For my first several years of teaching, I struggled with teaching math. I tried teaching what I thought was Guided Math to my small groups. I hated it and didn’t feel like I had enough time to teach my students. I tried teaching whole group, but too many students struggled to stay engaged and I struggled to see the work they were doing to provide feedback and support. For a year and a half I tried various different models and groupings for my math block trying to find what worked for me, and, I couldn’t. I continued experimenting.

I tried 3 centers each day for about 45 minutes and the students would rotate to the other 3 the next day. While not all of the math centers changed each day, some of them did, and it was a lot of planning and effort. This was the best set up that I tried at the time, but something just felt “off” to me. I could see students in action every other day, but I struggled with what I had students do independently on the day they weren’t with me. I often had students do their independent practice while I was nearby so I could keep an eye on what they were doing. It was difficult spending 45 minutes of my block (half of it essentially) all in centers. I just didn’t feel like what I had students doing during that time was meaningful enough, and warranted half of the math block.

I also tried just doing 1 group each day and students rotating through during the week, but I didn’t feel like it was enough time for me to see my students working on their math skills. It wasn’t giving me enough time to work with my below level students who need more support.

#### But then I found what did work for me in my math block. I split my students in half and taught my lessons twice. My kids were engaged and I was able to differentiate for them in smaller groups to meet their needs.

**My Math Block Structure**

My math block typically begins with our Word Problem of the Day and Number of the Day. Some years, however, I am not able to have the length of a math block I want due to varying schedules, and these pieces easily move to different times of the day. For our core instruction, I split the class in half and teach the lesson to both of them. However, I teach the lesson differently with both groups based on the level of scaffolding they need. Here’s a look at how our typical 90-minute math block is scheduled in this format.

Now let’s take a deeper look into each of the components within my math block.

### Word Problem of the Day

The beginning of our math block is *always* a Word Problem of the Day- even if it’s a bit earlier in the day. My first year in the classroom I quickly realized that my teaching of problem solving for one day at the end of the unit, or as a unit itself, just was not enough practice for my kids. Typical curriculums don’t give students enough practice, and do not spiral through the standards in word problems. You can read more about Why I Do a Word Problem of the Day I’ve done the same structure in 1st grade and 2nd grade as I had originally done in 3rd and I find it very beneficial.

Students work through the problem independently following our 3 Reads Strategy for Successful Problem Solving that I teach at the beginning of the year. Every now and then, and to help keep students engaged, I have students work in partners, or explain their work in partners. I find the power with our Word Problem of the Day being in students’ independent practice and oral explanations of their work. Student dialogue is incredibly beneficial in math.

As we solve, we identify the equation to be solved, and how that equation was determined. We focus on the context of the word problem to build understanding. I have dedicated posts for Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Types and Multiplication & Division Word Problem Types. If your students are having a hard time with word problems, you may be interested in reading more about Why Your Students Struggle with Word Problems and what you can do about it.

Students love displaying the steps they used to solve on the board, or explaining to me what steps I should take to solve step-by-step. This is great practice for state tests where students need to explain the steps they took to get to a solution. It also gives students opportunities to see other strategies in action. I also, at times, have students identify where their mistake or misconception was to help fix the misconception.

At the beginning of the year, this takes much longer than 15 minutes, and there are days throughout the year that it takes a few minutes longer, for sure, with more complex problems. But, I’ve learned that giving students daily practice with various levels of rigor, and spiraling through the standards, is key for my students to feel not only comfortable on their state assessments, but also confident that they can read a problem and develop a plan of attack to solve it. Daily problem solving practice gives my students the confidence they need to work through any problem they face, both in our regular curriculum and on our assessments.

We use my Word Problem of the Day bundle during this time as they’re rigorous, focus beyond just correct answers and into problem solving strategies, and keep students’ fresh on all of the standards through an ongoing build and spiral. You can click on any of the images below to take a closer look at each grade level’s word problems bundles.

### Number of the Day

My Number of the Day routine is the single most important 10 minutes of my math block!

When I moved from 3rd grade to 1st grade I changed the way I do Number of the Day to an interactive whole group time and it was the best change I’ve ever made. I continued it in 2nd grade, and have continued doing it now that I’m back in 3rd grade. The number sense and mental math kids have shown due to this routine have forever changed my view on number sense and have made me believe that those 10 minutes is the most powerful part of our day. I use my Number of the Day printables (see below) when I’m out of class, or I want to give my students some independent practice. To see more about my Number of the Day routine, you can watch the video below.

### Math Small Groups Structure

The change in my math block structure from what I’d previously done is really in the function of the small groups. I split my class into two groups: one with the average and above average students (the kids that don’t need as much scaffolding, or the ones who already have a ton of background knowledge); the second group is the below average and low students (with a few average students that need a bit more repeated practice to get something). Depending on my students and their needs, the groups range from about 9-12 students. While this is higher than my group numbers when I taught guided math in centers, it is more effective for me. I still can group the kids into smaller groups for on the fly reteaching. It also gives a range of abilities in each group. Because the groups are larger, they’re more heterogeneous than when I was working in traditional 4-6 group centers.

The most important part about it for me, is that my low students aren’t able to hide behind my strong math students who are quick to respond. I am able to identify and correct misconceptions and mistakes quickly. I am able to provide higher order thinking and extensions for those students that are ready. I’m better able to have a handle on exactly where my students are and what they need. It has the benefits of both whole group instruction and small groups, in my opinion.

I teach the two groups slightly differently. For the groups, students bring their dry erase boards and markers or their math workbooks and come and join me on the floor. I prefer the floor because it allows me to see what each of them are doing throughout each step. When I would do this whole class, it was so much harder to keep tabs on everyone and circulate. Now I’m able to jump right in, quickly put a couple kids together to reteach, or to show something to the entire group. Students also often jump in and assist each other when someone isn’t getting it. Because we’re all sitting close together and have fewer students to wait on to finish the students stay engaged with what we’re doing.

The big differences between the way I teach my two math groups is the “We do” part of our lesson. With my higher group, after a very quick two problem or so review of yesterday’s lesson, I quickly explain the new lesson and we practice a couple together. The bulk of our time is students practicing the skill on their own with me checking on their work. I do this one or two problems at a time so I can clear up misconceptions right away.

After the group has demonstrated a solid understanding we often are able to take the skill to the next level: to quickly apply the next step in the standard, or even sometimes doing the next grade level’s standard for the skill depending on what the skill is. I will also often ask questions to up the DOK level of the task, or we will work on the skill in more complex word problems. I ask questions like, “If Sarah got X as her answer, what was her mistake?” or “Why can’t we X”.

When I plan, I plan out the week for group 2, and look to see where I might be able to take group 1. With group 2, we spend most of the time working on the problems together. This is the group that needs additional practice, that often has previous misconceptions that need to be cleared up, and needs more practice to truly master it. We discuss the steps together and do problems step by step before I “turn them loose” to try on their own. Even when they do try it on their own, I’m still closely monitoring to see who is getting it and who is not. Often, even within just that few minutes, I do a quick reteaching with a small group, or the whole of the group to make sure students understand. There are times when I never truly give them independent practice, depending on ow much they’re struggling with the skill.

This structure allows me to spend a few moments on previous grade level’s skills that students may be missing, while my focus continues to be on the grade level standard. I can push my high students and also reach my low students who need a lot of “cleaning up”. It’s allowed me to really differentiate and meet their needs. We work through the grade level curriculum together, just at different paces and different levels of scaffolding.

Finally, I really try to make this time as long as possible. Ideally, it’s about 25 minutes per group. I really work on transitions during our classroom procedures at the beginning of the year. I steal a minute or two from our fact practice as I can.

## What Do Students Do When They’re Not with Me?

What the students do when they’re not with me has varied over the years. I want that work to be meaningful. I don’t want the kids to just be doing something, nor do I want to spend a bunch of time planning or grading to ensure accountability. Here are a couple things I utilize:

### Technology

When I’m working with one of the groups, the other group is typically working on their Chromebooks. I want students to stay engaged and really be furthering their knowledge so I tailor this time to work on students’ independent levels or practice our specific standard. Students are usually on iReady (our district curriculum), Freckle, Khan, or Moby Max, but occasionally I’ll throw in something different to keep their excitement up. These websites allow you to assign specific skills/standards and also allow students to practice on their individual levels. With Freckle, I love that I can have students work within the domain that we’re practicing but working at THEIR level. Students practice a specific standard from time to time, and sometimes it’s additional practice with a skill not yet mastered, but often they work where they need to work, and with my low group it’s been great to know that they’re practicing those skills that need to be cleaned up.

I also sometimes assign specific lessons in Google Classroom for additional practice. I often use my 3rd Grade Digital Lessons & Task Cards to give students additional practice with the vocabulary and skill. I use the digital task cards to give my students practice away from my support so I can check in on how they are independently grasping the skill. And I also use the digital quiz as a quick check to gauge progress. Because I formally assess the standard the week after introducing it, I like to use the digital quiz to see which students need additional time on the skill during the next week.

### Games

I also utilize games from time to time. My students LOVE to play them, and they’re engaging ways to build their fact fluency. Sometimes we play games like Multiplication Roll & Cover or Addition Bump. If you’re looking for games to build fact fluency, you might be interested in my 5 Fun Games for Building Addition and Subtraction Fact Fluency and 5 Games to Build Multiplication & Division Fact Fluency posts.

## Math Fact Fluency

I love to wrap up my math block with some fact practice though it’s not often the full 10 minutes so that’s spent with groups. When a specific program has been dictated, we use that time to fit that in. The last couple years I’ve utilized XtraMath & Multiplication by Heart to help build my students fact fluency. But, my students’ absolute favorite way is to play 5 in a Row. They beg to play each day, and it’s my kids’ favorite part of our learning. I have a blog post that goes into depth about how it’s played and what you need (Powerpoint and a printer!). You can also check out all of my 5 in a Row items in my TpT store.

## Math Spiral Review

I also do a daily spiral math review every morning as part of our morning work outside of our math block. It gives students a chance to work through all of the standards several times a year and gives students practice on various standards each day. We do one set of the previous year (40 pages so that makes it through about the first quarter of the year) and then do three sets of the current year throughout the year. I have math spiral review sets for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. You can click any of the images below to head to my TpT store to check them out. There are yearlong bundles for 2nd and 3rd grades, and each set is sold separately in 40 page sets. The 1st grade version includes two sets for use in spiraling the 1st grade math standards during the second half of the year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a walk through our math block. For other math posts you might be interested in, you can click the images and links below.

Strategies for building Place Value & Number Sense

The How & Why of Building Number Sense

## 73 Comments

Thank you for sharing this information! I planned to try out guided math with my 4th graders this year, but I’m going to consider this approach as well. We have 70 minutes for math, so I want the time we have to be productive. While you’re meeting with one group, is the other group always working online or do you have them work on other activities as well?

Usually I have them working online for that 20 minutes. I do, though, often have them do an independent task to turn in (like an exit ticket or worksheet) to check to see how they’re performing independently. That usually only takes a few minutes and then they go begin their tech task.

What do you have the other group do while you are teaching the small group? I have been trying to find a way to do this, and I really like the way you do it! Do you have centers for the other group? How do you plan the time for the other group during those centers?

Usually I have them working online for that 20 minutes. I mentioned it above but I’ll edit my post to be a little more clear. I do, though, often have them do an independent task to turn in (like an exit ticket or worksheet) to check to see how they’re performing independently. That usually only takes a few minutes and then they go begin their tech task.

Thank you for sharing! I also do ninety minute blocks, and I struggled with how to effectively use this time. I absolutely love your ideas!! I did not do a good job with problem-solving this year, so I love how you start your day with this, every single day. I can’t wait to implement your ideas next school year!

My first year in third grade, the day we took our math test during state testing, I literally felt so disappointed in myself because I knew I had not prepared my kids enough for the problem solving expectations. We did it, don’t get me wrong, but I knew it was not enough. Daily problem solving began immediately and I’ve seen its benefits in the years that have followed.

I like this idea a lot. I’m departmentalized so I’m thinking of this in my head. What is group 2 doing while you work with group 1 and vice versa?

Usually I have them working online for that 20 minutes. I do, though, often have them do an independent task to turn in (like an exit ticket or worksheet) to check to see how they’re performing independently. That usually only takes a few minutes and then they go begin their tech task.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and your ideas. I am a grade 4 teacher who has been experimenting with math centers this past year. In our school we have math groups so that makes things a lot easier in some ways. However, I so like the ideas that you have presented and look forward to trying them this year.

I hope it works for you!

I have also attempted, and eventually felt frustrated with, doing centers in my 3rd grade classroom. Some years my kiddos could handle the independence and accountability… And other years not so much. This past year I did a shorter whole group lesson and then did “halfsies” with either small group time with me or working on a tech program. When state testing rolled around I felt the same way… Ahh we didn’t do enough! I like how you started with problem solving and number sense. Definitely going to plan more of that for next year. Thanks for helping me stress less about not doing centers!!! Good to know I’m not alone 🙂

I think small group time is so important for me to really know how my kids are doing. But when I realized I could do that with this method and not necessarily have to do a bunch of centers, I loved it.

I also have read many things and tried many things to make math stations work, I love your approach and think it could work well for me. How do you get grades? Do they do an independent assignment during your small group lesson time?

I do most of my grades based on assessments, as I want my grades to reflect what students are able to do after I’ve taught. With that said, I do include some classwork grades. I would occasionally give students some seat work to do independently to turn in to show how they were able to do on a skill. Sometimes this was in the form of a quick exit ticket, and sometimes it was just a worksheet. The days they did that, they’d do it and turn it in and then head to their tech center. Or, if they were the second group, they’d do it and turn it in and do a fast finisher type activity while they waited for us to move on.

I don’t understand what you mean by second group. Is this your Group 2 students? Also what do u mean by fast finisher type activity while they waited for you to move on?

Yes, by second group I mean group 2. And for fast finishers, I have a few different math activities that are available for students to do if they finish early. Hot Dots are a favorite.

Do you use the grouping every day? Do you teach the all of the lessons in the groups as well? I’m a bit confused with the quick review of the previous lesson.

I do the grouping this way nearly every day, but there are some concepts it’s just quicker and easier to do whole group, especially if we’re doing a project. For example, when I introduce fractions I always do it whole group as we work through folding construction paper and identifying the fractions. As for my comment on reviewing the previous day’s lesson, I mean just that; the lesson from yesterday.

I’m new to general Ed coming from special Ed. Is it possible for you to post a sample or a past lesson plan so as a visual learner I can see the difference? Thanks

I have experienced all of the same frustrations and disappointments in my attempts to get my math block structured in a way that I feel really good about. I do large group instruction well, but want more small group time, without the struggle of preparing meaningful centers all year long. I think this is the answer! I know myself, and my strengths and weaknesses, well, and I believe this will work great for me!

This post made so much sense to me. I had made the same discovery about problem solving and so now we also do a daily problem. I love your 2 group solution to ‘teaching’ new concepts. I have experimented but not found a satisfactory solution. Until now. Thanks

How do you determine your groups? Do you pretest before each unit?

I determine my groups based on the beginning of the year assessment, and then my ongoing observation and assessment data. I don’t do it in relation to a specific unit.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this article! I teach third grade math, science, and social studies. This will be my second year of teaching. Last year, I tried all different kinds of grouping routines and never really did find what I was really looking for. I am excited to try this method during my math block. I feel it will me the answer to accelerating for the gifted students and remediating for the lower students. I am curious to know though, do you or what type of math homework do you give students? Also if you do assign homework, how do you go about checking it? Thanks so much!

I am so happy to see that you split your class during math! I have a nearly identical schedule that I use – half working on technology, half in a lesson with me. I love that I get to see my students understanding of the lesson more closely.

I do have a question for you. Has your principal asked why you split the class this way? My principal has and I tell her that I get a better understanding of what my students can do mathematically and can provide better interventions, but I don’t think she is satisfied with my explanation. Do you have advice for class visitors who wonder about the split lesson structure?

Thanks!

My principal this past year was confused when I told him that I didn’t really have worksheets or paperwork that I gave to students during their math time when I had a student in the office. I tried explaining it and I don’t think it went over well. However, I then had him come in and observe during that time and when he saw it in action he was impressed. We were able to talk about my plan beforehand, and he saw first hand I was able to push my higher kids and give my lower kids more support. After seeing it, he really understood why I did it and saw that it worked for us.

Love this. It’ll be my 2nd year teaching 2nd and I have to change my math block. Do you meet with each group each day? I only have 60 minutes for math, can you provide suggestions on how best to modify what you do to fit it a 60 minute block?

I do meet with each group daily. That was one of the most important and exciting things about this framework to me. If you only have 60 minutes, I’d probably recommend making your group times more like 12-15 minutes. That would leave you 30 minutes for problem solving, number sense, etc. You could even introduce the lesson before you went to group leaving the group time for guided practice.

I love that idea!! I am so going to use it!!

I teach third grade too and this year I will be part of an adaptive math pilot. We will each get I pads for half of the classroom. We have to use STAR math, and ST math. I also really like Moby Max.This model makes sense to me. I like not having to prep centers all the time! I was just wondering, do the kids stay engaged in the computers? I find that the novelty of technology starts to wear off mid year. Do the students get to do hands on activities with you?

I try to change up what they’re doing online and that helps keep them engaged. Sometimes I’ll give them free choice on a couple different websites and just that little change keeps them engaged. For the most part, yes, they do stay engaged in what they’re doing.

As far as hands on activities, yes, they do. If it’s something that’s best taught in a hands-on way, I might teach that day as a whole class walking everyone through it. For example, I do that when introducing fractions and equivalent fractions. We begin using circles and rectangle strips and investigating what happens as we fold it. Because we do it step by step, I teach whole group that day instead.

I teach a combination 2nd and 3rd grade class. Any ideas of how I can structure this to work with my two grade levels?

I am not positive how you teach your class as far as standards go. But, my first instinct is that you’d group based on their abilities regardless of their grade level. I’m assuming you have second graders ready for third grade material, and third graders who need second grade instruction. You could group essentially as 2nd grade standard and 3rd grade standard as you teach the same standard to the two different levels. There are a ton of alignments that show the relationship and growth from one level to the next, but the CCSS show that progression pretty cleanly with 2.G.1 being a ase for 3.G.1

Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been wanting to try grouping my students but wasn’t sure where to start. I am definately trying this this year

I hope it works well for you!

Can I ask what math series your school uses in 3rd grade? How do you administer assessments, whole group or small group? Do you use assessments provided by the series, or do you create your own?

We’ve used Everyday Math, but we’re getting a new series this year. My district created new assessments so we used those, but no, I do not administer them in small groups because they don’t need my attention as they do during the lesson.

Hello….while this is my first time blogging?! I read everyone else’s thoughts and found them resourceful as well!! I also tried guided math with small groups this past school!! First I began with fluency facts for 10 because that what our administrator wanted…then we partnered and focused on vocabulary. Yes the problem of the day does take

longer than 15 minutes so you have to still time from something else at least one day a week. Depending on what the agenda is for our school, I get to see at least two groups a day and focus on needs. I found it more beneficial when the lesson is introduced during whole group then I go around from student to student identifying students who were struggling with the concept or skill. That’s how I got my small/flexible groups! Groups may never be the same all of the time! Assessments are given at this time as well! However one thing that was very challenging …managing students who left me to practice the skill! I needed students to be more accountable???! Yes students worked on choice boards for the week/2 weeks at a time/assignments were graded/ students also focused on games and assignments on google classroom! I always had to be prepared. But I prayed and I made it to the end of the school year! ?????????.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Still Learning!!

I love this approach! I’d like to try it in my 2nd grade classroom. Do you have a 2nd Grade bundle for story problems? I only saw a few individual months in TpT. Thanks!

I’m working on getting the rest of the bundle finished, but it’s not quite there yet. I hope to have it done in the next few weeks!

This is exactly what I have been doing in my 3rd grade class for the last 2 years and I love it. This year I will be teaching a 3/4 class and I said yes because I was so used to working with 2 groups that I thought I would be up for the challenge. The websites I use for the technology part are xtramath.com (math facts), TenMarks.com and Accelerated Math through Renaissance (our school has a license). There are days when we do whole group because of scheduling.

This was an incredible resource! Thank you for the details!

I teach fifth grade, so I’m wondering what we could do in place of the number of the day. Maybe we could use it with a well planned fifth grade resource. Any suggestions?

Hi Tessa,

I attended the webinar on this topic last week and we ended up having tons of technical difficulties to the point where I left the session early. I was and am still very saddened by this because I’m extremely interested in utilizing your techniques to strengthen my math block for this upcoming school year.

Was the webinar recorded and if so, is it available for us to view now?

Thanks A Bunch!

Shana

Hi Shana, only the audio was recorded so I don’t know how helpful it would be but I’m happy to email it to you. Most of what I covered in the webinar was covered in the blog post as well. What questions or concerns do you still have? Feel free to email me at talesfromoutsidetheclassroom@gmail.com

I really like your explanation of how you split the block- quick question- do you give notes and have students fill them out when you teach the standard to half the class?

No, I don’t do notes. I have the students working through the problems along the way. I do very little lecturing or explaining myself.

Wow. This post is so helpful! I have been struggling with teaching math in 2 groups, but your strategies from the different groups is definitely going to help. Thank you! 🙂

This sounds amazing! I do centers right now and just matter how many times I’ve set expectations, modeled, redirected, etc. the students in the centers are still off task and lot getting quality practice during that time. Do you have any suggestions for what the other half of the class could do if there aren’t enough devices to have half in tech? I started a Donors Choose page to raise money for some more devices, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions for other activities. Thank you so much!

The reason I use tech as my other half is because it keeps them engaged pretty well. You could have students do an independent skill review like a spiral or a warm up at their seats. I find my students are more productive at their seats so sometimes just bringing things to their seats helps them stay quiet and focused since they don’t have their peers. So, at times I would still do centers type activities but just independently.

I have been teaching for 5 years and next year will be my second year in second grade. I have never seen a rotation schedule like yours, but it makes complete sense and I think it could really make an impact (so long as the principal okays it). I teach in a low performing school so I was wondering if you think rotating between number talk and math fact practice to create some extra time to pull students for intervention or one on one support could work?

I am also curious about what you use for assessments (we have curriculum benchmarks) and what your math block looks like on the days that assessments are given?

This is my fifth year teaching (4 years in 1st and 1 year in 2nd). I have changed and tried so many different schedules for math and always been left frustrated. I really like your idea of splitting the class in half. I have a couple of questions about how the schedule could work because I teach in a high needs school, so intervention and extra support is present in every classroom…

Do you think it would be that big of an impact to alternate (or tie in) math facts to the number of the day that way there is additional time allotted to work one on one with students needing more support?

Also what does your schedule look like on days when assessments are given and what do your assessments look like (we have curriculum benchmark assessments) – how do these assessments impact meeting with your groups and completing the ‘normal’ routine?

When I do number of the day students are generally still receiving math fact practice as they are using their facts to help them find ways to make the number. I keep my fact time separate to ensure students are receiving practice in both. If you needed the time and decided to alternate the days I think it’d be fine. I’m not sure how that gives additional time for one on one though, so I must not be visualizing what you’re saying.

My assessments are generally given on Fridays and students transition to something else when they’re completed. Depending on the length of the assessment, I may tell them to go to their center for the day. I’ve even had students do the assessment during their “me” time and then I’m walking around and giving encouragement. I don’t have a set way, and have just done what I thought was best for that particular assessment.

Can you give more information on the technology you use? Do the programs you use cost? How do use set the skill taught? Can the students work on the same skill that you teach that day? Does it take a lot of time to set up the technology for that day of teaching skill?? I absolutely love your ideas. It’s so much better than spending tons of time creating centers and games. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your ideas. I teach 5th grade so I will look on TPT for similar warm-ups. Thank you so much!!!

I use Moby Max and Front Row the most. Both have paid versions. For Front Row, I use the free version. I generally have students working on their individualized path practicing the skills they need in a specific domain, but I’ve also assigned specific lessons to practice the skills they are lacking in. There’s validity in both types of thinking. I’ve also heard good things about Prodigy for free online practice.

Thank you for this post! I am going back to teaching 3rd after doing 4th grade ELA for a year. I have been searching for how to make my math block work. Like you, the guided math posts always sounded great, but I could never make it work just right for me! I am wondering, truly, if you have seen consistently better results this way? I also have about 60 minutes for math, so I am trying to figure out how to get it all in. The answer is that I probably can’t 🙂 This sounds great!

Yes, I absolutely have seen better results this way. I’m better able to meet my students at their individual needs and really notice their mistakes and missteps early.

I am so glad to see this post! I felt the same way about my kinder math block… my kiddos were not engaged and I felt like ideas doing them a disservice with the centers/rotations! until I thought of a system like this! It has worked wonders. I can’t wait to try this again this year!

Do you have a curriculum or math book you follow? We have a math book and we are expected to do a math lesson a day from the book. So, how do you make that work with this set up? I have been trying to find a center set up that works for me. I have been struggling.

When I wrote this post I was not mandated to use my math curriculum, but I now am. I work through the lesson within the small groups. My high group goes through it more quickly and I can still enrich them a bit. My lower group does not complete it all and we work through it much more slowly and with more scaffolding.

I am limited to 3 computers in my classroom. So having my groups on tech would be difficult. I could rotate them through and have another center. But what would you suggest?

I like the tech center because I don’t have to explain directions very much- just basically if they’re working in a specific domain or not. You could do partner games or a hands-on center where students are exploring pattern blocks, geo boards, base 10 blocks etc. depending on your grade.

I have felt the same exact way about my math block with centers and rotations. After our reading block I am tired and trying to make 3 math groups work in our short amount of time I was disappointed and frustrated. I am so excited to try this out and see how my kids begin to grow! Also, I love the layout of your math block and how you incorporate a lot of number sense activities! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope it works well for you and your students!

Do you think this method would work for a 3/4 combo? I’m struggling with how to plan math for both grades!

I think you could certainly make this work. My first thought was that you would split your class based on readiness rather than grade, but thinking that through, it might mean your 4th graders would not get that 4th grade content which could be a problem. I also thought you could make your splits by grade level for the specific grade level content. That way, students are exposed to what they need and then you can keep whole class routines for the things that aren’t standard specific. Without knowing the makeup of your class, it’s hard to speak in certainties.

What do you and your students do during the 5 minutes before/after groups? What do you and your students do during the fact fluency time at the end?

The 5 minutes before/after is transition time. So that’s students putting materials away and moving and gathering what they need for the next group, and me resetting for me. I don’t time that portion super closely and we make it as quick as possible, trying to steal a few extra minutes for group.

A few years ago I did Rocket Math during that time, which is why I initially built it in. I have since moved away from Rocket Math, and so we play 5 in a Row instead.

Hi there! I teach Ready Math and iReady, and am moving from 2nd grade to 1st grade this year. How do you specifically use Ready lessons when teaching the math lessons? Do you utilize the dialogue slides? Each lesson typically starts with a word problem of some kind and an opportunity for kids to try to figure out how to solve it and then the discussion of different strategies. I could see this part being pretty much the same for both groups. Then, do you work through the application problems and scaffold as students work, or do you still have to do lots of explaining through those problems? Do students do the independent practice sheets on their own?

I really, *really* want to do something different, but I have found, at least in 2nd grade, that sometime whole group Ready Math lessons take 30 to 40 mins, especially on day 3 and 4! I don’t know if this is true in 1st, but I have struggled finding the time to make this work when I tried math workshop, etc. I’d would sincerely appreciate any advice or guidance you might have. Thanks a bunch, and I hope you are enjoying your summer!! 🙂

Hi there! How I used the Ready materials changed every single year, unfortunately. Because the curriculum is written at a much high level, what my kids needed varied each year. In 1st, I didn’t have quite as much of a need to have two different groups because students didn’t have as much of a span. But I still did it because it allowed me to really hone in on my lower kids and their needs. I would pull my group and we would model it together typically. My lower group needed much more scaffolding on strategies and the word problems themselves and I would ask more lower level questions. We did things much more step by step together. While I still would ask them open ended questions and to explain their reasoning, we would do things step by step at a time. My higher group needed much less scaffolding and support so I relied on open ended questions like “What did you do?”. We also did a word problem outside of our Ready lessons (as I’ve detailed here) so students got to hear from students of all abilities. The reason I continued with this was because it allowed me to have a real eye on my kids and allowed me to know exactly how each was doing- and to make it so the struggling students weren’t just relying on their much stronger peers.

Also, I would start at the beginning of the pages with the curriculum. I wouldn’t worry about finishing all of the independent practice pages. We would get done what we could get done each week. When we got to the independent practice pages I could have my higher group work for 10 minutes or so, and then we could go over the problems together. With my lower students, I’d have them work independently on one problem, and we’d go over it. Then they’d do the next. The students still had independent practice, but I was able to keep an eye on their work to provide soft support, and they weren’t spending a large chunk of time floundering on their own. I use the Practice & Problem Solving pages as homework- often the week after we do the lesson in class. That way, students should be able to do them independently.

I hope this helps! Feel free to email me at talesfromoutsidetheclassroom @ gmail to talk through it more!

Hi! I use this split method in my classroom as well and have been looking for any research to back it up but have found none- I came across your post though! Do you have any research that supports this method?

No, I started doing it after trial and error in my classroom and it worked for me and my students. I haven’t looked for any research on it, though.

Hi Tessa! So I’m going through this in my head and I’ve come across a question that I can’t figure out the best way to solve. If I meet with group 1 first, they can work on individual practice/tech or whatever about the day’s lesson, BUT group 2 would be starting with the individual work/tech/etc and since they haven’t learned the days lesson, would it be review from the previous day? Would group 1 always have learning and practice on the same day and group 2 have review and learning (more or less)? I know that it could vary depending on their needs but the individual work time would have to incorporate our district’s curriculum that has a workbook so I’m just seeing if I’m thinking through this method correctly.

I’m really wanting to try this method because centers were way too much work and prep on my part and I’m excited you shared so much information about your idea and experience! Thank you!

Hi! Because of exactly what you said (group 2 not having the day’s instruction yet) I don’t tend to have the work be specific to what we’re learning, especially early in the week. My district requires us to do 30-45 minutes a week with an online program so I usually do that early in the week. It’s supposed to be targeted to their individual deficiencies. Then, later in the week, I layer in specific practice. By Wednesday, my higher group (usually my group 2 for that reason) is able to work on this week’s skill independently from the two previous day’s instructions. I also sometimes put in games or previous review during the week or if it’s a skill I don’t want students to do much practice with without me.

As for workbooks, I do typically use mine in my small groups with me. That way, I can see how students are doing on it and correct misconceptions right away.