July 27, 2014

Team Formation Tips for Smooth Sailing into the New School Year!

Smooth Sailing Into a New School Year 

I'm excited to be linking up with some of my favorite grade 3-6 bloggers who are sharing our best tips to help you sail into the the new school year. At the end of this post, you'll find 19 more blogs to visit and they all have terrific ideas to help you get off to a great start!

Team Formation Tips to Start the Year
If you use cooperative learning in your classroom, you might have questions about the most effective way to form teams and when you should begin to seat your students in teams. Here are some tips that worked well for me. You can find a more comprehensive explanation and answers to many more questions about team formation on my Team Formation Tips page on Teaching Resources.

  • Optimal Team Size - Teams of 4 are by far the best size because you can easily divide them into 2 sets of pairs for partner work. Also, in a team of three, one student tends to feel left out, and teams that have more than four students tend to get off task easily.  
  • Team Composition - As much as possible, I formed teams with students of mixed ability and from different ethnic backgrounds. I wanted my students to learn to appreciate others who were not like themselves, and to be exposed to different types of thinking and values. The best way to do that was to assign them to mixed teams rather than letting them choose their teams.  
  • Desk Arrangement - I loved using the desk arrangement shown in the illustration above. I called it the T-Table arrangement, with the two students at the top of the "T" facing the front of the room while the other two are facing each other. You can find other team seating arrangements on my Seating Options page. 
  • When to Start - I always started my students in teams right from the first day because I wanted them to learn that this is how we operate. Cooperative learning wasn't just for special activities, and they needed to learn now to get along right from the start. 
  • Mix 'Em Up the First Three Days - I created new teams every day for the first three days so that my kids would get to know everyone and so I could observe them as they worked together. Each morning after they were reseated, we started the day with a teambuilder like Team Talk or Team Interview. You'll find these strategies and more on my Caring Classrooms page on Teaching Resources. After the first three days, I was ready to create more permanent teams that lasted a month or more.
Be sure to visit all the blogs in the link up to discover more teaching tips to help you sail into the new school year!


  1. What an awesome giveaway! Thank you for the opportunity. It was amazing meeting you in Vegas! I blogged about it and included a picture of us in my post. :)
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  2. What a generous offer. I can't believe I am starting my 36th year. I also can't believe how long we have "known" each other...internet style. Thanks again for all you do. Stacy

  3. I just found you through this contest and while looking around on your FB and TPT store I realized that you are in Fayetteville, NC. Me too, smaaaallll world! What grade did you teach? I teach 5th. These are some amazing resources! What a fabulous giveaway!

    1. Hi! I taught 5th grade for most of the years I taught! Love that grade! I taught at E E Miller and Stoney Point Elementary. What about you?

  4. Thanks for the great ideas about starting groups! I love the "T" formation!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

  5. I am going into a new school and grade level (5th self-contained) this year. Thanks for all of your great ideas and resources to get me started!

  6. Thank you for sharing these great ideas and awesome giveaways! I love this site!

  7. I'm starting second grade this year after 17 years of teaching kinder and I will concentrate in language arts for kinder 1st and second so I'm excited to see and explore all these teacher sites

  8. I'm starting my second year. . First in my own classroom! I'll be teaching first grade! I love your ideas!! Thank you for sharing and this giveaway!!

  9. I am an ESE teacher. For the past 8 years I have taught middle and high school. This year I will returning to elementary. I have not taught elementary in 14 years. I am looking for all things that will help me be tne best teacher and engage my students. All of these sites have great ideas. I can't wait to use these in a few weeks.

  10. I have taught for over 20 years and teach gr 5/6

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