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Tips for Organizing Groups for Group Work

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 3/2/2012

How do you put students into small groups to make them successful? This article lists several tips on how to group students for cooperative learning projects and activities. There are random and planned groups.

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    Grouping Groups

    Many lessons in today's classroom call for cooperative learning, which involves students working in groups. A group is two or more students. The question becomes -- What is the best way to organize or arrange students into groups? When a teacher has 20 or more students who have varying degrees of ability, it is sometimes difficult to decide.

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    Types of Groups

    There are two basic types of groups: heterogeneous and homogeneous groups. In a heterogeneous group there are a wide range of abilities. In a homogeneous group the students have similar interests and abilities. These are sometimes called cluster groups.

    A teacher must decide which type of group would be best for the activity. Cluster grouping works great for talented and gifted students so that they can speed ahead and learn at their ability level. However, heterogeneous ability grouping teaches students how to work together with people with different strengths to complete a task.

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    Random Grouping

    Decide how many groups need to be made with the number of students. If there are 20 students and a teacher needs groups of four, then there are easily five groups. Next, get a deck of cards. Choose all of the aces, kings, queens, jacks, tens and nines. Now shuffle the cards. Give every student one card. Tell the students with aces to meet, the students with kings to meet, the students with queens to meet, etc.

    A similar tip is to take 20 index cards. Place a red star on four cards, a green star on four cards, gold star on four cards, a purple star on four cards, and a blue star on four cards. Then pass out the cards. This grouping method can be done with different types of candy, suckers, shapes, etc.

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    Planned Grouping

    When planning groups for a heterogeneous or homogeneous group, make sure to take into account personalities as well as ability levels. In addition, it is very important that each person has a role or job in the lesson or project. Selecting a leader for each group also helps students to stay on task.

    In the end, group work is a great way for children of all ages to learn. A fatal flaw of group work is that many times one person gets stuck doing all of the work. Make sure to assess that all students were involved in the process and that each person did his or her job.