Visibly Random Groupings

I am a total convert! I read the research this summer and I wasn’t quite convinced, but I rolled it out yesterday and it’s gone fabulously so far! I don’t think I’ve had any kids try to switch cards or complain about their seats. 

I did have four students wind up sitting together two days in a row, but that CAN happen (wow! What are the chances?! 31 cards, 31 students, and two days in a row, 4 of them got the same number as each other! They told me about it, which is why I believe it really happened randomly).

I do think the first month, in September, of sitting alphabetically with name tents so I can learn all of their names FIRST is vital;  I don’t think I could’ve done it otherwise! Calling on students has tested my memory today and yesterday, but the more they’re in different seats, the better I’ll get, I’m sure. 

I think the way I rolled it out has to do with its success so far. At the beginning of the year when we made our name tents, I told the students that one of my goals for us was to be a community of learners together and that I wanted everyone to learn each other’s names. In my sixth grade classes, I did a poll and no one knew more than 5 other kids; in 7 th grade, there was obviously a little bit more familiarity, but no one knew more than 2/3 of the people. Plus, two of my classes, one 6th and one 7th, are “split classes” – kids from different homerooms go to math with me together, but there’s no other class where they have exactly that configuration of people. 

Anyway, I rolled it out yesterday with every class (except my homeroom who I prepped it with on Friday last week). I started by handing the random cards to each student when they walked in and said “find the desk with this card on it” – and the desks are systematically arranged in groups of four and then numbered A-8 (with the four suits in the same relative position). 

Once everyone was seated and starting the warm up/copying down their HW), I paused them and pointed out that we had a new seating arrangement and asked them how I assigned it. We established that it was random, and they saw the cards were shuffled. I told them I would give them a new card and a new seat the next day and the next day and next week. I asked them why they thought I was giving them so many new seats and THEY remembered my goal of learning everyone’s names and working together. I told the kids this would ensure they have lots of opportunities to work with everyone in their classes. I reinforced that their seat would be new each day, though sometimes they might work with the same people or at the same table, that was ok because their seats were only for a day. 

I then give each student an “A#” – an alphabetical number so checking HW will be easier (since we can find them easily on the alphabetical list when they tell us their numbers). 

In my classes, I’ve already noticed some changes: students are talking in partnerships more because it’s a new person each day and some of that is even translating to sharing in the whole class because they feel more confident as they get to know more kids personally. 

Now, tomorrow, my two 7th grade classes will have to sit in the same seats because they were in the midst of debriefing an experiment that they designed in their groups today, and they can’t talk about those experiments with other groups in the same way! But next week, we’ll be back to new seats! 

I can’t wait to spread this practice to everyone! Try it out! 


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