Grouping Students: “Sole Mates”


Two sole mates from my junior class.

Counting off. Drawing cards. Lining up by birthday. There are many ways to get students (or anyone) into groups, some more creative or fair than others. Here’s another that I’m particularly fond of. I learned about “sole mates” at a recent AVID training in Tustin, CA. For those who are unfamiliar, here’s how it goes.

TEACHER: I was doing some research recently, and I discovered that it is a near statistical certainty that each of you has at least one sole mate in this very room.

[Students mumble, widen their eyes, or make faces of surprise, fear, or doubt–of course, they heard “soul mates.”]

TEACHER: So today, I thought we’d go ahead and test that theory.

[Mumbling crescendoes and becomes more frantic.]

TEACHER: I need everyone to stand up, push in your chairs, and wait for further instructions.

[Mix of reluctant and eager standing up and pushing in of chairs.]

TEACHER: Now, everyone please look down at your feet.

[Students look at feet, confused.]

TEACHER: Look around at your classmates’ feet. Find the classmate who is wearing footwear that is most like yours. They may not be an exact match. [Assist students in finding peers with matching shoes or sandals.]

[Pun starts to dawn on a few quick students.]

TEACHER: Now, please sit down next to your partner. [Beaming] Meet your “sole mate.” [Emphasizes “sole” while pointing to own shoe.]

[80% of the class gets it. Others look bewildered and alarmed.]


A group of three sole mates from a junior class with an uneven number of students.

TEACHER: As you can see, some of you have found the perfect match; some of you have made a compromise and will have to be one of those couples that just makes it work. [Chuckles inwardly while most of class is unamused. Noticing a group of three with identical Converse All-Stars, considers a polyamory joke. Decides–wisely–against it. Gives directions for activity that requires pairs.]

[A few minutes later: remaining of 20% of students suddenly get the pun or have it explained to them.]

Do you have any other creative methods for forming pairs or groups in your class? If so, please share in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!

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