I love it when a great idea pops into my RSS reader and I can put it into action immediately. This week, I shamelessly stole this idea from this ProfHacker post: Playing Cards in the Classroom for Student Collaboration. What a fantastically brilliant and simple idea!
Take a look at the post for a full description, but here’s a quick summary: you use a deck of cards to assign (or let students choose) a card at the beginning of the semester. Then, on any given day, you can make groups based on the cards, using various combinations. For example, you could divide students into groups by suit, by number, by a combination of color and number, and so on (the ProfHacker post lists a number of possible combinations). You can change groups as needed simply by using a different combination of cards to make new groups.
What I like most about this method of creating groups is that I have some control over the groups that form; for one, I can ensure that the groups are the same or different from a previous day, depending on my objectives for the group work. Having students count off or choose their own groups won’t always accomplish that.
I can also see a number of useful extensions of this method. If you want to assign roles to group members, you could attach a role to a card value (e.g. students with the 2 in the group will record the group’s work). You could assign cards to students rather than have them randomly select; this could give you the ability to form specific groups if you need. This could help mitigate some challenges of collaborative work.
The question that remains is: will the students remember their cards all semester?