Quarter Trios Explained

During last week’s video on class participation, I realized I needed to give more info about “Quarter Trios,” a routine that’s added fun, built community, and helped me run the classroom efficiently. Let’s do this thing!

Click here for a list of 25 Quarter Trio activities/challenges.

Click here for analogy materials.

Click here for brain teaser slides.

Teach on, everyone!

22 thoughts on “Quarter Trios Explained

  1. Michelle Childers says:

    Hi Laura!

    I’ve always been interested in implementing the Quarter Trios in my 9th grade ELA class, but I never could squeeze it in with large class sizes and what felt like limited time (50 minute periods). Now that my school is moving to 90 minute block scheduling, I feel like Quarter Trio competitions/games would be a perfect Brain Break during the 90 minute block! So my question is: How do you keep score? Do you have a running hand-written list with tally marks and update the classroom website at the end of the day? Do you memorize the trio’s names and individual students who belong to them? I’m just trying to get ahead of any logistical issues in implementing this strategy before the year starts. Thanks in advance for any details and help!

    Happy Summer!
    Michelle Childers

  2. Hi, this sounds like a great game plan! I’m planning to use it next year. I have one concern though. Have you ever received complaints because the way you give out points (i.e. giving them very very arbitrarily and making the last challenge worth a massive number of points so that any team could still win) might be considered “unfair”? Thanks 🙂

  3. So glad you’re going to find a way to squeeze in this routine, Michelle! I’m a keep-it-simple kind of gal, so I just jot down the team numbers and keep tally marks on a Post-It in the palm of my hand during game play. Then, once the challenge is over and everyone’s settled into Friday’s SSR session, I’ll update the team standings on our class website. I don’t memorize those team names, but you can see on the website that I give each team a number next to the team’s name and that’s what I have them write on the homemade white boards so I can quickly spot and record whenever they get a correct answer. However you choose to do this, definitely find/use shortcuts to make the scoring easy for you to manage. Quarter Trios are supposed to be fun – not stressful! – for everyone. 🙂

  4. Hey, Heather, great question. Happily, this hasn’t ever been an issue. Because I keep the spirit of everything light and fun, the kids respond in kind. Also, only one or two challenges per quarter could be considered arbitrary, like the “style” points on that end-of-quarter challenge that I mentioned in the video. I’m also aware of where the teams stand and like to keep the race close without me actually being the one to determine which team wins. Ultimately, the bulk of the quarter-long points are earned from performance (a team is either right or wrong on an analogy or brain teaser or word play game), so it’s always worked out for me and I’ve been using this method for years now. As long as you keep fairness in mind as you make your challenge decisions, you’ll be fine. Hope you and your kids have fun with this! 🙂

  5. That sounds so fun, Kelsi! I’ll definitely check out that post.

  6. Thanks! By the way, I was just wondering, how do you give game points for a Quarter Trio challenge like your Preposition Song Challenge and Instagram Challenge?

  7. I like to keep scoring easy for this, Heather, so I’ll give completion points for any team that submits an entry. If you wanted to add more, you could use the 4-3-2-1 system used by our elementary teacher friends (4 = Exceeds expectations, 3 = Meets expectations, 2 = Emerging toward expectations, 1 = Far below expectations ), but I haven’t felt the need. You also give the completion points and then ask a neutral party (your teaching T.A., a nearby student teacher, a vice principal, the custodian, etc.) to choose the three best ones and then give those teams a bump. I’ll do that sometimes when someone’s visiting in my room and I need a judge to break a tie. Good times! 🙂

  8. Hi Laura,

    I love this idea so much. Last year was my first year teaching, so I didn’t feel comfortable trying to make this work, but I’m really considering trying it this year even though I’ll be at a new school in a new district. It might be just the thing to help me connect with my new students (all 3 grades of them O_o)!

    I was wondering how you assign the trios. Do you assign groups or let them choose? Do you put certain students together or keep certain ones apart? Is it randomized? Also if a student has a problem with their assigned trio, would you let them change groups? Essentially, what do you do about intra-trio strife?? I’ve had trouble with small groupings in the past when students who don’t like each other are grouped together or when I have that one student that the other kids think is weird. It’s unfortunate, and since this is meant to be community-building, I wasn’t sure how you might solve that problem.

  9. Oh, I do hope you’ll give this a try, Victoria. Fun for you and your new kiddos. And congrats, too, on your new gig. Exciting stuff!

    Okay, so I’m always the one who assigns the groups. I announce the program and assign the first-quarter teams on the second Friday of the school year. That’s too soon for me to know everyone’s personality quirks, so I just go with alphabetical order by last name for that first round. Then for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter teams, I’ll make the assignments using a “random sort” on my school roster software but then go over it making adjustments to even out the talent pool and spread out the chuckleheads. Every class has a few especially unique kids (“weird” is the word your students have used – “But aren’t we all a little weird?” I’d say back to them) that need the right team temperament to thrive, so I’m careful there, too. I haven’t had issues with trios not getting along and creating drama, though some teams are clearly more effective working together than others. No one’s ever asked to leave their trio team, and I’d be very reluctant to grant such a request.

    The good news is that Quarter Trios differ from regular small assigned group projects because the work isn’t for a grade on a project in class. Instead, it’s just bonus points on the line and nothing that’s going to harm an individual’s grade in my class. (Side note: Those bonus points add up to pretty much a zero-impact on the grade book for the winners by the end of the quarter, anyway.) I approach Quarter Trios with a lively, fun spirit. It’s supposed to be a time to relax and be a little goofy; it’s not supposed to be a stressor.

    Finally, I think there’s real value in learning to work with people we aren’t initially drawn to. It’s the whole mirrors/windows thing, right? Our classrooms are a microcosm of society and we need to equip our kids to interact with all kinds of different folks with a wide range of communication styles and life philosophies. If friendships blossom from the teams, great. If not, there’s still a lot of learning that’s happening here about how to navigate the world.

    Whew! I guess I had a lot to say on the topic. Again, I do hope you find a way to fold this into your practice. The kids love it and I love the energy boost, especially at the end of the week when I’m drooping. 🙂

  10. Laura—I have been binge watching your vids and I think you are fantastic! Have you considered doing a weekly podcast?

    I also love running an entertaining and humorous classroom where I am having fun while I’m teaching. As a result, I suppose I encounter some more behavior issues (not the rebellious type, just the I’m having fun learning I forgot to raise my hand type) than the disciplinarian in the next classroom.

    Here are my questions regarding quarter trio:
    1) Do the trios sit near each other during class?
    2) You mentioned that an act of kindness gets a point even for an individual. But to earn behavior points, must the entire trio have been well behaved, or do you award individual good behavior points too?

  11. Ha! Thanks so much, Mira. A podcast? Um…no, thanks. I can barely keep my head above water as it is, so I’ll leave that realm for others. Maybe you? 😉

    As for rowdy kids who blurt out answers, yes, I face that, too, but I think of that as a good problem to have. When things get too loud, I’ll hit the pause button and remind kids that four people can’t talk to me at once. My ears are old and I need the volume turned down a bit in order to absorb what they’re saying. We also need to be mindful of our neighboring classes. That being said, I don’t think a classroom should always be a quiet place. I’ve had those church-mice classes and I prefer a bit more energy, even if I have to remind kids to use their filters and raise their hands.

    Now, onto your questions…
    1. The trios do sit next to each other for the first quarter because I set up my seating chart with alphabetical order and I use the same order when assigning the first round of teams because I don’t yet know their personality quirks. For the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters, the trios may or may not be seated near each other. It’s no big deal, though, for them to scoot three desks together for game play and then quickly rebuild my room when it’s time to return to regular seats. Easy.
    2. An individual can earn a point that’s awarded to the full team. I’m very Dumbledore in that way. I haven’t ever, though, taken points away from a trio team. I’ve found that those sorts of discipline issues are better handled one-on-one in a private conversation.

    I’m so glad you checked in with me and it’s good for me to hear that you like the videos. While filming, I regularly question the sanity of talking to myself on the patio/in my car, but then a note like this puts wind in my sails to keep going. Appreciate it! 🙂

  12. Aw, this was a really good post. Spending some time and actual
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  13. Shannon Chioffe says:

    This could not have come at a better time for me. I teach 8th grade at a Title 1 school with lots of ESE and ELL students. My energy and enthusiasm has been at an all-time low. I am so incredibly excited to try this TOMORROW! 🙂

  14. So glad you found the blog, Shannon. Have fun with this!

  15. Susan Schreiber says:

    Hi Laura, Just want to thank you for the renewed enthusiasm I get by watching your videos.
    To build community, I’ve always used board games with my classes requiring that all electronic devices be turned off. It really feels good to see students actually interact and speak to each other eye to eye. I think they are losing the whole socialization process. Trios sounds like fun and I’m planning on giving it a try.

  16. Great suggestion, Susan! You know, my family’s joined a game night every Wednesday with a group of five friends for the past two months or so and it’s brought a lot of screen-free joy to my life. Now that you mention it, Quarter Trios give us a similar brain break from the academic work and help strengthen relationships. Even if we lose, we still win, right? 😉

  17. Brittany Perkowski says:

    We just ended our first quarter with the Quarter Trio Challenges. It was a big success! We worked out some of the kinks, and I think I’ll get better at it as the year goes on. I wanted to share a successful challenge that I used with my students today. I found an online version of Taboo at playtaboo.com. We played it tournament style, and the kids had a blast! The losing teams were begging me to let them play each other. I have a feeling they will be asking to play again in the future.

    Also, at the beginning of the year, I gave them puzzles to put together. I told them that the trio who got their puzzle put together the fastest would win a point for their trio. I got the puzzles from Melissa and Doug. They have huge puzzles with 100 and 200 pieces. I separated the puzzle pieces into plastic baggies, one per trio member. But, I also gave pieces of the same puzzle to another trio and didn’t tell them that they had the same pieces as another trio. As they started putting the puzzles together, they realized that they didn’t have all the pieces, so they had to work together to figure out what to do. Eventually, they caught on that another trio had the same puzzle and that they had to work together. Once the whole class realized that, it was a race to see who could put their puzzle together the fastest. The fastest trios won. They still beg me to let them put puzzles together.

    Thanks for the great idea!!

  18. This is so, so good, Brittany! PUZZLES!!! Why didn’t I think of that? Also, I love the twist of having Trios realize they need to work with another team to accomplish the goal. YES! Thanks for sharing this gem of an idea. 😉

  19. Hi Laura, thank you for this video. I loved how you emphasized the whole idea that speed isn’t how you determine who gets the points for the team. I myself have always thought a lot more slowly than others, and always dreaded when we played games such as spoons in class or competitive games because I was always on the losing side.

    You had mentioned on your video you wanted to know how teachers build community. I did the training of Tribes (Jeanne Gibbs) and in it, everything is about community and the importance of it. Everyone is in designated groups called Tribes and it works the same. They do have a huge reference list of wonderful activities if you ever get the chance to read their books.

    I think, though that one of my strengths is taking the time to teach kids how to listen to each other. Listening in the sense that no matter who is talking, you drop everything you have, and turn to listen to that person, eyes and all. For if your eyes are on this person, you are less likely to be distracted. This in turn makes the person talking feel valued, appreciated but most importantly you care about what they have to say. It might seem like something little, but you’d be surprised at how little people actually look at whoever is talking most of the time.

    The other thing that I do, though not very often is sometimes possibly just stop a lesson or not even start it. Like the rest of us, students themselves do have their bad days, and lose themselves in the process of day to day life. Knowing that someone cares and is willing to listen to them when in need will make them work twice as hard when they are ready.

    I wrote a more detailed article on here in case you are interested: https://www.hltmag.co.uk/dec18/the-power-of-a-uccessful-classroom

  20. Thanks for this, m21vp. Indeed, a lot of this boils down to dignity, respect, and really listening to people. Those moves go a long way toward building a strong classroom community. Glad you’re here with me!

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