Sparking Student Motivation: Assigning and Managing Group Work

Happy Saturday!
I have been hard at work this week:
 creating and printing and laminating...oh my!
In this post I am linking up with two fabulous ladies:
Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching

and Kacey from Doodle Bugs!
Five for Friday is BACK!
This week I'm going to kind of cheat and share 5 ideas for organizing, assigning, and managing group work

LAST TIME I blogged about grouping my students' desks. 
Today, I want to share some tips for managing students during group work. 
FYI: Make sure you read to the end as I am *sprinkling* freebies throughout today's post :)

Like I said in last Saturday's post, I really like my students to work with a different mix of classmates throughout the year. It's teaches flexibility, builds respect for the ideas of others, encourages teamwork and cooperation, and exposes kids to different ability levels, ways of thinking, and personalities.

Because of all of the above reasons, my students work in groups. A lot. They love it. But I continually stress to them that working in groups is a privilege that must be earned and kept. 
Here's a fun Group Work Expectations Poster FREEBIE that I made for my classroom:
Clipart by Jacque Larsen
Now, it matches my room theme perfectly, but since I'm nice, I thought about all you teachers out there who haven't discovered (or committed to) the greatest classroom theme, so I made some other options for you:
Click on any of the pictures above to grab your FREEBIE!
Teach Junkie Creative Ideas

After expectations for group work are set - and reviewed and reinforced get the idea, now I need to decide HOW to group my students.

Here are some of my techniques:
1. In their table groups - pretty self-explanatory

2. In their ability-leveled reading groups - ditto.

3. Partner-Picking Cards (for groups of 2)
My students call this "the fun way" :)
Each student is given one of these fun cards:

and then they walk around the room to find their "match" - and that's who they work with as their partner!
These cards were created by "Making It Teacher"
Making It Teacher

and can be downloaded for FREE here.
4. Travel-themed Group Cards (for groups of 4)
Because I loved the partner cards, I decided to create something to divide the students into groups of 4:
CLICK HERE to grab these grouping cards for FREE!
5. Compass Buddies 
(idea by Laura Candler)
You've probably heard of "Clock Buddies"
Chevron & Colorful Clock Buddies
(Each student writes the name of a classmate on a different hour on the clock. Then the teacher can just say "Meet with your 5 o'clock buddy")
Well Laura Candler has a really fun twist on this idea...
Compass Buddies!
This will go great with my classroom theme AND it provides students valuable practice with reading ordinal directions -
a WIN-WIN! can download this for FREE!

Question: How do you motivate students to stay on-task during Group Work?
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