Supporting your career in English teaching
in the Japanese school system

Company SiteMap


Pairing And Grouping


Pairing And Grouping

When teaching a large number of students, we constantly need to get students into pairs, groups, or teams in order to run a more effective class that gives optimal talking time. The most common methods to do this are simple instructions such as "get into pairs with the person next to you", "get into your lunch groups", "OK, you're A, you're B, you're A, you're B...", etc.

By all means, these are effective methods and get the job done in a speedy manner however, it can get a little repetitive and dull. A bit of variety can sometimes raise a smile, and can also help mix up groupings a little. If well executed, it could also turn into a fun mini game.



A method we often see used is either "work with the person next to you" or "work with the person behind you". Students change their seating positions every month or term, so there is a chance for them to work with different classmates. However, the element of surprise is not there. Keeping students on their toes will always get their attention better. Try these ideas:

"Work with someone..."

-...who you have never worked with this term/semester.

-...who has the same colour socks/top/pants/etc as you.

-...who was born in the same month as you.

-...who has the same hairstyle as you.

-...who lives the closest to you.

-...who has the same taste in comics as you.

Think outside the box and try something that is different to what is 'usually' done. Some pairing methods may take more time (the ones where students must communicate, ie. When's your birthday? Where do you live? Do you like Clash On Titan?) than others, but it's worth it to give the students a chance to produce and practice English.


We have all heard "get into your lunch groups",  "desk rows 1 and 2 here, 3 and 4 here, 5 and 6 here", "red team here, white team here". These methods have certainly been used one time or another. Again, although these are quick and efficient methods, it will be bland for the students. We are trying to bring an element of surprise every time we go to class!

Give some of the following ideas a shot. Yes, they may take more time than usual, and may even take preparation in advance, but it will be worth it for the students to enjoy something different.

Janken: "Rock, scissors, paper, 1, 2, 3!" For 2 teams, have 'winners' and 'losers' grouping. It can broken down further to make 4 teams by having one more round within those 2 groups. Another way to make multiple groups is to have lunch groups (usually 5 students), play janken, and make 5 new groups according to the winning order.

Puzzles: Use A4-size pictures (the amount depends on how many teams you want), cut them up and distribute to the class. Students must find 'their' picture, put it together, and that will be their team for the day. For higher level classes, cutting words up into syllables may be more appropriate than pictures. For example, if you want groups of 5, cut up the words "in-ter-na-tion-al", "hip-po-po-ta-mus", "nin-ten-do-D-S".

Playing Cards: Prepare the exact number of cards needed for the class number of teams and students. Distribute randomly... possible teams could be red/black, hearts/ spades/ clubs/ diamonds, odd/even numbers, numbers 123 / numbers 456 / numbers 789, etc. Let your imagination run wild!


Pairing and grouping students are an essential part of teaching and learning. Whenever the opportunity arises, make an attempt to get off the beaten path. It will surely enhance your classes and students' learning experience by bringing in something unexpected. Use your judgement on the class level and attitude to see whether your new pairing/grouping method will work or not... and if it did not, try another idea. Now get out there and surprise the students!

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Try something new this month, you may be surprised.


I want to teach at a school in Japan

More about Japan's education system

Current openings

Become a member

Japan's education system

Become a member

Job Board

EduCareer Members

Members will receive exclusive job information

EduCareer Name

EduCareer Email


EduCareer Map

1 minute from Higashi Koenji Station (Marunouchi Subway Line) Exit 1

402 Arakawa Building, 3-56-12 Wada, Suginami Ku, Tokyo
4th floor above Origin Bento

Office hours : 09:00-18:00
Regular Holiday : Saturday/Sunday

Rinjin Blog

Available areas

Hokkaido・Tohoku[Hokkaido・Aomori・Iwate・Miyagi・Akita・Yamagata・Fukushima] / Kanto[Tokyo・Kanagawa(Yokohama)・Saitama・Chiba・ Ibaraki・Tochigi・Gunma・Yamanashi] / Shinnetsu・Hokuriku[Niigata・Nagano・Toyama・Ishikawa・Fukui] / Tokai[Aichi(Nagoya)・Gifu・ Shizuoka・Mie] / Kinki[Osaka・Hyogo(Kobe)・Kyoto・Shiga・Nara・Wakayama] / Chugoku[Tottori・Shimane・Okayama・Hiroshima・ Yamaguchi] / Shikoku[Tokushima・Kagawa・Ehime・Kochi] / Kyushu・Okinawa[Fukuoka・Saga・Nagasaki・Kumamoto・Oita・Miyazaki・ Kagoshima・Okinawa]

Recruiting countries

USA,Canada,UK,Ireland,Australia,New Zealand,South Africa,India,France,Germany,Spain,Italy,Russia,China,South Korea,Thailand,Indonesia,Malaysia,Mexico,Brazil