Today I typed in "quick interesting ways to divide students into small groups." Not a complete sentence, but pretty long, and Google gave me some great results.
I've spent hours over the past week brainstorming how to do this on my own. Since I did my teacher observations last semester, I've decided I need to get a lot better at doing group work. My favorite classes to observe involved a lot of group work, and those teachers also arranged groups in a randomized way so that students had to actively move around the room and be with new people instead of with the friends sitting near them. The best teacher I observed did this through giving students laminated cards with different animals from Australia on them (he was an Australian teacher). I thought about doing this with American animals, but let's face it - bison are not nearly as interesting and cute as kangaroos and koalas. So I needed to think of ways to arrange groups in two ways:
- In a creative way for spontaneous in-class dividing
- In a mathematically sound, quick way for groups that I wanted to pre-assign before class
I literally spent 2 hours at lunch one day writing numbers in a notebook, counting, erasing, and still not figuring out how to get pre-assigned groups with different combinations of students with no 2 students being in the same group again. I guess this is why I'm an English teacher, not a math teacher.
Today, I had the ultimate brainstorm - use the internet and pull from other teachers' ideas. Jackpot! I now have a great formula for pre-assigning combinations of groups from Natalie Houston and clever in-class solutions for assigning groups from Paul and the Girl Scouts of Northern California. My favorite is to use a deck of cards to split students in class. This is fun, takes almost no prep on my part, and allows me to quickly divide up to 14 groups, which is definitely necessary in my big oral English classes. The internet (and Google) make teaching so much easier!