How Do You Group Effectively?

I plan on grouping often, if not daily. My needs are…

  1. Be able to switch up the groups easily and quickly
  2. Have students get into groups quickly.
  3. Designate group roles such as leader and recorder easily.
  4. Did I mention quickly ???

One more caveat – I will probably be switching rooms for each class so I will need something portable.

I would like to do these things with a minimum of talk. More talk = more confusion = more wasted time. After visiting my son’s kindergarten class last year I got an great idea! His teacher had clothespins with their names written on them in sharpie and she “clipped” them to the weekly job chart. I want to do something similar with groups. I plan on using magnets however.


  • Purchase magnetic board
  • Divide the board into colors (using construction paper maybe)?
  • Purchase something small and put all kids names on each one. (like writing their names on clothespins)
  • Attach a magnet to the back of each thing (clothespin)
  • Before class put the clothespin on the board corresponding to which group they will be in.
  • Place a “flag” on the table to indicate which color group goes where
  • Designate group rolls – Write on the board group roles like “leader” and “recorder” and put their clip in that spot.

I am thinking I could then switch it up, like add more colors for more groups and such but just adding more colored paper on the board. This is only in the planning stages. Once I design it I will post a pic.

If you’ve got them, ideas would be LOVELY before I start actually purchasing materials.

7 thoughts on “How Do You Group Effectively?

  1. Contact paper on the board might be easier than construction paper – it will stick right away. Maybe make shapes out of the contact paper?

  2. You might want to check out the way they do groups in CPM: College Prep Mathematics. They do a lot with groups and group roles for high school students, so you might be able to steal some ideas from them.

  3. gasstation – I read your post am very sorry that you have had negative experiences with grouping. As grouping students has been around as long as education has, I am sure that most people share similar negative experiences (including myself). I believe that the majority of the time, this is a result of poor design.
    I am well aware that many students would rather work alone. However, I think that if we only let students do what they are comfortable with then we inhibit their opportunity to grow and learn from varied experiences.
    Since you are a teacher as well you have probably experienced that you learn by teaching. I have seen students who thought they already knew everything discover how much more they need to know by having to explain it to others.
    I think that you should give grouping a second chance. Because when done well it can produce magical effects in your classroom.

    • I’ve seen grouping work well, when projects are big enough to be better done by a group. I’ve also seen teachers fooled into thinking that grouping is working well, because the products are better (almost as good as the best student in each group could have done by themsleves).

  4. I know this is from a long, long time ago…but I can’t help but ask: What have you figured about grouping? I am a first year teacher who has decided that “traditional” teaching is not for me. My students are not interested and I am tired of being told that I am not mean enough by my colleagues. I feel like group work and a few projects will help gain student interest. We are all so bored…

    • I have decided that there is no best answer when it comes to grouping. Sometimes I mix up the abilities so they can help each other, and sometimes I ability group so my high groups can fly and I can work with struggling students. It depends on the activity. 6th and 7th grade math isn’t especially exciting, but it’s so important so I try to find ways to make it interesting! If I am bored, they will be too! And, as far as being “mean”, I always start the year very tough and strict. As I bring on my fun activities and projects classes can get pretty loud. We can’t have any fun if I can’t begin them back instantly. Then it’s just chaos. Good luck! The first year is the hardest, but also the best! 🙂

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