Formula for Exponential Fun

I am always amazed during the year when I ask students who their teacher is and they respond with, “I don’t know her name. She has brown hair. I think.” Ok. What is the name of one person who sits near you in a class? “Um. One kid sharpens his pencil a lot.”

What is the possibility that students can go months without knowing the people they spend five hours a week with? Their fear of talking to others is irrational.

Therefore, I make sure this doesn’t happen in my classroom.

Divide into groups: Frequently, I divide students into groups. Sometimes I will use stickers distributed to students to form groups. Other times, I will cut a postcard and ask students to assemble to puzzle.

Multiply students’ comfort in class: Creating groups in such manners helps to multiply students’ comfort in class. Instead of being nervous when I call for groups, students have a place to land and we can get started with the activities.

Subtract fear of taking chances: Frequently changing seats and groups subtracts students’ fear of taking chances. After a few weeks, students know each other’s names and can create small talk.

Add surprise to your class: The best part of random grouping is that it adds a bit of surprise to the class. Students want to know why you are handing them a playing card or some other such item when they walk in into a room.

Helping students work in groups is an equation for absolute value in the real world. Maybe then they can learn their teachers’ names!

Allison Venuto, co-hostess of the podcast Ideal ISD, has been teaching in the Dallas area for 11 years and owns Ducks in a Row Personal Organizing. Connect with her at

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