There are a myriad of reasons, that I will write about later (one post here), that I have chosen to emphasize group work and collaborative learning this year. I had two hurdles from last year that I wanted to tackle:
1) the whining I must deal with when they get new groups, or the whining I must deal with when they stay in the same groups too long, and
2) the time it takes to put students into new groups.
So I decided that I wanted established groups from the first day, and more than one. My principal had read an article that suggested students should have groups for A days and B days, but I wanted to be able to decide each day which groups to use. What if we didn't finish that task in one day? We can't be swapping all willy-nilly! Plus I wanted some that were ability-grouped and some that were heterogeneous, because there is call for both on different days, but not simply every-other-day.
I tried making lists of random groups, but I got bogged down. So I asked my husband, whose PhD is Graph Theory, to help me and he thought it was a delightful task! Here's what he came up with:
But then he interpreted it for me, and voila! A way to arrange 24 students into 4 different sets of 4, so that for FOUR days out of the week, no one is in a group with the same person twice! Honestly, he's a genius. If you replace the numbers on the left side with your students in order of achievement/ability, the first column is a set of ability-groups. One of the random groups is less heterogeneous than the others, but two of them are completely mixed. I then chose to create a fifth set of groups where my high achievers and lowest strugglers could be grouped, but the middle kids are still muddled. Check it out...
So if you get put in a group with a kid you're not crazy about (or you are crazy about, which can be worse in middle school), no worries ... it'll be different soon enough, and often enough. And if you're in a group with your bestie of besties (which has the potential to derail learning and/or drive your teacher crazy), no worries ... it'll be different soon enough, and often enough!
Then - and here's the part I'm really pleased with - I created labels for each child. So whomever I put in slot 1 gets a sticker with their name, four solid circles and a solid edging around it. And I did this for all 24 of them. Like this:
All the F1's are because I created it as a mail-merge so I can easily use it with each class list. That's where the name goes. NOW, each day I can decide if they will sort by color, by shape, by shading/filling, by number, or by edge style... and I just have to post it as part of the warm-up so they know where to sit when they come in. And, so they can keep it straight, the stickers will go on the front of the notebooks they will be required to have everyday ... as inspired by a blogger to whom I now refer as "I Heart Claydon." I can't figure out how to post the word file with all 24 labels (sigh...). If you want it, comment and I'll email it to you.
HERE is the question of the hour: Is it as brilliant and efficient as it sure seems to me to be? Or is it just that it's so stinkin' cute that I can't help but be enamored of the idea? As the military analyst who teaches history across the hall from me always says - no plan survives first contact. Any suggestions on what might ensure success with this?
New thought - I wonder if I want one set to be gender-grouped. Any thoughts??
New groups for 2nd quarter ... new clever idea. update here