How to create cooperative groups without student mutiny

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I love cooperative learning. I hate making cooperative groups.

As educators, we know the benefits of using cooperative learning in our classrooms. Some benefits we see are increased student achievement, improved relationships among classmates, and better critical thinking skills.

cooperative groups

Cooperation is also a critical component of 21st-century learning. Students need as many opportunities as possible to work with their peers to improve their social behaviors. In cooperative learning, students must work with classmates who may not be part of their regular social group. Practicing these skills when they are young will improve the chances that they will be successful when they use them in their employment in the future.

If you are looking for ways to create awesome cooperative lessons for your class, the book Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth G. Cohen and Rachel A. Lotan has great ideas. Not only do they give excellent reasons for using cooperative learning, they give direction on creating learning activities that are open-ended and curriculum based.

All that sounds great, but what do you do when the kids whine and complain and roll their eyes when you announce the groups. I don’t know about you, but this annoyed me greatly because I had spent way too much time making groups that I thought would work well together. I definitely was over thinking the entire process.

So, the next time, I let them choose their groups. Also not the best idea. They were definitely happier, but the work didn’t always get done. They also didn’t learn anything about working with people they weren’t already friends with.

Then I discovered online group makers! Saved by the Internet once again!

Making Cooperative Groups Online

I made the groups using these group makers and although the kids weren’t 100% thrilled with the outcomes, they seemed to accept the groups more easily.

Four quick steps to make cooperative groups to avoid a student mutiny.

  1. Make the list using an online tool.
  2. Before showing group lists, say, “Some of you will be thrilled about who you are working with. Enjoy it. It won’t last long. If you aren’t happy, deal with it. It won’t last long.”
  3. Show the groups.
  4. Smile and say, “Don’t blame me. The computer did it.”

There are several sites out there that will take your class list and create groups. I used these for partner work, seating charts (I used group tables), science experiment groups, and in all kinds of other situations.

Looking for ways to create learning tasks? In the book Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth G. Cohen and Rachel A. Lotan the authors not only make a great case for using cooperative learning in the classroom, they also give information on crafting tasks that are open-ended and curriculum based. 


Check out these sites for easy group making. Many of them offer other ways to use your class list, and I’ll share those as we go along.

Random Group Creator

This site has four different ways you can use your class list, not only to make cooperative groups but for other purposes as well.

  1. Pair creator: you choose if you want to limit the number of groups or the number of students in a group.
  2. Student selector: Two choices. I used the flash version. Put student names in the box and click next. Great digital way to randomly choose students instead of the popsicle sticks in a jar. Although, I still love popsicle sticks!
  3. Group Creator: If you want to select a group of students from your class randomly, this option will give you a list of students that is however long you want it. If you want to send four kids to another room to help students over there or grab five kids to carry books to the office, just enter the number of kids you want and that many kids will pop up. It’s faster than just clicking random student 4 or 5 times.
  4. Group Mixer: This option mixes groups of students from different groups. For example, if your class is reading to younger students, you can put one class list on one side and the other class on the other side. When you mix them, it will randomly assign one student from each group into pairs.

group maker


group makers


What I like: I like the group mixer option for across grade level matching. What an easy way to make that decision! The group creator that chooses a certain number of students at once is great too! If you want half of your class on one team for a game, just type in 10 if you have 20 kids in your room and BOOM! The list is there.

What I don’t like: I didn’t like that you can only save the list on the Pair Creator option. All the other options require you to put the names back in again. That being said, I just copied and pasted the list into the boxes whenever I needed the names. You cannot create an account, so you’d have to paste your list in again each time you go to the site.

Random Team Generator

This random team generator is strictly for making groups. If that’s all you need, it is very straight forward. Paste your class list into the box, choose the number of cooperative groups you want, and click refresh. The groups will appear right above the class list.

cooperative groups

What I like: I like that you can see the class list and the groups on the same page. If I don’t like the combination of students in one of the groups, I can click refresh and quickly see new groups. (Yes. I cheated the computer list sometimes. When I looked at the groups and thought, “There’s NO way I’m letting those two work together.)
What I don’t like: It lacks the functionality of some of the other pages. However, if you are just looking to make groups, then it’s obviously not a problem.

Superteacher Tools

If you think you may want to use a group maker tool often throughout the school year, this may be the one for you.

You can make an account and save your class list to use over and over again. You can also have more than one class list. So if you teach more than one section of students, you can store both of them on here. You need to make a free account at Once you have done that, verify your email and click on the link to log in. It takes a few seconds for it to open your portal.

Once you are in, scroll down until you see this image:

group maker

Click on “Create a new group now” button.

You have two choices to input your class. You can type each name into the individual blocks, or use a bulk upload. Once your names are in, the group will be saved on the site until you delete it.

When you are ready to make cooperative groups, click on the name you gave the group, and you will see this screen:

group maker

From here, you can make a seating chart, choose a random student, make groups, and edit or add pictures to your list.

I had the site divide my class into groups of two:

group maker


What I like: I like that teachers can save the names, so they don’t have to type or paste them in each time I use the site. I also like the seating chart feature. The chart prints nicely so you can put it out for substitutes.

What I don’t like: It can be a little confusing. Super Teacher Tools and Instant Classroom work together, and sometimes I find myself switching back and forth between the sites to find my list.

Using these tools to create your cooperative groups is just another great way to let technology save you time and anxiety. Put your names in, click the button, and leave the groups the way they are. You can always make adjustments later. When I used this tool for my students, it was usually for something short term anyway. If your children fuss over who they are partnered with, don’t forget to tell them, “The computer did it.”

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