Grouping Strategies

Asking students to line up according to a rule is a quick and easy way to create groups. Once everyone is standing in a line you can divide your students into any group size or simply fold the line in the middle to form pairs. Try these questions to get students to line up for groups:
1. What do you want to be when you grow up? (line up A to Z)
2. How do you like your salsa? (line up mild to zesty hot)
3. Birthday order (can group by month or day of the month)
4. What is your favorite food? (line up A to Z)
5. What is your address? (students line up in the numerical order of their street address)
6. Research to find answers to questions that require a % response. For example: What percentage of students age 12 - 17 own a Smart Phone? What percentage of people drink milk straight out of the carton from the refrigerator?

Find Someone Who ...
Ask your students to roam the room and find someone with a trait similar to their own. Traits might include:
  • Sharing a birthday month or finding someone who has the birthday closest to yours
  • Having the same hair color, hair style, or length of hair
  • Wearing a similar color or pattern (stripes, plaid, polka dot, flowered, etc.)
  • Has the same type clothing (shorts, pants, skirt, dress, tee shirt, jeans, etc.)
  • Finding a "digit partner" -- someone who shares the same last digit of their cell phone number. Add more fun by requiring students to find partners silently.
  • Locating someone whose hand or foot is the closest in size to theirs
  • Likes the same restaurant, shares the same favorite food 
  • Has the same favorite movie, book, tv show, video game, etc.
Match Up
Form groups by handing students cards or pictures to match:
  • Cut song lyrics into parts and have students find their lyric partners. Christmas Song Lyrics
  • Cut jokes into parts or use a question and an answer to form pairs. Jokes and Riddles for Kids
  • Match the stanzas of famous poems.
  • Match book titles and authors.
  • Cut apart portions of famous quotations or match quotations to their originator.
  • Match famous duos - Batman/Robin, Bonnie/Clyde, ketchup/mustard, washer/dryer, salt/pepper, toothpaste/brush. Famous and Common Duos
  • Match famous trios - Curly, Larry and Moe; Charlie's Angels; Huey, Dewey and Louie  Well-known Trios
  • Hand out pennies and ask students to create 2, 3 or 4-cent groupings by matching the year or finding the years closest to their own.
  • Match stickers.
  • Match types of candy drawn out of a bag.
  • Match school supplies.
  • Match smells. Place potpourri, oils, spices or other items with strong scents in the bottom of a small container (like a baby food jar) and cover with a paper towel. Students sniff through the towel to smell what is inside and find others with the same scent.
  • Match sounds. Place things that make a noise when shaken in small containers - i.e., paper clips, screws, coins. Students shake the container to find others with a matching sound.

Sole Mates: Ask students to find the person in the room whose shoes are most similar to theirs

What's My Rule
Provide each student with one of a group of mismatched items such as a mixture of sewing buttons, a variety of coins,  random image cards, etc. Students will form groups, and develop a "rule" that provides an explanation of how their items are connected.  For example, when using old sewing buttons, 3 students formed a group and developed the rule that they all had 4-hole buttons, 4 students with red buttons formed a group, and another group developed the rule that their buttons were were small, medium, and large.

Hand Up, Stand Up, Pair Up
Ask students to move about the room with one hand up. When students find another person with their hand up, they stop and share. When sharing is complete, partners thank each other, put their hands up and find another partner in the room.
You might give a rule for who shares first, such as the person with the longest shoestrings or most buttons or pockets.

Mix, Freeze, Share
Students wander around the room as music plays. When the music stops, students form pairs or trios with those nearby. When sharing is complete, start the music for another round. Mix, Freeze, Group.   Kagan Mix, Freeze, Pair.

Playing Cards
Cards offer lots of opportunities for grouping. For example, students can match suits or numbers or you can create a math problem (3 + 2 = 5). Pass out cards and allow students to determine what constitutes a group and what rule they used to create it. Or, ask students to create a group in number order such as 2, 3, 4, 5. To mix the groups randomly, draw one of the numbers and ask the student in each group with that number to move clockwise to the next group.

Give each student a magnetic, Scrabble, or printed letter. Ask students to match up by creating nouns, verbs, adjectives, vocabulary words, etc.

Name Placards
Create name placards using different colors for each letter of a student's name. Use the placards for the first seating arrangement. Then, mix groups by matching colors (such as everyone with a green letter in their placard forms a group) or letters or forming words by combining letters, etc.

Four Corners
Place interesting images in each corner of the room. Ask students to choose the image they like best and then move to that corner.

Story Stickers
Hand out interesting stickers or pictures. Ask students to put together three or four different stickers and create a story that involves the items on the stickers. (This allows students to choose their groups.)

Puzzle Pieces
Print interesting pictures and cut them apart into pieces that match the group size you are needing to make. Give each student a puzzle piece, then ask students to find the matches to complete the picture.

Random Group Generator
Try using the Random Name Picker, Random Group Creator or SMART Notebook Random Name Generator.

Bubble Gum Blowing Contest
Line up students and give each a piece of bubble gum. When you say go, everyone blows a bubble. Create a line-up based on bubble size.

Popsicle Sticks
Place student names on popsicle sticks to be drawn. Or, create a system on the sticks. For example, on one end place animal stickers in groups of two and on another end place vehicle stickers in groups of three. On the other side, you can place stickers for groups of four. Students can draw sticks and you can refer them to the correct set of stickers to find the group size you are desiring.

Clock Partners
Give students a handout with a clock face. Ask them to mill about the room and make "appointments" with a partner at the times specified on the clock - like 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. During the session, ask students to find their 6:00 partner or their 9:00 partner and so forth.

Compass Partners
Provide students with a handout of a compass rose and ask them to roam the room to find partners for each direction on the compass.  Both partners must have the direction open and sign their names on that direction.  During instruction, ask students to find their directional partners.

Cumulative Partners
Provide partners with random flash cards, envelopes of money, or math problems, ask the students to solve the problem or add up the money in their envelope and find a partner that has the same answer.

Synonym / Antonym / Homonym Groups
Have students find others that have word cards that are synonyms, antonyms or homonyms. 

Resources for Grouping Strategies