Manipulate the way you split your learners into groups but make it look totally random.
It is important that you provide your learners with a variety of group work activities. You do this in order to cater for all the learning style and incorporate the Interpersonal and verbal intelligence of the multiple intelligences theory. Most of the time you can just ask your group to split themselves up in groups of 3/4/5/6 what ever you are looking for depending on the size of the group. You might do this the first time you meet the group and analyse if this system is working.
REASONS WHY ALLOWING THE LEARNERS TO CHOSE THEIR OWN GROUPS MIGHT NOT WORK
As you can see from the above table the groups might be less than ideal. So your task is to ensure you have an even split of abilities and learning styles, age groups and cultures represented in each group. This is fairly easily done if you have been working with the group already and you know your learners. However even with learners you don't know you can use the activities below and the law of averages will make sure you will have it probably 80% right.
DECK OF CARDS
Ask each learner to take a card and now think about the opportunities you have in splitting up the class. It could be by colour, shape, number or selection of numbers or ask them to make group where the cards add up to 23 or any other number you feel is reasonable.You could ask for Mum (Queen) and Dad (King) and 2 children under the age of 5 are one group. Jack of all trades has 3 children between 5 and 10 etc . If you have a small group you can pre-select the cards. If you want to manipulate this further you can hand out a card to each student, unbeknown to them you have the cards in a particular order ensuring that people sitting next to each other are not going to be in the same group. You could have them sorted by colour or number. Take time to plan the groups beforehand, it is a lot of fun and anybody complaining, you can just tell them it was just luck of the draw.
A fantastic novelty is to use over sized cards, they are large enough to be seen from the back of the training room, opening up a whole new range of ideas as to how to use cards in the class room.
As you can see from the image this cube is made up of nine blocks . Start with providing each student with just one block. When ever you want them to split the class up in groups, give them a mathematical (one of the eight multiple intelligences) problem to solve. Make it as easy or difficult as you like. For example: the dots on your blocks need to add up to 10. Students now need to walk around the class and make groups that add to 10.
Alternative is to ask for all "fours" and all "twos " to be together etc. Combinations depend on how the dots are distributed. These dice can also be used for any basic mathematical skills you might be teaching.
Another item for your trainers tool kit is a selection of dice. You can get them in all sorts of unusual sizes and colour and you are no longer restricted to the traditional numbering of 1 to 6.
For a wide range of dice, click here and let your creative mind take over as to how you could use them.
Ask each person to roll the dice and this will split them randomly in 6 groups.
Use a selection of different coloured foam rubber dice. Hand out to a group of students who need to remember which colour they are. Let them throw the dice in front of the class and you perform some magic here if you are good at remembering which students had what coloured dice.
You can match up numbers ( all the 3's are together) or all the colours together or 2 plus 3 makes 5 are now one group, or what about red and blue makes orange. This is an ideal way to get small groups together or when sorting out for working in pairs.
When you have dice that have mathematical equations on it ( +, -, X,÷) you hand these out with the traditional dice. Everybody can roll the dice once and than need to make a group with the correct equation. Great to get the group running around the room, trying to make a match, gets their brains working again at the same time if they have been listening for a while.
What about letter dice. Roll the dice once. The people who can make a word are now one group. Everybody else roll again and make a group. Tell the group that you will decide if the word is suitable or not .Fun way of randomly splitting up but again you will get a good mixture of people working together. If for some reason you don't like the group (happen to be all friends together) you tell them you don't like the word, it is too short, too long etc.
The use of labels is an almost guaranteed way of splitting the people you don't want to work together up. This only works if you know the learners and you know their sitting pattern.
Most people seem to sit at the same spot as they feel safe on that seat or corner. Friends are of course seated together as well. Depending on what you are teaching. Create labels relevant to what you are teaching (animal science you could have gorilla, elephant, giraffe and lion labels).
You either use images or words, laminate the cards so you can use them next time and selectively put them under the seats of your students before class starts. Ask everybody to stand up, have a good stretch up and down and let them look under their seats. They now have a label and using the animal sound of the animal on their label they need to find their group. So all the gorillas will be together etc.
The same label trick can be done with a sticky label. You will attach a label to their back or place on the forehead, whatever you are comfortable with. Learners now need to walk around the room finding their group but they are not allowed to speak and use sign and body language only.
It is amazing how creative they get. Because they can read everybody elses label they will quickly get things sorted.
As above with sticky labels, you can allow them to talk but only ask questions that can be answered with yes or no. However they can not ask: Am I a giraffe? as this would make it too easy.
The label under the chair, could be replaced with a card from a card game, flashcards. Use your imagination.