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10 ways to divide your students into groups

We do TONS of group work in drama class and it’s important that students have the opportunity to work with a variety of peers. Working with different peers allows students to get to know each other better, find common interests, observe different learning styles, hear new ideas, practice problem solving, and make new friends.

While it may be most practical for the teacher to assign groups or the most fun for students to choose their own groups, sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and try a different or unusual way to arrange students into groups. Here are ten ways to divide your students into groups. Some of the instructions are quite simple and others are more time consuming, but the novelty can keep your students intrigued and on their toes!

1. Choosing the teacher: The teacher assigns groups, either in advance or on the fly. This is the most practical for the teacher, but the least fun for the students.

2. Students’ choice: Students choose their group members. This can lead to students only working with their friends or some students feeling left out.

3. Student Choice Switch: Ask students to form their own groups. Have one member of each group volunteer to be the captain. The captains must switch groups.

4. Counting: Ask the students to stand in a circle. Number each student according to the number of groups you want to have. All 1’s are a group, all 2’s are a group, and so on. You may want to mix up the numbering schemes so that students are not trying to reorder themselves to fit into a particular group.

5. The election in the school yard: The teacher appoints two captains (or directors, if you want to keep it more theater style). Captain A chooses a team member, followed by Captain B. Team Member A then chooses the next member, followed by Team Member B. Each newly chosen team member chooses the next team member. Be sure to mix up the team captains so the same people aren’t always picked last.

6. Height: Have the students line up around the room from shortest to tallest. (Bonus points if students can do this silently.) Count the number of group members down, starting with the shortest student, or work from each end to have a variety of shorter and taller students together in a group.

7. Alphabetically: Have students line up around the room in alphabetical order by first name. (Again, bonus points if they’re able to do so silently.) Amber, Benicio, Cassandra, Dave, Emil, and so on. If two or more students have the same name, use their last initial to put them in order. Count the number of group members per line, starting with As.

8. Random Name Generator: Enter your students’ names into a random name generator site such as The Wheel of Names or Picking wheel. Click on the wheel and see which names are chosen at random.

9. Sorting hat: Write down students’ names on slips of paper and draw them out of a hat.

10. Playing Cards: Arrange a deck of cards to have the same number of cards as students (for example, if you have 20 students, you will need 4 aces, 4 twos, 4 threes, 4 fours, and 4 fives). Hand out a card to each student. Ask students to combine the numbers to form their groups.

At the end of the lesson, you may want to use the following exit question for students to reflect: Share your thoughts on today’s group selection process. What did you like or dislike? Suggest a new or different way to divide students into groups.

Click here for 10 more ways to divide your students into groups.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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