Visible Random Grouping – #VRG

Visible Random Grouping was another thing I’d been intrigued about since a little before I went to a PCMI-TLP Weekend session last year. I really like the idea of visible random grouping – you show the students that you’re giving them random seating, they see that nobody has a label in the classroom and everyone can work with everyone.

My first week of school I tried this. It did not go well. Not because of the random grouping part – that’s actually great. It was more the method. I was using the Super Teacher Tools Group Maker and it was just so hard for students to know which seat is actually theirs. But then my biggest issue is the kids that need to be up close because they can’t see or different requirements from 504 plans. So then I tried the notecards with the names and tried to keep the ones on the bottom that had to be in certain spots. But then it just took too long if I did it in front of them, and if I did it before they walked in they would just change the cards to sit wherever they want. I also just couldn’t really get the special seating stuff to work right.

Then I had a conversation with Joel about a Random Seating Chart with Excel and it changed my world.

I basically do the same as him, except I made a few students have the formula =rand()+randbetween(1,4) so that it kinda keeps them from being too far away (it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful). I showed the students at the beginning how it worked and told them that I take the first one that comes up as long as people who need to be in certain desks are in them. The kids were satisfied with that. 

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-6-39-07-pm(I hide the columns that have the random numbers before I print them out)

seating-arrangementThis was my very rough draft of where the numbers had to go to make the numbers work for all my class numbers and my classroom, and ended up being used all semester by the other teacher that is in my room to get the desks in the right spot after his class. Joel and @HowardKiyuna also helped me with my desk arrangement so that the desks are pinwheeled. Update: I got rid of the numbers and now just do Group A, B, C, etc. Makes it much easier for the kids to get to their seats and they still feel like they have some choice in the matter. Only had to fix things a few times with corner people not working with the group they butted up against or something. So it now looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 3.09.46 PM

Note: The random number does not tell me what group the student is in – it’s the sort that puts them in the group. I sort it A-Z by the Random column.

I just have to print out the seat numbers every Monday morning and the kids find their seat for the week. It’s pretty nice. Students (mostly) all knew each other’s names by the end of the quarter because they’d sat with almost everyone. Kids actually worked together. There really weren’t ever moments where the students felt like they were part of the “smart group” or “slow group”- the whole breaking down barriers actually happened! Some kids did indicate on their end-of-semester survey that they thought it was annoying to have to move every week and to maybe make it less often, but this seemed to be more of a laziness issue. It was nice that when some students griped about their seat on Monday, I (or another student) could say, “Well it’s only for five days.” Overall, Visible Random Grouping is a big plus for my class.

But of course I just can’t be fully satisfied. Here are things I still need to figure out:

  • Is there a better way to get kids that need to be in certain seats to be in those seats? I’d love to not feel like I was cheating when I have to redo it. I was also thinking that I’d also like to show them the process on Fridays, maybe. I might have to do some Google Sheet extension searching. I feel like there has to be a better way. I tried to have all the kids be =randbetween(1,28) and then just the special ones as =randbetween(1,6) or something like that, but it doesn’t always work, either.
  • How do I get it so that kids don’t just move to where they want in the middle of the week? I think this is an issue with me more than anything – I need to be more diligent about noting where students are supposed to sit for the week. I never really wrote it down, and I never really fully memorized where everyone should have been. I really don’t want to have to come up with consequences for not sitting in their seats, especially because it was only a few frequent flyers that did this. The worst were the kids that removed the stickers from the desks that had the numbers while I was giving high fives in the hallway.
  • How do I get students to not mess with the stickers (aka post-its with tape over them)??? I actually only replaced the stickers twice over the semester but I had to do a few more touch ups to numbers.
  • Is weekly the way to go? I don’t have a real reason for weekly other than the fact that 5 days seems pretty manageable if you’re in a seat that is not ideal for you.
  • How do I get it so that students actually know who they’re sitting with before Wednesday or even Thursday? With the amount of absences I have, there are usually one or two kids that even are coming in Wednesday for the first time and finding their seat. And that could sometime kind of kill the whole group vibe. It also pretty much makes it so that I have to do my absent student sheets, and next semester I’m going to try to actually get the students to do them again. Update: yeah that didn’t happen.

I feel like my posts are seeming more and more needy and ask-for-help-y, but your comments have been gold, so I’m not gonna stop. Sorry not sorry.

Le groupement aléatoire vraiment améliore ma classe.

7 thoughts on “Visible Random Grouping – #VRG

  1. Hi!
    I don’t have answers for you, but I have been doing vrg since the second day. I do it every day, unless they are doing a multi day group project. I use popsicle sticks and when about half the students have entered the classroom I start passing them out. I just read off the names of the 4 or 5 students that will sit at the group and let them figure out the arrangement. I leave the sticks there until class has started. Sometimes I do tweak it as I am passing them out, but not much. My classroom is fairly small with 28-35 students smooshed together, so I don’t think there is really any bad seat, and if there is, it is just for one day.
    At the beginning of the year I tried to balance boy girl, but I felt like it shouldn’t be such a chore, so random it is!


  2. I do weekly also – although I do it on Wednesdays. My kids were generally pretty good about remembering their seats. I have not tried this numbering thing, but I like how you set it up in excel – I may use that to create a generator simply because the online websites I have used tend to group the same kids over and over.

    I assign by groups – how do you get Excel to give A, B, C, etc? Also, does excel repeat numbers? I want to make sure that I get (usually) 4 in a group.

    Thanks for any help you can give. Thanks for sharing this.


    • Oh! I kind of love the Wednesday start! I’ll probably steal that. When I get back to my computer later I’ll show you what I did for A, B, C groups and the repeating numbers doesn’t totally matter. If you just leave it as =rand() then I’ve never seen a repeat but when you do =randbetween(a,b) you’ll get repeats. But since I sort it the repeats don’t really matter.
      That might make no sense but I promise I’ll show it better later!


  3. I regroup every day, just handing out playing cards at the door. I have large printed playing cards (groups Ace through 7) hanging from the ceiling over the groups of desks, and students just go to the appropriate group. If one or two students need special seating, I just put them in a permanent spot and rotate everyone else around them. (For instance, a student on crutches needs to sit very near the VNPS). Other students see why it’s happening and really don’t care. I get almost total compliance in most of my classes, and students are eager to see where they will be sitting.

    For exams, when I break the groups into individual desks, I have names on blank playing cards and I just deal them onto desks as students are entering. It makes it really easy to see who is absent.

    Liked by 1 person

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