Grouping is an essential component to Math Workshop success in your classroom. After your warm up and mini lesson are over, students will rotate through M.A.T.H. practice activities each day. If you are not familiar with the Math Workshop framework, please read this post first.
So, how do you group your students to ensure efficiency and success for all? A quick pre assessment is worthwhile in helping you design differentiated groups, and will make your daily M.A.T.H. rotations more efficient. Once you’ve got your pre assessment results handy, use the guidelines below to help you establish your groups for the unit, quarter, or trimester.
Skill Level Grouping
This grouping approach comes in handy when your assessment results show student understanding of the skill(s) being introduced is scattered. To group by skill level, begin by determining the number of groups you will have.
Three groups is appropriate if you plan to have a flexible “Meet With The Teacher” schedule. This approach allows you to call students to the small group area based on your observations of student needs during workshop on some days, and have a set group meeting schedule on other days.
I recommend the three-group/flexible schedule approach. This allows you the flexibility to meet with each group weekly, while leaving room in the schedule for meeting unforeseen student needs without disrupting the flow of student rotations.
Here’s a peek at what your schedule might look like if you have three skill levels groups:
Four groups is appropriate if you plan to have a set “Meet With The Teacher” schedule. This approach allows you to pre-plan your small group instruction needs and have a set course each day. Unfortunately, if you have a schedule conflict, the group you are set to meet with that day misses out on their “Meet With The Teacher” time, and there is no flexible room to make it up.
Creating Balanced Groups
Arrange your students into these groups based on their level of understanding while trying your best to maintain a fairly balanced number of students in each group. This is where group creation becomes an art, not a science. If your groups are unbalanced, move beyond looked solely at the assessment data, and begin to consider student work habits. Factoring in how quickly students catch on to new concepts also helps to create balance.
Work Habits Grouping
This grouping approach comes in handy when your assessment results show the majority of your students have the same level of understanding for the skill(s) being introduced.
When grouping by work habits, create heterogeneous groups that include a balance of students with strong self-direction skills, and students who require additional guidance and support. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from peer role models who can foster stronger work habits in those who are still developing these essential skills.
When utilizing the work habits grouping approach, you will likely find you’ll spend less time in your small group work space, and more time around the room having one on one conferences, and pulling groups on an as-needed basis.
Regardless of the grouping approach you use, establishing Math Triads in your classroom will further foster student independence and resourcefulness.
A Math Triad is a strategically designed group of 3 students who check in with one another during workshop each day. Here are a few roles of a Math Triad:
- Provide tips to guide others toward a solution.
- Clarify confusions.
- Check “at your seat” work for accuracy.
- Help with spelling of math vocabulary.
- Help troubleshoot tech problems.
- Provide constructive feedback.
- Provide encouraging comments.
- Help others focus and be their best self.
When creating Math Triads, avoid grouping your mastery-level students with students who need the most support. Instead, use your pre assessment data to arrange students in order from highest to lowest score. Divide this list in thirds and pull one student from each third to create your triads, as shown below.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
For more details about Math Workshop, check out my other posts about this instructional approach.
HOW TO INTRODUCE MATH WORKSHOP IN YOUR CLASSROOM:
DETAILS ABOUT M.A.T.H. ROTATIONS:
- Overview: Differentiate Instruction with Math Workshop
- Warm Up: Number of the Day Binder
- Mini Lesson: 3 Approaches To Formatting Lessons for Math Workshop
- Meet with the Teacher: How To Organize Small Groups for Math Workshop
- Meet with the Teacher: 5 Steps To Efficient Data Tracking
- At Your Seat: Top 5 Ideas for Math Workshop At Your Seat
- At Your Seat: Boost Problem Solving Skills
- Hands On: Tips for Making Math Games A Success
MATH WORKSHOP CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT TIPS:
- How To Boost Student Independence With Math Triads
- Incorporating Project Based Learning Into Math Workshop
- How To Make Transitions Efficient During Math Workshop
READY TO GIVE MATH WORKSHOP A TRY?
If you want to give Math Workshop a test drive in your own classroom, grab your Math Workshop Starter Kit, and feel free to share any questions you have about implementation in the comments below.