Setting the Environment
Teacher: “I’m going to divide you into four groups for this next activity. Listen to who is in what group.”
As the teacher, you address that group one will be to the front left of the classroom, the second group to the front right, third to the back left, and fourth to the back right.
Student: “Where is group two?”
Another Student: “Which group am I in again?”
A couple of students straggle along until a few too many minutes later they are finally in groups and working on the assignment.
Finding a Solution
Each classroom should have a level of efficiency. Steps or tasks that happen routinely need to be set in motion as soon as possible. It is always best to have a conversation or even practice about these things. Grouping students for activities can be a lot like herding cats. I theorize if you make the process fun, knowledgeable, and constant, grouping students will be less cat herding and more like a Roman army working together.
For the system, I have the focus on the location of each group. The group calls are based off of how many individual groups I want and not how many students are in each group. The goal is to first establish the places for the groups then to establish which students are in each group. This will hopefully cause less confusion among students and a more efficient grouping process. At this point in time, the group calls are just a theory, at least for now.
Opportunity to Plant a Seed
I have an amazing opportunity this semester to take this theory and place it into action through my internship for the fall. I’m in a Latin classroom at a middle school in a semi-suburban-rural area. I’ll be observing and teaching all grade levels, from 6th graders in a World Language class to 7th and 8th graders taking either their first or second year of Latin. When I told my mentor teacher (MT) about this theory he offered to let me put it into practice with the Level 1 classes. For simplicity, we will focus of one of the classrooms. This classroom has more desks than students, but the students do not have assigned seating. I will address the importance of assigned seats later.
The main thing he emphasized was that each group call had a purpose. He also suggested there not be too many different calls. I already had one, the main layout of the classroom, then a second one for when they were in pairs. Part of his established curriculum already had the group “families” as a constant group throughout the year, which consisted of four groups. I then added one group for games and another for heterogeneous groups of three students.
Prepping the Soil
After I decided what group numbers I needed, I needed to assign the call to alert the students and then group names instead enumerating the groups. The groups go as followed:
- Main Layout (Rows): Legions
- Pairs: Romulus and Remus
- Six Groups: Proserpina is in the Underworld -> September, October, November, December, Ianaurius, Februarius
- Four Groups: Families -> Valerii, Aemilii, Fabii, Claudii
- Three Groups: Big Three -> Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto
Before implementing the practice, I have to create visuals for the students and tags for the different groups. MT suggested I number the desks to help students match the desks on the visual. I decided against the suggestion to eliminate students focusing on which exact desk goes where in the floor plan instead the overall formation. The process of creating the visuals has been more than I expected. I used an online tool, Scholastic, to make the classroom layouts. It is easy and simple enough to use, especially if you didn’t take measurements of the classroom (guilty!). However, it does not offer different colors (I added color by using Paint 3D) and after having to rearrange the desks over and over it becomes a bit tiresome. But again, it is still a decent enough tool for the task at hand. When I have the time I may look at other ones and their overall efficiency levels. Another challenged I had was MT’s choice to not assign seats. It is hard to have desk based formations, if a student isn’t sitting at the desk. Therefore, I assigned opened and closed seats for the room. The students still get a choice, but are limited to make the system successful. A greater attention to detail comes into play when taking something in theory and putting it into practice. I’m grateful for the opportunity and will report my findings of how the practice works. In the meantime, enjoy the visual for the aforementioned classroom, and check out the post on how to apply Group Calls to your classroom!