Updated: Jan 1
Happy New Year! Yesterday, when my students returned to class I needed to shake things up a bit. We'd grown close during the beginning of the year, but right around Christmas (as tends to happen), some people were a little too comfortable. Groups had organically formed, and though I love the familiarity, I know that the best learning doesn't always happen there.
I've always used strategic groupings and wrote about it in my first book and also in a ton of blogs, like this one for Middleweb. However, this time, I have a different motive. I've grouped kids according to some social/emotional need I've tracked since the beginning of the year.
Here are some examples of what I'm up to: a shy girl really loosens up with a particular student, so I put them together; a very chatty young man focuses much better with an all female group, so I arranged that; a student who is absent quite a bit is assigned a leadership role to help stay engaged in what is happening--even if it is virtually.
I've long since noted the academic reasons for strategic grouping, and more recently paid attention to the social benefits, but it is only in this year's experiment that I am actively seeking to meet an emotional need of my students. Do all groups have some deeper meaning? Nope. But, I will say that they are all thoughtful and planned around data about their personal needs, or at the very least, a good hunch.
Today was the second day of the groupings, and I love it already. I'm seeing my students experience my class in a different way based on their emotional experience of being here. We are all better when our needs are being met, and in this case they are being challenged as well.
I believe that when students feel safe and are challenged while being engaged, the optimal learning environment is created. I'll be sharing pictures, student work (including the presentations students will do in order to prepare for our escape room).