Monday, September 7, 2015

Visible Random Grouping Every Damn Day

It seems like many of the blogs I have been posting lately have to do with Twitter Math Camp, but I guess that's because it was so unique, and so, well, necessary. It opened my eyes to so many different ideas, like technology in the classroom which I wrote about here and here. Well, I have to talk about another thing because I am using it every single day, and that's Visible Random Grouping. This is where students know that the teacher had no input in the grouping. So for example, our instructor Alex Overwijk had us line up according to height and then grouped us into groups of three to work on a task. I have used a technique where students line up in order of their birthdays without talking (very fun!). These are both examples of Visible Random Grouping. But mostly, in the past, I had broken groups up in such a way that they had one high (top) student, one middle high, one middle low, and one low. I did this for many years, but sometimes the top student would do everything and would not want to help and other times, the low student would feel like the odd person out.

Research according to Peter Liljedahl shows that when breaking students up at random:
  • Students become more agreeable to work in any group they are placed in
  • There is an elimination of social barriers
  • Mobility of knowledge between students increases
  • Reliance on the teacher for answers decreases
  • Engagement on classroom tasks increase
  • Students become more enthusiastic about math class
So this year, I decided to give visible random grouping a try. But I did not want to come up with a different way every day, so I decided to try a website that I luckily read in Richard Byrne's blog It's called, and it is AMAZING. Through this website, you can group students into groups or teams of many sizes, and what's also neat is that you can even pick a group of one at random, so that you can pick one student at a time, to answer rapid-fire questions for example. You can make seating charts through it, too. So here's how it works. 

First, click here to make a copy of the Random Name Maker Template. Click on make a copy. You will get a google sheet that looks like this:

Type over the names with your student names, deleting any extra. In addition, you can copy the names of your students from a grade program and paste it into column A (starting with cell 2), again deleting any extra.

Click at the top where I put the arrow, and rename your template with the class name. Or, you can click the arrow on the name tab at the bottom and click on rename.

Then click at the bottom tab that says "Get the Link Here." You will get this screen:

Next, you basically follow the instructions in cell 2. Click on File, then Publish to web, then Publish, and then copy the link (command + C) and paste it into cell 3 (Command +V). You will need to close out the box with the link before you can paste it in the light blue cell. When you do, it looks like this:
Then click where I have drawn the arrow: "click here to get your name picker." Click on the link it then gives you, and you will get to Then click on whatever size group you want. For example, I clicked on groups of 4. 
Notice the shuffle symbol--if you know some of the group was similar the day before, you can just click on shuffle and it will give you a new group. I have this on the board as students walk into class. One day I came into my classroom after a bathroom break between classes to see students standing and waiting for me to put their names up on the board! And that day, I let them sit where they wanted. Once in a while, I think that is OK, too, but they were MUCH more off track!!

I love because the class has really grown together and it's only been one week. I have asked students to name every student in the class, and some can now do it. I use it during my freshman advisory so that kids from different sending districts will get to know each other. Last year, my senior group of advisory (we grow with the students...having them all four years from freshman year to senior year) seemed to really be broken up into two groups. Now I am hoping that this will not happen with my new group. 

I have bookmarked the links so that it is easy for me to get to every day, and put them in a folder called random names. 
It's a lot of steps in the beginning, but once you do the first one, the second is easier, and then you have it for the rest of the year. When a student is added or dropped from you class, you can go the spreadsheet, add or delete them, but you do have to re-publish. But that's it! 

I have not used this feature yet from, but I think it is so cool! There is a Jeopardy! Template that you can just change easily and play right away!! 

There is also a way to make flashcards from a spreadsheet and a certificate from taking a quiz that you produce...this website is a teacher's dream, and my thought is that they are not done yet.

So will you do #visiblerandomgroupingeverydamnday? I am, and I am loving it.


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