13 Clever Ways to Pick Student Partners or Groups

Quick, easy, and painless!

It should be easy to partner up students or put them in groups, right? 

Well yes, yes it should. But any teacher who has been in the classroom knows that’s not always the case. To make the process fun, easy, and as pain free as possible, we put together our favorite ideas for choosing partners and putting students into groups. You can also check out tips from Bridget Spackman of The Lettered Classroom in this video. We love them! 

1. Make it easy with Post-its. 

Source: The Lettered Classroom

Grab two colors of sticky notes and then place them around the room. Different colors make a pair—students can grab a sticky note and choose a partner who has the other color. Or you can write down students’ names on the notes and still have them find a partner with a different color sticky note. You can also use this trick to create groups. You’d just need more colors of Post-its. 

2. Draw rocks. 

Sounds simple, right? It’s definitely simple, which is the beauty of it. Just gather rocks and paint them different colors. Then you can have students who draw the same color rock form groups or become partners. 

3. Match up math questions and answers.

Source: Southern Fried Teaching

You’ll have to make sure you don’t have multiple answers to the same problem, but you can use this trick time and time again to partner up students. 

4. Find your opposite. 

Source: The Lettered Classroom

Use opposite cards to match up students. Just pass out the cards and then challenge students to find their match. 

5. Use pipe cleaners. 

Pipe cleaners are so inexpensive! You can sort out the colors you want to use to divide students into as few or as many groups as you’d like. Just count out the number you need, and you’re ready to go. 

6. Use paint swatches to divide up students. 

Source: Upcycled Education

There are so many good uses for paint swatches. This teacher recommends using different colors as a way to divide groups. She has several ways to do this if you’re looking for ideas. Take a look.

7. Add curriculum challenges to a deck of cards. 

Source: The Lettered Classroom

You can definitely use playing cards as-is for dividing up students or picking partners and groups. But take it up a notch by including a recent curriculum question or problem to solve on the card. This is a good way to review material and put students together. 

8. Try Scrabble tiles. 

You can do this in multiple ways. You can just use certain letters and have students draw them. Or use Scrabble tiles to spell out certain words on the chalkboard and then group students once they’ve found the other tiles to spell out their word. 

9. Use sticks with numbers and draw as you go. 

Source: My Love of Teaching

Many classrooms will assign students numbers at the beginning of the year, which students eventually memorize. So for a quick way to divide up students, just draw numbers at random. We love these pencil designs from My Love of Teaching

10. Designate group colors and then draw crayons. 

Here’s another one that’s easy to do because you have access to so many crayons. Write down the different group colors on the board and then have students choose crayons randomly (or hand them out) to form those groups. 

11. Redefine the way you use puzzle pieces. 

Source: The Lettered Classroom

Whether you use a real puzzle with matching parts or create your own, this is a fun way to group or partner students in a random way. Just pass out all the pieces and have students find the right fit. 

12. Use school colors. 

Source: The Lettered Classroom

This is an easy one. Just cut out circles from construction paper—we recommend using your school’s colors, but it’s up to you—and laminate them. Place them on the floor as a quick way to sort students into two groups. You can also add more colors to create small groups. 

13. Play a game of pick-up sticks. 

Look at the games you already have in your classroom that can be repurposed. Pick-up sticks might be the perfect way to group students by color. Plus, they get to play at the same time. Also look at using a deck of Go Fish or Old Maid cards for partner grouping. 

What are your favorite ways to group or partner students?  Come and share in our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook.

Plus, get our tips for classroom management, according to the wonderful Mary Poppins. 

13 Clever Ways to Pick Student Partners or Groups

Posted by Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio is a senior editor with WeAreTeachers. Nearly everyone in her family is a teacher. So she decided to be rebellious and write about teachers instead.

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