Group work in class: How to ‘deal’ with it.

Playing cards are great for 'shuffling' groups.

If you want to shuffle students into groups for in-class activites (or even projects), shuffle the deck! Depending on the size of the class and the size of the groups that you want, use a deck of playing cards to determine the groups. Let’s assume you want to set up groups of four students per group. 

  1. Count the number of students in the room (tip: wait a few minutes for last-minute students coming to class – there are always a couple). For example, 40 students are confirmed in class, so you will have 4-2’s (of all suits), 4-3’s (of all suits) etc., totalling 10 piles (ending with 4-‘Jacks’).
  2. Shuffle the deck.
  3. Walk around the room and hand out one card to each student, telling them to keep the card face down.
  4. Have them turn over the card and then find others in the class with the same number; their groups are formed.

If you have a group size larger than four (exceeding the typical number of four in a suit in the deck, then you will need to buy a second deck of cards, allowing you to potentially have as many as 8 students in a group).

Tip: If you are going to do this, mention to the students at the outset of class to keep their belongings with them because they will be moving seats.

Beware: Some students will do their own ‘shuffling’ when you’re not looking, in order to get into another group with their friends. Now, that’s ‘underhanded’!

This idea of ‘shuffling’ the groups each time you do group work allows students the opportunity to work with others in the class instead of their close friends. They’ll have to work with different team members after they graduate, so they may as well get used to it now.

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