As the students enter, I have them sit in collaborative pairs. My classroom is already set up for this –they are seated in like ability groups. Next, I hand out the envelopes and roll out their mission: Group the “lists” into piles that share a common theme. Use a sticky note to create a name for the group and detail what they all have in common.
As the students accomplish this task, I work hard NOT to answer student questions… especially ones that ask “Is this correct?” I usually smile and answer “Well, there could be A LOT of right answers depending on what you see!”
It usually takes the students 8-10 minutes to complete this task.
After everyone is finished, I have all student pairs stand up and rotate around the room. I have tried this process two different ways: structured, and free roaming. I have seen much more interactive results with students who free roam in this activity. Even if the kids gravitate to their friend’s side of the classroom, typically they are more likely to discuss similarities and differences between their piles and the piles of their classmates. Occasionally, students will try to slip through the cracks and not visit other groups. However, as a teacher who knows students, you will know exactly who to watch for. I typically invite these students to roam around with me and talk about the piles that we see. This process should take no more than 4-5 minutes. The students will have a pretty good picture of the various groupings.
Circulate the assignment that you desire. I typically utilize my text book; however, Kuta Software provides excellent extension problems for the students. I have provided the link below as a potential resource.