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July 23, 2007 7:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I quickly rearrange classes of 7-12 students?

I'm an English teacher in Japan, and some of my classes are group lessons where I need to be sure to pair up each student with as many of the other students during class, through all the different activities. I can easily do this with 1-6 students, e.g. 1st time 1-2, 3-4, 5-6. Second time 1-3, 2-5, 4-6, and so on in my head. But for some reason, when I get 7 or more students, after the second iteration, I get all messed up and it takes me a minute or two to figure out what the next pairing should be, and I end up eating up valuable time in my 50-minute lesson. I should note that these students are all adults, so pairing up any arbitrary pair is easy, I don't need to worry about personality conflicts or anything. I'm an engineer, and very comfortable with math, so it kind of bothers me that I even have to struggle with this. Are there any teachers out there who use some simple system for doing this? I have a feeling that some teachers out there have some nifty little trick that makes these decisions mindless.
posted by greasepig to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you not just rotate? i.e number them all 1-8, then round one 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, round two 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-1 etc ?
posted by zeoslap at 8:05 AM on July 23, 2007

Try "Odds (2-4, 6-8) and evens (1-3, 5-7)", "firsts and lasts (1-12, 2-11)", "someone you haven't been paired with before", "firsts and lasts" with first letter of first or last names (or second letter, to make them get to know each other a bit more!)
posted by odi.et.amo at 8:07 AM on July 23, 2007

I like the go find someone you haven't paired with yet route though. Much simpler :)
posted by zeoslap at 8:08 AM on July 23, 2007

This works best if they're in a circle or horseshoe. First pair up with the person next to them. Then all the odd numbers stand up and move to the next free seat on their left (so effectively pairing up with the even person of the pair to their left). Repeat as necessary. You won't get everyone sitting with everyone else, but it's a way that will involve very little thinking on your part.

I hope that makes sense?
posted by Helga-woo at 8:14 AM on July 23, 2007

I agree with zeoslap, but even if you want to be really systematic, this shouldn't be that hard -- just assign everyone a number, and have them figure out the modulo arithmetic themselves. Line them all up, start them off with 1-2, 3-4, 5-6....; then have them add 2 to their number and pair off; then have them add 3; and so on. The key might be lining them up and having them pair off in succession; this should minimize the main source of confusion, which seems to be figuring out who is the "first" of each pair and who is the "second."
posted by wireless at 8:17 AM on July 23, 2007

How about making the pairing an english exercise in itself, perhaps related to your topic. In each case, they can only ask each other the questions in English, and answer in English:

1. pair by birth month (or by birth day)
2. pair by favorite food
3. pair by favorite tv character
4. pair by favorite color
5. pair by food they dislike


Alternatively, suppose 16 students, so that's eight groups of 2. Everyone counts off from one to eight and knows what their own number is. When you need to switch, you only need to call out the numbers to pair up, e.g. 1 with 8, 2 with 7, etc. and let them sort themselves out (again with the stipulation that they find out each other's numbers in English).

To renumber people, get them to line themselves up in different ways, e.g. by height, by birth month and day, how many siblings they have, how many days spent overseas, etc. and then they count off again to get a new number, and you can re-use the same pairings.

Another one: have them write three unusual facts on a piece of paper without their name. Make the paper into a paper airplane (reading instructions if you need a reading exercise). Everyone throws them in the air at the same time, and then picks one up that's not theirs. They have to find the person who wrote the facts.
posted by idb at 8:18 AM on July 23, 2007

Take 12 sticky notes, divie into two groups. Number each group 1-6. Randomly put them on desks, folded over if you don't want them to pick desks based on it. No class time is taken, and its 30 seconds before class prep time for you.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2007

Give them each four icons of some kind. What kind doesn't matter — leaf types, famous buildings, countries, whatever. Let's say countries.

The first icon has one line under it, the second two and so on. Thus "Brazil" has one line, "India" two and so forth.

Put on some music and tell them they have two minutes to fill out the lines with names of other people in the class. No repeating names. During this time, the students circulate:

"Do you have a Brazil partner?"
"Yes, I do already. How about India?"
"No, I need one — should we write each other down?"

(Note this is, in itself, a good language exercise if they have to do it in another language.)

Now, when you need groups of 1, 2, 3 or 4 you just say "Get in India teams." The student looks down on his card, sees who he has down for India, and goes to those people, who are all headed towards him.

If the students keep these taped to their desks, this works like a charm — it's very, very fast. I've done it with 4th graders and they get it right away.
posted by argybarg at 9:14 AM on July 23, 2007

I should say that you can keep these teams throughout the year if you like, or re-do the exercise halfway through to mix things up.
posted by argybarg at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2007

Round robin pairings. No, you're not organizing a competition, but the principle is the same.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2007

Thanks, DevilsAdvocate. Exactly what I was looking for. No muss, no fuss.
posted by greasepig at 4:08 PM on July 23, 2007

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