Ask the Experts: What's Your Advice for Dividing Students Into Groups?
February 15, 2019

Q: Do you have any advice for dividing students into groups?

A: Despite working as a teacher for more than a quarter of a century (and having a degree in psychology), making groups is still a challenge for me. Sometimes I let my students form their own groups, but it always ends up with someone being left out and having their feelings hurt. In the end I find the best solution is to do it randomly. Interestingly, when I use an app to make a decision, the students immediately defer to it as an authority that cannot be argued with. Luckily for us, there is no shortage of random decision-making apps on the market.

For example, one of the most popular teaching apps on the market, ClassDojo, includes a randomization function. You can input your roster into the app, and it will instantly generate groups of any size. It also has a randomized student-generator when you need to call on a volunteer.

When pairing up students for partner dancing in my middle school classes, I use an app called Pretty
Random. I split the room into two sides and give one side a number, and then I let the other side press the button on the app to pick their partner. For some reason this makes students feel like they have had some say in the decision. You might also consider Team Shake, a 99-cent app, that has the bonus feature of allowing you to balance your groups based on skill or gender.

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