Throughout the year, I do A LOT of student groupings because I think (depending on the activity) students learn best when they are able to TALK about their learning. Sometimes I think learning would be most effective in partners, sometimes in small groups of 3-4, and sometimes alone. Either way, I wanted to have a system in place that would take care of these groupings without wasting precious class time.
I've been using a Clock Partner or Cell Pals system to group students with one other partner that is easily glued into the Interactive Science Notebook, along with other creative partnering arrangements, such as Periodic Partners and Famous Trios. I've also had seat numbers at all of my lab tables to quickly give students new seating arrangements at the beginning of each grading period. And I needed a system to help me do a better job of randomizing and calling on students in a different manner, rather than the typical "raise your hand and I will call on you" system, which really isn't a system at all. Research has shown that teachers who use this method tend to call on the same student(s) over and over, while the "sleepers" never get called on. I want ALL of my students to be engaged in each and every lesson and paying attention because they never know when I may call on them. No more sleepers.
I wanted to create something that would incorporate ALL of these needs that I have in my classroom (randomizing, grouping and assigning seats and/or jobs). These seat labels come in 7 different colors (to coordinate with the primary colors I already use in my classroom to distinguish between class periods). Each label has a color, number (1, 2, 3, 4), letter (A, B, C, D), and a seat number (1-28).
My classroom is unique in that I have stationary lab tables with most tables seating up to 8 students. Not ideal, I know, but it's what I have to work with.
First you need to decide what your typical "large group" would consist of and how it is laid out. For me, the largest group I typically use is 4 students (2 students on one side of the desk facing the other 2 students directly across from them). This large group of 4 gets the same colored desk tag (To group the students in the large group, I can simply say "All oranges work together. All greens work together."). I use contact paper to attach these to the lab tables. I try to put them in the location that I think will be least "messed with". After all, they are middle school students and they will stab these with pencils and try to pull them up all year. But with the exception of about 2 labels, they all stayed on the desk for the entire year this past school year.
Within that group of 4, I can easily divide it into partners. For example, I can say "A's work with B's" and "C's work with D's". These are their shoulder partners. Or if I want them to work with the person sitting directly across from them, I can say "A's work with C's" and "B's work with D's".
If we are conducting a lab investigation, I can assign each person to a specific job by saying "All A's collect lab equipment, all B's record data, all C's ...".
For randomizing, I can ask all "B's" or all "4's" to stand up and they can answer a question or share their response for a particular lab conclusion question.
When it's time to assign a new seating arrangement, I can just tell them a seat number (1-28), which is marked clearly at the bottom of each label.
I love that there are so many options available all in one label. I can't wait to put this new system into effect this coming school year.