There are many ways to make groups for cooperative learning. Students would prefer to choose their own groups, and sometimes that works.
However, in real life, how often do we get to choose who we work with?
Just like when making seating charts, creating groups can be like a logic problem that cannot be easily solved. Luckily, group work lasts only a class period, a few days, or the length of a project, at most.
Here are some ways to create random groups:
The Random Draw: Popsicle sticks with names, marbles, (or you could do it like Survivor and crack eggs with colored dye inside)
The Count-Off: Fast and easy, but kids will strategically shuffle around, forget and/or change their numbers and essentially pick their groups.
Cooperative Learning Cards: This strategy uses index cards, stickers, and stamps to create one set of cards to create random groups.
Clock Partners: Basically, students create pairs with 12 other students. It’s hard to explain. Here are two places to get more information.
Seating Chart: If your classroom is set up with pods, tables, or partners, it is easy to establish a routine for group work. For example, Row 1 turns and works with Row 2, Row 3 works with Row 4 and so on. You might need to change your seating chart more often with this option.
Random Generator: I use SMART Notebook’s Random Group Generator to create and display groups quickly. You just set it up each of your classes at the beginning of the year and save the file to your desktop for easy access. If you don’t have a SMARTBoard, try this Team Maker tool I found.
Mystery Grouping: I had a high school chemistry/physics teacher who created our seating chart/lab tables using some crazy techniques. We had to try to figure out the pattern before the end of the nine weeks to earn bonus points. Some examples of her seating charts: She put us in order by our birthday date, our locker numbers, number of letters in our names, and textbook numbers.
How do you generate groups?
Do you allow students to make their own groups?
Do you allow students to work alone on a “group project” if they ask?