  The “Partner Grumbles” are not welcome in my classroom.  In fact, we discuss it at the start of the year.  In our class, we are a team, and we welcome everyone as our partner.  So, what’s even more powerful than talking to get rid of the “I don’t wanna be partners with….” talk?  Enter dollar store junk.  Yes.  Dollar Tree really does sell everything… even grouping strategies.

I stopped in and picked up a deck of cards, pipe cleaners, 3 bags of eye-ping pong balls, party favor sparkly chain lengths, erasers, and a bag of fake money.  Seven dollars later, I have an arsenal of grouping strategies.   You can adjust the number of each item and it’s match to fit your class and the number of students you’d like per group.

1.) Pipe cleaners:  Grab one, match your color, and make a polygon with your two pipe cleaners.  Focus is on the math, the partnership, and students are ready to work!

2.) EyeBALLS: I bought three different colors, so students can be grouped by eyecolor. I’m also going to use a Sharpie to put a number and a letter on each one.  Now, the eyes can be used to make groups of three, groups of 2 by number, and groups of 4 by letter.

3.) Party Favor Links: After passing them out, you can have students group by shape or color.

4.) Fake money: Pass out the ones and the fives and tell students to get in a group of three that makes $7.00.

5.) Cards: Group by suit or number… or even ask students to make a math equation with their partners and let them figure it out.

6.) Erasers: Group by color or add numbers to them with a Sharpie.

Learning Groups

Don’t have time to pass out and collect all of these items?  An awesome way to handle them, which I learned during eMINTS professional developement, is to create a bag of tricks! Put the items in small plastic ziploc bags.  Then, the bags can be kept in the middle of student tables or placed on each students desk when they arrive for the day.  I love this because each bag has different items so when you shout find your “card partner” they will look at the card in their bag to match.  Or, next, you might need groups of 3 and shout “Find your pipe cleaner partner.”   Students don’t need to open the bag to see inside, and they can be easily put back in a bucket or other central location for storage.

So, ready, set….. find your partner, compliments of the Dollar Tree. :)

  1. Personally, I like random groups (as you stated above) especially when I taught Middle School:) However, grouping is part of our eval. system and we must be able to defend our groups. So, my table groups are tiered HMML (I try to also look at learning styles as well) and my stations are homogeneously grouped so that I can meet with each group 1x per week.

    If we do partner work, I normally do notecards with popular characters and their well know partner. Students pull them or I pass them out and voila – partners:)

  2. Hi Krissy,

    I learned a great grouping strategy this summer that we did during our professional development meetings. Cut strings of yarn of equal lengths. Line up all the strings together and fold in half. Grab the group by the middle with the fold hidden inside your hand. Each student grabs an open string, so you need enough strands for each student to be included. Once everyone has a string, you release your hold and the students see who they are connected to…which becomes their partner for that activity. If you have an odd number of students, I let the student left last choose which group they want to go to.

  3. Thanks for this quick, easy post, with myriad ideas! I’ve got a great app on the iPad that randomizes partners or groups, too. $1, I believe, and I can try it ahead of class to see if those kids would be fine together. If not, I can just hit “sort” one more time. Thanks for the reminder of choosing for them – sometimes we have to control the learning, too!

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