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Some Tips for Planning Math Small Groups

a few thoughts about math small groups

One of my biggest goals this year was making my small groups hassle-free, easier to prep, but also effective and meaningful for my students. I felt like I had so much to tackle, and a very small amount of time to do it. So, I wanted everything I did to have a big impact.

Since I started teaching 5th grade math these have been some of my thoughts regarding math small groups : “man this is hard, some of my student have so much unfinished learning, where do I even start?”, “what group should I put this student in?”, “I need to change what students are doing independently more often”, “I’m not doing enough.” Can you resonate with any of those thoughts?

So here are some things I’ve done this year to tackle some of these thoughts.

#1 most of my small group lessons are task-based 

This is the most authentic way I’ve found to address students’ unfinished learning and push them to new understandings. It allows me to see their entry point and meet them where they’re at in their math thinking. They feel safe to share and show their thinking in a small group setting, and this gives me so much insight. We’re able to address misconceptions in an authentic way and use concrete models to deepen our understanding. Added bonus: it makes my planning much easier and streamlined. I’m able to use one task for all of my groups, scaffold when needed, and see the magic happen from there.
Here are a few of my favorite places to pull tasks for my students: Illustrative Mathematics, Mine the Gap, and here!

#2 my groups are flexible and somewhat heterogeneous (most of the time)

This has been a game changer because now I don’t think so much about “what group should I put this student in/where do they fit?” This was a big shift because I was so used to grouping students homogeneously (hello, primary literacy teacher brain). I’ve found that heterogeneous groups work really well in math, and having the flexibility of switching up groups based on the day works well too! I’ve found that this helps a lot with students hearing different perspectives on problem solving and pushes students in the group to reflect and possibly revise their thinking based on what they’re hearing from their classmates. It puts a lot of the heavy lifting on the students and less on me, the teacher! Which is a win-win in my book.

Ps…are there days when my groups are more structured and planned? Of course! It all just depends on the day!

#3 make independent work easy to prep and consistent

Say it with me, independent work can be basic and still meaningful. Not only does this make prep much easier but your students get to know the drill and the focus is on the math. Now, this doesn’t mean students are doing the same exact thing every week, but they are doing a different version of the same activity.

Here are what my students work on independently throughout the week:

>Math app/website: There are so many great math websites and apps now. My school uses IXL and so that’s what I use in my math classroom, but I like to switch it up with Prodigy and 99math too.

>Weekly Number: My students complete a weekly number worksheet. The template is consistent but changes weekly to address standards we’ve learned. There’s also a self-checking component so students are able to see how they’ve done.

>Math Identity Journal Prompt: I’ve used this in my room for a couple of years now and I love it. Students complete a weekly prompt that addresses various aspects of their math identity. I read these responses and respond to them periodically. I use a digital version which makes it super simple to assign and check. If you’d like to check out this resource in my tpt store here it is!

a little bit on systems and organization…

One more note because you know your girl loves some organization. I’ve also made sure that I created a space that is conducive to what I’m doing in my small groups. I wanted a space that was functional and worked for my students and I, and I truly feel that I’ve created just that! Here are a few of my favorite things that I use to organize my space: this container is great for organizing my tasks, love having a little caddy with some frequently used supplies, and these little pouches are perfect for organizing all of my favorite math tools. Check out some more of my small group faves here!

Also, because I’ve really streamlined what I’m doing in both my small group lessons and independent work for students this makes planning and prep a lot easier. I’m able to batch plan which is so darn helpful! Check out my no-fuss planning template below!

Welp, I hope this gave you some things to think about in terms of making your math small groups a little more no-fuss, but also meaningful and rigorous for all students.

small group planning template

*please note: this post includes some affiliate links, which means I earn a small little commission if you follow those links and purchase something! So thanks in advance for showing your support, it truly means the world to me!

classroom, organization

Tips for Organizing Your Classroom

It’s no question that when it comes to my classroom I’m super Type A. What can I say? I just function better in a clean and organized space. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tips with you! Don’t forget to check out my other classroom organization posts here!

.have a plan.

It may sound simple but have a plan! Sit down and truly map out a plan. Think about how your organization and classroom decor can work together to make a truly functional space. If you want help with this process, I gotchu! This post has a detailed explanation of the process!

.make sure everything has a place.

Have a place for EVERYTHING! (and don’t forget about your papers)! When you’re coming up with your plan, keep this in mind! If you have a place for everything, nothing is ever out of place. If you have a place for all those papers, those papers don’t pile up! If you have a place for all your teacher supplies, they stay organized and tidy. Need some ideas? Check out this post where I share some of my classroom organization must-have’s!

.keep things neutral.

Keep things neutral! Okay this might just be a personal preference BUT hear me out! If you buy your bins, baskets, carts, etc in neutral colors you’ll be able to keep them around a lot longer! Think white, black, gray, and natural tones. A great way to add color is with your labels! Trust me on this one! Sure I have pops of color here and there but most of my organizational things are neutral and I’ve had them around for years because they match with any color scheme! Some of my fav neutral organizing things are all linked here!

.set up habits and routines.

This is an important one! Have some habits and routines in place that keep you organized! Normalize putting things away in their place right after you use them. Devote some time every day and week to tidying and organizing your space. Have a monthly project, pick one thing to tidy up each month that needs a little extra TLC. Wanna read more about some habits and routines I have in place to keep my classroom organized all year long? Then you gotta go read this post, and remember…your systems only work if YOU do!

.get your students involved.

Last, but not least! Get your students in on the fun! How do you do this you may ask? Be very explicit about teaching your students about the organization systems in the classroom. Hold them accountable for doing their part and keep it consistent! Have routines and things in place to keep them organized. Not only does this help keep the space organized for all, but it teaches your kiddos some organization skills!

Welp, that’s all! I hope those tips help you a little with your organization journey and don’t forget to check out these other posts on classroom organization for even more tips and advice!

You’re also gonna want to check out my classroom organization handbook! Click below to download! Happy organizing friends!