Groups have taken up a lot of time and space in my teacher world. Who can I pair with who? Should I let them choose their own this time even after ‘LAST TIME’? What if I spend time putting them into groups and then half the kids are absent and I have to regroup them anyway? Should I use popsicle sticks? Is there an app? Why is this so hard!?
I thought gamifying my class would help because there would just be built in groupings, but that didn’t quite work either. We have so much absenteeism that the groups were always lopsided with one kid by themselves. Popsicle sticks have been my go-to for many years, but this year I’m trying something new.
I decided to ‘jam’ up my old Total Participation Technique folders. If you haven’t read that book, you should. Like, right now. It has many practical and engaging techniques for all ages and content areas. My folders are for what they call ‘Hold-ups’.
On days where I am presenting information or after a video, I stop and gauge their understanding with these beauties. The blue cards always lead to the most interesting class discussions. I found color coding them helps because you can tell them to, “take out the two yellow and the two blue.” Believe it or not, my students love these things. So low-tech but such high engagement. Everyone is waving their answer in the air. The best is when you have a couple that go against the rest of the class and they are right! You should see the pride on their face. Side note: to gamify these, I assign point values to each correct answer. They try to outscore the other classes. Easy, and a way to rack up a lot of points in a short time.
So, before this year, these ‘hold-ups’ just lived in whatever spare folders I had kicking around underneath each desk. This year I decided to ‘jam’ it with a grouping idea! So, I went to Walmart and bought new folders (only 15 cents a piece right now) in 6 different colors. I bought 4 of orange, yellow, blue, purple and black and one red. The one red is a ‘wild card’.
I will put these under the desks and when I need to create 5 groups quickly I will just tell them to find the people with the same folder color. The wild card goes to the group that is uneven or if no groups are uneven they can choose their group. BAM! 5 groups were made in 10 seconds time.
But, I didn’t stop there! I had an idea to open the folders and add more classifications. I added washi tape, letters, and shapes.
There are 4 different washi tape groups and one wild card. There are 6 different letter groups and one wild card. There are an even 5 shape groups. It took a little time to make sure there weren’t any overlaps, but not nearly the time I normally spend in the year trying to group them myself.
I created a key for myself and that is it! Groupings are handled for the year (I hope).
I will re-visit and tell you how this goes. If you use something similar or have other grouping ideas, please share with us so we can learn from each other!