Long ago I had really big classes. To improve the livability of my classroom I created six tables that could seat six students. Despite the number of kids, it still felt roomy in there. Central to that management plan was that table was the main unit within the rooms. By October, kids would settle into a table (they were named Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and White because those are the index cards I had) and stay there. It was really cool because kids created an identity for their table. As I floated around the room each one had their own little identity/inside jokes. I had all sorts of mechanics revolving around students competing as tables.
But the era of giant classes is over. Now 20 students is big, and my average is about 16. There is…plenty of seating. I like a sense of family within my classes, and now they’re small enough to where the whole class can be a family. Improving that starts with getting kids to know everyone in the room in some capacity. I’ve turned to a very old idea, and that is visible random grouping. I don’t do it every day like some, but I incorporate it as a frequent enough activity that students shouldn’t be suprised when I do it. I enter their names in random.org and make pairings. Usually partners, but sometimes bigger. The pairings are on display when kids walk in. I try to do this with purpose. The task of the day is designed around working with a partner. It worked really well in Calculus BC last year and I’ve now deployed in Calculus AB.
An easy move and one that prompts good conversations.