Early in my teaching career, I learned that if I can manage classroom movements, I can manage behavior. If I can manage behavior, students learn better.
If you strive to have active, collaborative students groups, you need to be able to move students efficiently, getting them on task as quickly as possible. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Draw chopsticks In my expat environment, I can easily get cheap, wooden chopsticks. I put a student name on each chopstick. The top of each chopstick is then colored blue or red, according to gender. This helps to quick sort groups that have equal numbers of boys and girls. I also informally track the frequency with which I call on boys and girls in the class, consciously avoiding gender bias. The same could be done with popsicle sticks.
2. Pass out cards from a deck of regular playing cards Without talking, student move into groups with the students who are holding the same number, the same suit, or the same color card (depending how you need them to move and the size of groups you want). A student with a face cards can pair up with another student who has a face card while students with numbered cards pair up. Students with red cards can pair up with another red card student while students with black cards do the same. You can quickly line up students by card values.
3. Manipulate student pictures Student faces have been covered for reasons of anonymity.
4. Students silently line up by birthday, height or alphabetically by name Admittedly, this takes a bit more time. But, the activity gets students moving and thinking. They devise clever forms of sign language to accomplish the task. Once students are lined up, you can send the first x-number to a certain activity, the next x-number to a second activity, and so on.
5. Give students a number, then group by "types" of numbers Make a group of prime numbers, a group representing multiples of five or six, numbers within a given range, even or odd numbers.
What are some of your quick ways to group students?