One of the most important aspects of cooperative learning is how students are grouped together. Depending on the activity, it may be necessary to divide into groups of 2, 3, 4, or more. Using a flexible tool that will create a variety of groups instantaneously is essential. With this in mind, today’s strategy is how to create instant flexible groups. I have several effective strategies that I want to share with you today.
The first strategy is a basic grouping technique that I have seen in many classrooms and will provide three groups: same-number groups, letter groups, and different-number groups. It is extremely useful when you use table groups (with students numbered 1-4) and partner groups (with A and B) a lot. This strategy offers an additional grouping of students with the same number. See the example below.
To use this resource, copy enough mats for each group of four, laminate the cards, cut-out each individual square and tape them to the corner of each desk. Note: You can also just copy them, cut them out, and tape them down from the back and spread clear packing tape across the front. This will laminate them instantly!
The second strategy offers the opportunity to create more of a variety of groups. I created it at a time when I needed to have quick access to multiple grouping opportunities so that my students did not get bored with their same group. I originally created them with 3.5 inch x 5 inch index cards and stickers; however, the example below was created with clipart from my computer and can easily be manipulated to achieve the number and type of groups that you want.
As you can see, there are six grouping symbols here. First, there is a group number, then, moving clockwise, there is a colored star, an animal, a pencil, a shape, and a letter. Depending on your grouping needs, the number, star, animal, pencil, and shape can be used to create groups of different sizes. For example, if you want groups of three to be the star, then divide the number of students you have by three and use that number of different stars to create the card. The letter can be used for partners when the letters A and B are used.
Similar to the first strategy, the card can be attached to individual student desks or each student can receive their own card. Passing the cards out randomly each time grouping is necessary adds addition combinations of student groups because students will most likely receive a card that is different than the one received the previous time around.
The last strategy is a hybrid of the two strategies shared above. It offers the most flexible grouping techniques: table, number, shape, shape color, facing students, adjacent students, letter, and number/ letter combination. See the example below.
This cooperative learning mat offers eight flexible grouping strategies. The group sizes range from 2 to 16 when used with a class of 32 students. It includes same-number student groups, different-number students groups, and the letter student groups like the first strategy; however, this grouping tool also offers a number/ letter combination student group (the A and B are in a different location on every other mat). Additionally, shape and shape color (8 colors included with the set) student groups can be created as well. Partner groups can be created with “face” or “shoulder” student groups.
To Use this Mat: Consider the students’ everyday seating arrangement to be home base. Place a mat in the center of each table. Each student then uses the symbols on the portion of the table mat nearest to them to determine his/ her group for the next activity. From here, after completing the activity, students can return to home base or use the table mat at their current location for a new group if needed.