1. Establishing Groups
The first part of adapting group calls is knowing the different numbers of groups you would like. Factors of the total number of students is a good place to start. In my theory to practice post, I use a class of 18 students as an example. Therefore, I made sure I used 3 and 6 group formations. From there I establish any other calls I would like. It is often “Think, Pair, Share” or some variation is used in the classroom, so pairs is always a good one to have. Nota Bene: for pairs I leave it simple. For the class of 18 I’m not going to create a group call for 9 groups. While I have one prepared, it would be more effective for a larger class size. Another call you need to have is for the main classroom layout. Otherwise, you fall into the boring phrase “put the desks back”
2. Creating the Calls
It is extremely boring to just number groups. Therefore, I thought of mythological or historical Roman trivial terms that have involve numbers. Let’s look at the class of 18. I have five calls:
- Legions – main layout
- Romulus and Remus – pairs
- Proserpina is in the Underworld – 6 groups
- The Big Three – 3 groups
- The Year of Four Emperors – 4 groups*
*In the other post I refer to this group as “Families.” It is called that to incorporate what my mentor teacher (MT) already has established as part of his curriculum. Otherwise, for four groups I use the “The Year of Four Emperors”
The Roman army had several different parts and sections that made it up. The most famous of them all is “Legions.” Since Legions march in rows, it makes sense that the main layout in a Latin classroom be referred to as “Legions.” Legions were also very loyal to their general than whomever was in power. Therefore it forms an understand with your students that as their general you’ll look out for their best interest and they will trust your judgement to do so.
Romulus and Remus
These two famous Romans are told to be the founding brothers of Rome. This fits well as a call for pairs because when working with a partner you don’t always agree with each other, but can find some middle ground when things don’t work out. As long as that middle ground is not killing the other person, such as Romulus did.
Proserpina is in the Underworld!
Proserpina, or more commonly know by her Greek name, Persephone, is the wife of Pluto. However, their union was not your typical god meets goddess. Pluto kidnapped Proserpina and kept her in the Underworld. A rule of the Underworld is that if you eat while there you cannot leave; Proserpina ate pomegranate seeds. However, Proserpina’s mother was Ceres, the goddess of the Harvest. She became in such a depression over the lost of her daughter that crops started dying and flowers no longer bloomed. Therefore, Jupiter suggested a deal with Pluto and Ceres that Proserpina only remains in the Underworld for a time equivalent to the number of seeds she ate. Proserpina ate six seeds, so each seed would represent a month. From September to February, Proserpina is in the Underworld, causing her mother to go into a depression that causes the harvests on earth to die during that time. But the harvest regrows upon Proserpina’s return. Because of this myth, the groups for this call are in correspondence to the months she is in the Underworld.
The Big Three
For anyone that has read the Percy Jackson series, you know that the “Big Three” relates to the three main Olympian Gods: Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. Between these godly brothers they control the sky, earth and sea, and the Underworld. It makes a nice even three number to use.
The Year of Four Emperors
I mentioned mythological and historical, so I had to find a way to bring in some history trivia. In the year 69 AD the Roman Empire had four emperors: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasain. This year transitions from the Julio-Claudian dynasty to the Flavian dynasty with the rise of Vespasain to power. One of these four emperors becomes the names for the individual groups in the group call.
Connecting the Desks
3. Arranging the Desks
In the classroom, play around with the desks of how you want the students to form groups. Always start at the main layout. This will help ensure you are using the most efficient grouping of desks that are nearest each other. After you have established a formation TAKE A PICTURE for reference when you make the layout later. If you are a language teacher or see many students year to year, you could try going from one group call to another one, if you want to get fancy. If you want to be very precise, I’d also suggest taking measurements of the classroom.
4. Seating Arrangements
Some teachers do not have assigned seats. Not having assigned seats makes this system nearly impossible, unless your students are rather skilled and used to the different formations. In order to eliminate the challenge of students sitting in inactive desks, show on the first day desks that are open and which are closed. I recommend the first day because we are creatures of habit and will stick to the same place as much as possible.
5. Establishing Procedures
A big part of this system being successful is consistency. Changing the locations of the different groups creates the same confusion as designating a vague area of the room as where group one meets. On the visual below, I have a slide for procedures for the students to follow. First they will hear the group call, then move their desks accordingly. After the desks are in places, groups will be assigned. From there, students move to their new group. I assign group names starting from the front left around to the front right in a clockwise circle. It may be different for you, just keep it constant. A second rule I have is always bring all your things. This prevents students needing to run back to their desk to get something they forgot as well as hopefully prevent the question, “do I need to bring all my stuff?” While sometimes all they need is a pencil, it’s more efficient to have it the same every time.
Putting it Together
6. Creating a visual
After you have your reference pictures, and possibly measurements, it is time to make a floor plan. You can find a lot of different tools for creating classroom floor plans by simple Googling. I used Scholastic. It is simple enough to use, especially if you didn’t take measurements. However, it lacks color with an all blue layout that is too calming. Paint is simple enough to use to change the color of the different shapes. I kind of color coded mine as well by making teacher areas yellow, cautionary student areas orange and blue for belongings to the other teacher (the classroom is shared with another World Language teacher). In this example, we have opened a closed seats. After making a floor plan, I used screen capture to save the layout. Once I made on for each group call I made a Slide show using Google. Words and directional guidance were added on the slides and not the images. This allows for adaptability of the image. On some slides you can label the groups or label direction markers for the desks, without making the visual too overwhelming. I also have additional notes on each slide under Speaker notes, which can be made visible by clicking on the gear icon.
Tips and Tricks
- Adapt the calls to your content. A good one for a history class could be the Axis or Allies powers. Again, the point is to be efficient, but while learning breadcrumbs of information to be built on later.
- As mentioned, you’ll possibly build on these trivial phrases, so you’ll say them in class and not mean for students to change into the group. To prevent this use your best teacher or fun commanding voice to alert the students that a group call is in fact being used. Demonstrate that your tone will change drastically for a group call.
- Print out or insert a slide in your PowerPoint with a reference picture for the students. They may be really good at the different calls by the end of the class, but what happens when it’s been a week and you’ve used one only or two calls and that third one just skips their mind.
- Another scaffold that could be helpful for students is name signs for each group. You can place theses at the different groups as students are moving to their new location.
- In “my” classroom, the visual is on a SMARTboard. Therefore I plan to draw on the board the desks that group together for that specific call. If this is not a resource in your classroom, then I suggest using animations available on Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint.
- My full list of group calls can be found here. Again, the focus is on group location in order to promote efficiency in the classroom.