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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Five Fun Ways to Form Small Groups

Small group work can be an effective way for students to actively participate in their learning. Groups of two and three students work well for activities which deal with sensitive topics and for encouraging quiet students to participate. Larger groups of four or more are effective when the activity involves collecting a variety of input like list making and brainstorming.

Once you have determined the small group size you want, divide the total group size by the small group size. This will give you the number of small groups you want. For example, if you have 30 students and you want them in groups of five, divide 30 by five to find out you want to create six groups.

Whether you want to create pairs or groups of seven, here are some fun recommendations for you to try the next time you assign students to small groups.

  1. Stack the Deck
    Playing cards is a great tool for creating groups of two, three and four. Prepare ahead of time by creating your own stacked deck of cards with one card for each student. Stack your deck with two, three or four of a kind cards, corresponding with the number of students per group, two, three or four. Make sure the deck is shuffled. Pass out cards to each student. Ask students to find the other students who have the same numbered/face card.

    Using playing cards to form small groups is particularly helpful when you want to have students work in pairs and then combine the pairs to create groups of four. With playing cards, you can create groups of two (grouped by like numbered/face cards of the same color) and have them combine into groups of four (grouped by like numbered/face cards of any color).

  2. Sing-a-Long
    Names of popular singers and musical groups can be used to create groups of any size. Once you have determined how many students will make up each small group, generate a list of that many musicians. Back Street Boys, Brandi, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, N'Sync, Will Smith, Brittney Spears are possible choices, and you can solicit more ideas from your students. Prepare strips of paper with the musicians' names on them. Hand the slips of paper out randomly to the students and ask them to create groups of like musicians. For some added fun, encourage students to sing a song (or hum a tune) from their assigned musician while they seek their other small group members.
  3. Wish You Were Here
    Postcards. If you want to create groups of two, postcards are great fun. Prepare by collecting a set of postcards which all have unique pictures on them. Cut the postcards in halves. Pass out the postcard halves to each student. Ask students to pair up with the students with the other half of their postcard.
  4. Talk Show Hosts
    Names of talk show hosts can be used to create groups of any size. You might want to start out by asking the students in advance which talk shows they watch most often and using the names of those hosts. Or you can simply choose the most popular talk show hosts such as: Oprah, Ellen, Jerry Springer, Jay Leno, Conan, and David Letterman. Decide on how many students you want in each group and create that number of 3 x 5 index cards for each talk show host. For example, if you want four students in each group, you will need to have four index cards with Oprah's name on them, etc. Mix the cards up and distribute them randomly to the students. Then ask the students to find the others with the same index cards.
  5. Birthday Line-Up
    The birthday line-up can be used to create groups of any size and does not require any materials or preparation. This grouping process may take a bit longer than the others but it is a good team building exercise in itself.

    Ask students to form a line in chronological order of their birthdays. Once in a line, count off the appropriate number of students into groups. For example, if forming triads, inform the first three people in line that they are a group, and continue until all students are grouped.

For skill building information on managing small group activities, check out Managing Small Groups in ReCAPP's Educator Skills section.