Something New for Next Week (Visibly Random Groups)

So I wanted to begin the year with random groups of students, but I realized very quickly that learning names, handing out name tents, and taking attendance would be quite difficult if I had students in a different seat every day. So I began the year with something that’s “somewhat” random – alphabetical by last name. Students certainly weren’t going to question if I had placed the “smart” kids in one section and the “dumb” in another section or anything.

However, now we’ve been in those same seats for almost four weeks, and I think the kids are beginning to get to know each other and I’m beginning to get to know them. In my homeroom, I know ALL of their names and faces (because I ALSO have a 15 minute homeroom period where we’ve done A LOT of ice breaker/name games), and in my other classes, I know about 85 – 90% of the kids.

I’d like to start trying out visibly random groups NEXT WEEK, where I plan to tape a playing card to each desk (A – 8 to represent groups 1 – 8, and the four suits to represent the four positions within each group), and then to hand out a second set of cards to students to assign them their seats for the day. I would collect the cards from them at some point (though I’m not exactly sure when), and I would make it clear to them that the seats would only be for the day.

The major logistical thing I’m CONCERNED about is the way in which I check my HW right now. I have students have it out on their desk and I go around, seating chart in hand, and I write their grade next to their name. I can see three ways of coping with checking HW with the random seats:

  1. Collect HW & check it off after class – NO WAY! I wouldn’t be able to keep up with this. I know from previous experience this doesn’t work for me. I will spot check random HW assignments, but I can’t do this daily!
  2. Have a roster with the students names in alphabetical order and look for them to check off their homework. If I do this, then I will definitely assign them “A#s” (alphabetical numbers) which I’ve done in the past but usually at the end of September, so there are no more changes to my roster.
  3. Have a blank seating chart EVERY DAY, and write the students into the seats they’re in and then check off their HW… This seems like a LOT of extra work, even though it would help me know who’s sitting in which seat.

The other concerns I have about this are if my few “squirrely” students wind up sitting together and being off-task.

Another concern I have about this is that I really want to be teaching using group problem solving tasks (so there’s a reason they move around and work with their group mates), but my current school uses a lot of resources from Engage NY, which don’t seem to be very problem-solving-based, so I’m not sure how to implement the necessity of working together.

I’m also deciding about whether or not I want to assign group roles (perhaps based on seat position within the group – facilitator/navigator, resource manager, recorder and reporter are four that I’ve seen before that I liked).

I’m curious about other people’s experiences rolling out the Visibly Random Groupings with their classes, and what has helped make it more successful.


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