Paul Seligson, a well known TEFL author and teacher trainer, says that students should be moved around and change their seats every two classes. He has a poster in his classroom reading ‘Please change places after every class. If you don’t, I’ll have to move you. Life is short, please move.’ This idea is really quite important from not only the psychological but also the effective learning perspective. When the teacher implements a lot of pair or group activities students socialize with their peers and learn something new from them hence the importance of creative and non-usual grouping techniques. In this article, we will present a number of useful and creative ways of grouping students randomly.
- Draw names from a hat/cup. Write students’ names, shake them up in a cup, and pop them out and arrange the groups in accordance with the name sequence.
- A pack of cards. Playing cards can be not only a fun way of spending spare time but also a very creative mean of grouping students. Grouping can be done based on having similar or different suits, black or red cards, cards in a specific order, the same numbers, or any means which the teacher may find relevant.
- Adjectives. Go around the room labelling students using positive adjectives, like ‘intelligent’, ‘creative’, ‘innovative’, ‘brilliant’, etc. Then learners are asked to be grouped according to the same adjectives. This technique, however, may be implemented in groups who the teacher has worked with for a long time and if a teacher is sure that labelling will not offend anyone.
- Content sections. In case you are planning to revise some units or sections students can be randomly grouped into those units/sections. Divide your students according to the section they need to revise (e.g. some students don’t know the vocabulary very well, others need to revise grammar and so on) and get them involved in the assignments (poster presentation, word revision, etc.)
- Line-up game. Students get into two lines and then given a series of challenges to complete. They can be grouped according to birthday, height, shoe size, the time they had gone to bed the day before, the last two digits of the phone number, etc. Here is a link to some more line-up grouping activities.
- On-screen group creator. This is a great tool to divide students into groups by eliminating the stress for the teacher while deciding how to group. The only drawback with instant group generator is that it requires an Internet connection to use. Here’s a free site that puts students randomly into groups
- Synonym Roll Partners. Students are given cards with synonyms (this set of 42 synonym cards can be used). Students find the partner that has the synonym of their word. Students find the synonyms, get into partners and then the teacher puts two our three partners into random groups. These synonym cards are also a great tool to revise vocabulary.
- Antonym Partners. The same principle can be applied with the antonym card.
- Puzzles: A teacher finds several pictures (can be also landmarks), prints them, laminates and cuts into puzzle pieces. Students search the room looking for classmates that have matching pieces to the puzzle.
- Something in your bag or pocket – Students are asked to take out items from their bags or pockets. They get into a line in alphabetical order of the spelling of the name of the item they are holding. The teacher then divides the line into pairs or groups.
These techniques will help arrange groups easier, create an enjoyable classroom atmosphere and add some fun to the learning process. Lessons will get more dynamic and student-centered. However, each teacher needs to be selective while using this or that particular technique having in mind the peculiarities of the learners he/she deals with.