Grouping Students Should Be Fair, Fast and No One Feels Left Out!
As a teacher, grouping students for different purposes is a regular occurrence depending upon the situation.
Quite often, I have organized the class into groups before an activity either for a short time, for example learning centres in the class or for a long term such as for squads or teams in physical education.
Through time and experience, I have found that pre-determined groups are the best way to go.
Have you ever noticed that if you ask your students to get into groups of let's say 4, then 5 minutes later, some are arguing and others are in groups of 3, 5 or 6, but not 4 because they can't decide.
And then of course you have one or two students who no one wants or they can't find others to form their own group. (I personally always felt badly about those particular loner students, but I knew why they weren't asked to join a group).
When I'm grouping students, I am in control. I can choose who works best with whom or make the groups academically and socially balanced. In this way you can save a lot of wasted time and perhaps embarrassment for some.
The groups are printed ahead of time usually on chart paper or the blackboard, so everyone knows exactly who they are working with at the beginning of the activity. If the activity continues on another day, the names are on the chart paper for reference purposes.
Keep in mind not to have too many students in each group. If you do, then often what happens is that one or two students have nothing to do and start fooling around. They become bored and that's when misbehaviour begins.
Also make sure that everyone in the group has a job, e.g. recorder, illustrator, editor (one who checks for mistakes,etc.
But, I also realize, as it has happened to me, that you suddenly think of an activity that is related to your lesson and you want your students to get into groups.
When that happens, give your students some guidelines, such as, only 4 in a group, boys and girls, someone you haven't worked with lately, etc. Give them one minute to form the group and tell them you'll make up the groups if they can't do it in this amount of time.
When your students know what is expected and have a time limit, it's amazing how fast they can work.
Anyway, you are the only person that knows your students and what works best. When grouping students, just make sure that it's fair, fast and no one feels left out!