Sometimes my students get in a rut. They sit near the same people in class and always work in the same small groups together. When they discuss an article, they are only hearing the same voices, the same ideas. So, borrowing ideas from other colleagues, I started implementing strategies to change this...using playing cards.
When students come into my room, they each get a card. If I have 32 students I would use the cards from 1-8 for example. The students who have the ones would all be in a group together, the twos, etc. I also have a second deck of cards. When doing class activities (discussing an article for example), I randomly select a suit (say a club), the club has to start the discussion, they get 2 minutes to share their thoughts on the article. The rest of the group gets 1 minute to comment back. Then it progresses around the table with each person getting two minutes to share. At the end of the discussion, the group has to come to CONSENSUS about what they learned from the article.
In order to have a whole class discussion from this, I pull a card at random from my deck (say the 3 of hearts). The person with that card has to explain their groups thinking (not their own). The purpose for this is for each person to be accountable for the discussion, that is, there is no place to hide. After, I draw a second card (say the 4 of diamonds) and ask that person to summarize what the first group said. This second draw of the cards keeps everyone accountable for listening to their classmates.
Regrouping has made a profound impact on my classes. It gets them listening to each other and to different ideas. It has been one of the best regarded classroom procedures I do. The students stay in those groups the the entire class period for whatever various activities we do. My evaluations have risen about .5 of a point since I started this strategy.