There are various reasons why we need to group students each day. It might be as simple as putting seating solutions together, or as complex as creating intervention groups to fit all students’ needs. Often, I simply need my students to pair up, make sets of three, or divide into teams. Even in adult learning, “divide up” usually means the same small cliques form. Creating a game out of grouping gets everyone together without all the eye rolling or pressure. It also opens up endless educational opportunities. Start the year with collaborative norms and the expectation that groups will change all the time. When you want to have a little fun or just get people moving and talking, try some of these offbeat ways to get everyone matched up.
Write different genres on index cards. On other cards, write book titles that fit the genres. Older students can match book titles or jackets to a genre to form a group.
Match authors and famous works of literature.
Create (or have students make) jumbo craft stick characters from books. Draw sticks at random and find your fellow characters.
Make cards with uppercase, lower case, and cursive letters. Find partners or groups of four with the same letter.
Create cards with rhyming words to make sets.
Write single lines from different couplets on index cards. Older students can pull a line from a couplet and then couple up.
Make cards with a famous title, plot, characters, setting, and author. Students can find the pieces of their story to form a group.
Create types of sentences and sentence examples. Have students group by deciding what type of sentence they have. For example: “Go get the paper.” = Command
Make cards with equivalent fractions and mixed numbers. Younger students can match pictures and older students can find complex equivalents.
Cut dice images that add up to a certain number using different configurations. Students find their "same sum" partner(s).
Cut pipe cleaners in various lengths. Have students find same size measurements to match.
Have clocks showing analog, digital, and word form of times. Students group with their like time. For a more complex time game, have students with a start time, stop time, and elapsed time find each other.
Match coins and written amounts. Older students can match multiple ways to make the same amount.
Draw or list complimentary angles. Have students locate their 90-degree partner.
Create a circle group with a radius, diameter, and circumference listed. Similarly, list the sides a, b, and c of a triangle and have students group with their perimeter.
Students learning shapes can group by type of shape with either math illustrations, or real life images that represent math shapes. A door could be a rectangle, for example. Older students can group by type of triangle or shape names and pictures.
Put multi-colored pompoms into a bag and have students draw and group with the same or complementary colors.
Attach textured surfaces to cards. Make match cards that describe the surface, such as “rough” or “soft”. All the textures partner with their matching surface.
Take pictures of game pieces and the game they come from and put them on cards. For example, take the Hi-Ho Cherry-O cherry and game board to make a match.
Cut art postcards into slices and have students find the other students who hold the missing pieces to form their picture.
Do the same using Andy Warhol-style prints.
Wrap washi tape around the end of sticks or straws. Everyone draws and finds their mates.
Stick holiday-themed stickers on index cards. Students can put together different stickers from the same holiday, like fall leaves and thanksgiving turkeys, or find four of the same sticker in the group. Change stickers as the seasons change.
Young students can use real objects and group them by color, size, or attribute. Small objects like a yellow sock, yellow ball, and yellow toy duck can go together.
Use art postcards or stickers to group students by theme. Students can group by genre (like impressionists and cubists) or by theme (landscape or still life).
Write notes from major chords on staff paper. Students find their place in the chord. Younger students may need one full chord to match with for reference.
Make sticks with different simple notes and students arrange by whole note, half note, quarter note, or rests.
Print musical instruments from different families. Have students find their place in the woodwinds, brass, strings, or percussion sections.
Write rhythms and have students find their match. Older students can match counts with musical notation.
Match famous songs or composers with popular movie scores.
Make cards of famous musician’s photos, famous works, instruments played, or country of origin.
Have fun with music history. Put songs and instruments on cards to be matched with the time period they are from. For example, put a lute and madrigal match with an image of Renaissance clothing.
Put treble and bass clef notes in different octaves together with note names for harmonious groups.
Make cards of famous originals and famous remakes, for example “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from both (the movie and play) Annie and Jay Z.
Put states, capital cities, famous landmarks, and bodies of water into groups of four.
Let students get in birth order by day, month, and year. Break into groups after ordering. For a twist, have learners line up without talking to accomplish the task.
Match fun pop culture references, such as a Butterfinger bar and Bart Simpson.
Grab playing cards and draw at random. Group by suit or number, depending on the size of the groups needed.
Pick from cards with different versions of the same technology, such as a rotary phone, corded phone, cordless phone, and modern cell phone.
Make cards with various animals. Find your animal class, such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals.
Fashionistas can match styles with designers, or compose an entire outfit in a given style. Students can play along by putting all the uniform parts of community workers together.
Match brand names, slogans, logos, and spokespeople to make groups of four. Use throwback versions for adults.
Match colleges with their cities. Larger cities, such as Boston, will have more to choose from. Use whole states or mascots for more options.
No matter what you choose, changing up groups will lead to more communication, better collaboration, and add some engaging excitement to your classroom.
What other ways do you create groups? Do you always group using ability, or do you allow some random groups to happen? Share in the comments!