Alternate methods for pairing and grouping students


Students are quite often creatures of habit and regularly seek to cling too or avoid certain classmates when asked to 'Pair up' or "Organize yourself into a group."

Sometimes you need to try some alternate strategies to break the cycle.  Who knows? you might even encourage the beginning of a great new friendship.  

Thanks to Chris from Omaha for supplying these ideas to group students using alternate methods.

Rid yourself of the Good old  “A, B, C, A, B, C, A, B … “ grouping.
Substitute A, B, C into the names of some real world items (you could use this to surreptitiously remind students of a few vocabulary items). The names are purely for making the groups and can then immediately be forgotten. Of course when students know their labels you can either ask them to get together with others of the same name – or to make set with different members.

Apple, banana, cherry, apple, banana, cherry… ; Purple, crimson, turquoise; Rain, sun, snow…; Volkswagen, Ford, Rolls Royce …; Preposition, adverb, conjunction; Kylie, Madonna, Janet …; Suit, Tie, Waistcoat …; Spring, autumn, winter …; Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge; Hamlet, Macbeth, Prospero …; Homer, Marge, Krusty …; Present perfect, past simple, going to; Williams, McLaren, Ferrrari … (“Ok all Ferraris drive over here and meet up, all McLarens race over there …”); Eggs, coffee, bacon … (“Get together and make a complete breakfast …”)

Cut up cards
Prepare a set of cards so that there’s one for each student. On each card write one word from a set of vocabulary items you’d like to reinforce with the class (e.g. kitchen words: fridge, mixer, sink, saucepan, cooker, microwave). If you want groups of six students there should be sets with six different words – and so on. Shuffle and distribute the cards, then ask students to meet up in groups where everyone has a different word.

“Work with someone …”
you have never worked with before
… who has the same colour socks or stockings as you
… you think you’ll strongly disagree with
… whose home is as far away from yours as possible
… who smiles at you across the room now

Anagram partners
Instruct students to write down their first name and surname then rearrange all the letters to make an anagram which they write on a new piece of paper. Collect in the anagrams and redistribute. Students try to unravel the anagram and find their new partner’s name.

Hello. Who’s there?
Pass out a  piece of paper to each student. Ask each student to write down their mobile phone number on the paper then collect in the pieces and shuffle them. Students then pick out a piece of paper at random and ring the number to find out who their new partner is. (Students without mobile phones should write “chatroom” and gather in a designated corner of the room). This technique would be especially suitable for telephone practice pairwork activities that can then actually be done over the phone.