Monday, October 03, 2011

Partners and Groups

When students pair up for activities, discussions, peer editing or labs, it is very difficult to keep students on track when they only work with their friends or those they are most comfortable.  Creating variety in grouping students is vital to a classroom but can be time consuming.

One method I use is a partner sheet. I create a sheet with 6, 8, 10 items that are relevant to the subject or even the specific topic we are studying.  I have images and words for each item on the sheet along with a space for a name.  I try to put these on cardstock so that they can be kept and used for the entire year.
An example of a simple machine sheet I use in physics is below....

I have students choose a partner for each of the items on the card.  Each student signs their partners card and their partner signs their card.  When I need students to partner up, I will tell them to get together with their pulley partner. Students check their cards and move to the students they signed up with as pulley partners.  I can change partners in an instant by simply asking students to switch to their wheel partner, and so on...

By creating three or four of these cards throughout the year, I can have a variety of groupings at any time.  English teachers can create cards with the characters from a novel, ie. "Move to your Holden Caufield partner."  In Spanish it could be vocabulary words. In Math it could be math symbols.  The options are unlimited. 

To increase variety in grouping, I have guidelines like, you can only ask one person from your current table to sign your card, or you must get a partner from each row of the classroom. I remind students to keep these cards in their notebook so that we can use throughout the year.  They can also be useful to trigger a quick review of material throughout the year.

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