grouping students

There are times in every lesson when we want the students to work in pairs or small groups. For practical reasons we tend to ask the students to pair off with someone sitting to their right or left. For an uneven number of students in the class, the teacher may pair off with a student or you may allow a group of three. When it comes to groups of three or more students, there are many ways in which those groups can be set up. It is a good thing that the students get to work and interact with different peers each time, as this will contribute to building positive group dynamics.

This is how you can easily set up groups the KIS way:  I typically assign a number to each student because that’s the quickest way I know to get the students work in groups and because I don’t want to waste precious class time in the procedure. Let’s say, I have a class of 25 students and I want to set up groups of three, four or five students to a group.

  • Groups of 3: 25 divided by 3 is 8 (and a spare student). Each student receives a number from one to eight (Juan, you are number one; Elisa, you are number two; Carlos, you are number four; Pedro, you are number five; Sara, you are number six; Yolanda, you are number seven; Antonio, you are number eight; then start counting from number one again, thus obtaining seven groups of three students and a group of four.
  • Groups of four: 25 divided by 4 is 6 (and a spare student). Five groups of four and a group of five.
  • Groups of five: 25 divided by 5 is 5. Five groups of five.

However, there are times when I might decide to attach a task to set up those groups. The reasons might be to change the pace of a lesson or, if the students are shifting about in their chairs, it might be time  for them to stretch their legs a bit, move around and send the brain oxygen.

If I want the students to work in pairs I may give each student a card or piece or paper with a word or expression in either English or their L1 counterpart (“estar harto de…” /”to be sick and tired of”). The students have to find their matching pair. You can also do this with proverbs, if there is a similar counterpart in the students’ L1, (“Dios los cría y ellos se juntan”/”Birds of a feather flock together”), or with word collocations (“to break”/”the law”).

If I want to set up groups of 3 or more students per group, these are some fun ways.

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, how much do you like broccoli? All the zeros, get together, all the 1s get together, and so on. If some groups are considerably larger than others, then move some students to other groups. What other “on a scale of 0 to 10, how much do you like…” can you think of?
  • Tell the students to arrange themselves by the amount of hair.
  • Tell the students to pick a member of a 5 piece rock band: drummer, lead singer, keyboards, electric guitar, bass player. They must close their eyes and start mimicking their chosen musicians. A few seconds later they can open their eyes, see what everyone is doing and arrange themselves into groups accordingly (all the lead singers get together, all the bass players get together, and so on).

Try out the last one and see how it goes!

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