Activity Corner: Making Groups

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)

For so many activities, the first step is to divide the class into groups of two or more learners.10570290894_2f93c4b3ea

Sometimes, we want to choose who works together due to personality, level, native language, etc.

But many other times, we are really just looking for random groups. I typically have students count off, work with a neighbor, or ask them to form their own groups. All of these methods get pretty stale pretty quickly!

More ways to divide the class into pairs or groups (no prep):

  • line up by height (or birthday, or alphabetically, commute time from school, house number, etc.) and then work with the person closest to you
  • draw their names out of a hat (have students write their own names)
  • draw their pens out of a hat (quicker than writing the names)

And some methods that require some minimal prep but keep things interesting:

  • pairs: cut several pictures in half. Jumble them up. In class, hand out the halves randomly. Students have to find the match to their half of the picture. Those two students are partners.
  • groups: same as above, but cut the pictures into more pieces. Be careful to use very different pictures! NOTE: if you’re going to do a two-phase activity like jigsaw reading, number the back of each piece of the picture, too.
  • keep students’ names written on craft sticks, laminated paper, etc. Use throughout the semester to call on people, assign groups, etc.
  • objects: use buttons, colored beads, sea shells, legos, marbles, fabric scraps, or other small items. Students who draw matching ones from the bag work together.

If you have more creative ways to separate students into groups, please share!

Photo Credit: Bernard Spragg .NZ on Flickr

You’re reading Activity Corner: Scaffolding Peer Review, originally posted at

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