How to Plan & Organize Your Guided Math Groups

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The school year is halfway through.  If you’re like me, you are thankful for this winter break and are enjoying time with family.  You are also using your break to review what is working in your classroom and what needs to be changed.

Today I will share with you how you can set up and organize a math workshop model that will help you reach every student!  I hope you will take this guide, modify as needed, and use it in your classroom to help you and your students have a successful year!

In this guide I will cover these topics:

  • How to organize your students into small groups
  • How to find practical and concise material to differentiate your instruction
  • How to set up math stations that are painless to manage

The goal of this math workshop model is to set up a system that gives students responsibility. They will know where to go and what to do.  They will know what is expected of them and stay on task.  This means you can use every minute to focus your attention on a small group of students.

STEP #1 – ORGANIZE YOUR STUDENTS

Here is the most important part – organizing your students into groups.  It is difficult to do this at the beginning of the year, but by now you know your students better than anyone.  Yes, you can look at the data collected by those online assessments, but lets face it – those assessments are sometimes way off.  Use whatever data you have as a start, but use your professional judgment to make the final call.

Sticky notes

Write each student name on a sticky note/index card/etc.  This will make moving students around a simple task.  I had some extra TABS that I used.  Now let’s get started.  I typed up a nice little page for you to use as you are brainstorming groups (click to print).  It will help you think of the following…

  • Who are my struggling students that need remediation?
  • Who is right on target (grade level)?
  • Who has mastered the skills & needs enrichment?
  • Which students can NOT be in the same group?
  • Which students have STRONG teamwork skills?

Now’s the fun part – start putting the sticky notes in those groups.  Notice how there are TWO groups for struggling students.  You will meet with these students twice a week in small groups.  Below is an example of what your small group planning sheet may look like.

math workshop - small groups - planning sheet

Now that you have your students in groups, it’s time to write this down on the ‘official’ math group page (click to print). Keep in mind when you want to meet with your students.  Use the following as a guide:

math small groups

Now you should have a pretty list that looks something like this.  Be sure to print out extra sheets and keep them in the sheet protector, so you can make changes to the groups as needed.

math workshop - small groups

STEP #2 – USE PRACTICAL AND CONCISE MATERIAL

After you form your groups you need to decide what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to organize it.   Finding quality material for each group can easily turn into a time consuming task.  After 5 years of teaching 3rd grade, I have come up with a math curriculum series that will save you time and make planning small groups a breeze.  This will ensure that you use each minute effectively.

How do I decide what to teach?

You could continue to focus on skills you taught during your whole-group instruction.  You could also decide to focus on the concepts that students struggled on during the first part of the school year.

Let’s look at the following..

  • Part 1: How to keep organized lesson plans
  • Part 2: How to keep track of each student’s level of mastery
Math Binder – Part 1

I’ve typed up a one page small group – lesson plan template on excel.  This is so convenient, because you can plan your entire week on one page and have a clear view of what you are going to teach.  This lesson plan template is pretty neat because I’ve included drop-down menus to make lesson planning simple.

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The editable lesson plan templates are available for grades 1-5 and you can choose the following from the drop down menus:

  • The domain you are focusing on
  • The standard being taught/reviewed
  • The problem solving strategy you are working on
  • *Some of the templates include standards from the previous and next grade, so you can keep track of remediation & enrichment.

Click on the pictures to download a blank PDF version of the lesson plan template.Math Workshop Lesson Plan Templates

Download the EDITABLE Templates!

Subscribe and receive the EDITABLE lesson plan templates and common core math check lists today!

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Math Binder – Part 2

There is also a sheet that you can use for each student.  Yes, it seems like a lot of work, but if you organize the sheets per group it won’t take more than a few of minutes to check the standards for each student.

To make this section you will need 4 dividers with tabs.  Label them Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and Group 4 (see pictures below).  You will need to print a level of mastery sheet for each student.

When organizing the level of mastery sheets, group them together according to what math small group they are in.  So, if students #2, 5, 7, 8, and 12 are in group 2, I would put those sheets behind the Group 2 tab in the binder.

math workshop - level of mastery student sheets

Click the images below to download a PDF version of the common core math checklists.

math level of mastery math level of mastery2 math level of mastery3 math level of mastery4 math level of mastery5

coversheets

Purchase the Math Tri-Folds and make your small group lesson planning a breeze.

math tri-folds 1st grade tri-folds2 tri-folds3 tri-folds4 tri-folds5

STEP #3 – SET UP MATH STATIONS

I have always displayed the math rotations on pocket charts, but I’ve decided to do something different.  I set up the math rotations display on an easel.  The rotation cards are printed on regular sheets of paper and are inside sheet protectors.  This allows me to write down what is expected at each station.  It also makes changing the dates simple! (Download the rotation cards here.)

math workshop - math rotations - use sheet protectors!

Students also have a copy of where they go inside their math workshop folder. I also have master in my math binder. (Download the student folder sheets here.)

math workshop - student folders

What do students do during each rotation?

When finding material for math stations I ask myself the following:

  • Are they aligned to the standards? There are a lot of cute games out there, but we don’t have time for busy work in my class.
  • Are they simple to assemble/maintain? I like math stations that I can print/laminate and can store for years to come.
  • Are they interesting/fun?  Everyone needs a break from boring paperwork, so I want students to learn and have fun during this time.

Now let’s look at each math station.

Math Rotation #1 – Teacher

This is when students come to the teacher and have a small group math lesson that is focused on remediation or enrichment.  We may complete a math tri-fold during this time or review something the students struggled with during whole-group instruction.

Math Rotation #2 – Computer

My school bought a subscription to iXL.com.  Students complete standards that I’ve assigned them (on rotations display).  You can also assign students math activities using MangaHigh.com. I have recently created interactive, paperless math centers for grades 3-5. You can view them by clicking here.

Math Rotation #3 – Independent

This rotation is where I place math board games, task cards, sorts, or interactive notebook activities.  I write down what students are to do on the rotations display.  Math games are stored inside plastic drawers (extra wide).  I place the games that students are going to work on in the colorful drawers.  Students take the game with them to their math spot. I will post about how I organize math games in a future post.

  • Math GAMES –  These math games will save you time and help students stay focused and organized during math centers. Click the links to learn more.

third grade math centers fourth grade math centers fifth grade math centers

  • Math Sorts  – This is my newest product for 3rd grade.  You will find math sorts that cover ALL 3rd grade math standards.  You can learn more about math sorts here. (2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade)
  • Interactive Math Vocabulary – Students love interactive notebooks, and this product focuses on vocabulary.  (Click to view 3rd grade)
Math Rotation #4 – iPad

Students can use Google Slides to complete a digital math center for the specific standard you are teaching. Below are links to the available growing bundles.

third grade digital math resources for google classroom. google slides for math centers Third Grade Paperless Math Centers – Students can complete these assignments using Google Classroom or Microsoft 365 (a PowerPoint version is included).
fourth grade digital math resources for google classroom. google slides for math centers Third Grade Paperless Math Centers – Students can complete these assignments using Google Classroom or Microsoft 365 (a PowerPoint version is included).
fifth grade digital math resources for google classroom. google slides for math centers Third Grade Paperless Math Centers – Students can complete these assignments using Google Classroom or Microsoft 365 (a PowerPoint version is included).
 Apps for Math Workshop MangaHigh.com is an awesome site! The games are SO much fun and aligned to the standards. No app needed, simply go to MangaHigh.com!

Another student favorite is the use of QR codes.  Students complete task cards, record, and check using the QR codes.  You can use the following sheet to plan your rotations for the entire week!

math workshop rotations - weekly lesson plan template

math rotations planning sheet

Let’s Review!

In order to successfully implement  this math workshop model, you will need to…

  • Organize you students into 4 groups.
  • Use standard specific material during small group meetings
  • Set up a math rotations display so student know where to go
  • Set up student math folders where they keep their math workshop material
  • Set up math stations that are easy to manage
  • Review expectations, practice, & review some more!

Are you ready to start planning your math groups?

Download the EDITABLE Templates!

Subscribe and receive the EDITABLE lesson plan templates and common core math check lists today!

Powered by ConvertKit

Mrs. Santillana

Mrs. Santillana

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75 thoughts on “How to Plan & Organize Your Guided Math Groups”

  1. This was very informative and gave me very helpful tips to get small groups going. Thank you for sharing your organization tips and ideas!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words πŸ™‚ I’m so happy you found some ideas you can use in your classroom!

      Reply
      • I wanted to try guided math groups last year but chickened out because I had a very high maintenance group. I teach 4th grade, 2 sections/classes of math per day. This year I will have 23 students in one class and 18 in the other. However I only have 60 -70 minutes max to teach each class. Do you think I can be successful with this? I would greatly appreciate any advice/feedback!

        Reply
    • Thank you so much for sharing these awesome ideas and documents. You are very kind. I will make sure we implement them for our ESOL math groups.

      Reply
    • Do you teach any whole group instruction? Is that was you are doing when they meet with the teacher? And how long do you have them spend at each station?

      Reply
    • Thank you for taking the time to explain your approach for math stations. I love the forms. I think they will truly help keep all of the details organized so that I can focus on the teaching.

      Reply
  2. Thank you so much! This is very helpful. This is the closest I have come to being able to organize centers in my class. I was trying to do six groups but I will narrow it down to four groups. Thank you again!

    Reply
  3. all of this is wonderful and Ive started implementing today. How can I download the math workshop lesson plan template that includes the dropdown box menus? That would be so helpful.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • I am working on them, i’m going to try and contact you on the email you left. I taught 1st grade 5 years ago, but want to get an opinion of a current 1st grade teacher.

      Reply
    • I am happy to help πŸ™‚ Once you get a schedule going, math workshop doesn’t seem an impossible task. Good luck! I’d love to know how it goes πŸ™‚

      Reply
  4. This is wonderfull!! I don’t have ipads or computers or laptops, but I think I could do it with manipulatives only. What domyou think?

    Reply
    • Oh course! You could do a manipulative station. There are TONS of great activities made on TPT that will save you time πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Just found your site. I am looking at several things as I start looking at changes for next year. Just a few questions if you have a moment. What do you do with the tri-folds after completing? Is that something I can have them glue into interactive notebook ?

    Reply
    • Hey! Usually tri-folds 1 and 2 are completed during small group instruction. They then whole punch them and put them in a binder (binders are kept in their cubbies). It’s great because students have a collection divided by tabs for each strand. The 3rd tri-fold is graded and sent home in their Thursday folder πŸ™‚

      You could glue them in a notebook, but you would have to glue the side with the name of the tri-fold. If you have anymore questions, feel free to send me an email @ mathtechconnections@gmail.com

      Reply
  6. This is amazing, but again I love everything you do! Similar to your blog post on reading workshop…what does your math workshop look like? How long do you meet with each group? I try to meet with everyone every day and it can be very overwhelming. If I could make this work and convince my principal…I think I would feel way less overwhelmed.

    Reply
    • Hey, thanks! I’ve switched it so many times…even during each year it changes. I start with just meeting with one group per day when I start introducing centers. We then gradually increase the time of math workshop and the number of groups I see. Sometimes I meet with one group in the morning and then 2 groups in the afternoon. Sometimes I meet with two groups on one day and then the other two the next day. It really has to do with your schedule. I don’t see why your principal would say no. Teaching in small group really is the way to go. You can help students at their level and really help them as soon as they need it. I’ve found that when you teach whole group those that don’t understand get very behind… and those who get it, get so bored. Good luck, let me know if you want me to help you brainstorm a schedule. You can email me at mathtechconnections@gmail.com πŸ™‚

      Mariela

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much! I’m a teacher in Australia so Common Core isn’t applicable to us here but the concepts and ideas are! I run my maths group rotations similar to the way you do so these resources are fabulous! Thank you so much…Michelle from Sydney Aust

    Reply
  8. I love the idea of math stations. I am a middle school math intervention teacher and wanted to do stations but was they never got past the planning stage. Do you have any material for 6-8th grade?

    Reply
  9. I was so happy to find this pin. You’ve outlined exactly what I’ve been hoping to incorporate next year. I will be purchasing your TpT products very soon. Thank you for sharing your hard work.

    Reply
  10. This is amazing!!! I was the ELA fourth grade teacher last year and will be the Math/Science fourth grade teacher for the upcoming school year. I was not happy about this and not sure where to begin and what to do. I have been searching for ideas and stations and your information came up. I was super excited to see everything that you have done and willingly shared. I would like to say a great BIG THANK YOU for doing this. I was not comfortable with what to do and you have laid it all out for me. You are truly amazing! I saw in your post that you mentioned that you had fourth grade centers coming soon. Are they available now? How long do students stay in their centers?

    Reply
  11. Thank you so much for this! I have always struggled with small groups in math. We do Engage New York for whole group instruction. If you have time, how do you implement this while doing while group instruction? Thank you πŸ™‚

    Reply
  12. Hi.
    Can you clarify how his Day A to Day C works both within a typical day and a 5 day week. Are you doing any whole group math instruction on new standards or are all new concepts taught in this format? I can’t figure out if there’s some whole group lesson time daily or if perhaps that’s done 1-2 days a week and then the workstations days A to C are the other 3 days of a typical 5 day week. Are the workstations your whole math teaching block or just a par of it?

    Also, your answer on 4/23 about how you teach the workstations confuses me as it mentions seeing 1 group in the am and 2 groups in the PM which equals 3 groups a day and it looks like the workshop is set up for 2 groups a day??

    Can you explain more about the QR codes? You said”Another student favorite is the use of QR codes. Students complete task cards, record, and check using the QR codes. You can use the following sheet to plan your rotations for the entire week!” Thank you . A friend referred me to your site.

    Reply
  13. I think you are great and I love your ideas! I cannot wait to buy the 4th grade center bundle and interactive vocabulary set! When will you be selling those?

    Reply
  14. Thank you! I am starting a position teaching division 2 opportunity ( basically grade 4,5,6 at grade 1,2,3, or more levels). I have been fretting about how I can get organized, especially as I can not do to much planning until I meet the kids and find out where they are at. I am just starting to read your website but think you will be a tremendous help. Thanks again.

    Reply
  15. Love everything I just read here. Question for you. Do you know where I can get this in sixth grade checklist and other forms? Thanks.

    Reply
  16. I am going to begin a Blended Learning Rotation Model within my 5th grade classroom this year. Your organization is OUTSTANDING and I will be using it to help me with the process of bringing in workshops.

    Reply
  17. Thank you so much for this post. I am a first-year 3rd grade math and science teacher. This post and information along with the handouts has helped me get my small group planning organized.

    Reply
  18. How do you use the trifolds? What does whole group consist of? How long is your whole group? Do you use a specific curriculum, and do students complete independent work in a book? Thanks! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  19. Are Day A,B, and C all separate days? If yes, do you take 3 days to teach one standard? I love this idea and would like to try it, just trying to wrap my head around only 2 stations a day. Thanks!

    Reply
  20. This post was so helpful , since I’m teaching Math for the first time in many years. Plus, I’m trying to set up rotations in my own room. However, even though I signed up for your blog quite some time ago, it wouldn’t allow me to download your templates or your Math Intervention Guide. I even tried signing up again, but it didn’t make a difference. Suggestions? jgteach2reach@yahoo.com. Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  21. I just purchased your 3rd grade tri-fold product and it is great however on one of your previews it shows the learning goals on the product but when downloaded the learning goals are not on there. Was this a mistake? I hope I was not seeing things. lol πŸ™‚

    Reply
  22. Hello! I love your system here! I’m curious if you do whole group and if so how long? How do you use the trifolds? Also in a 5 day week can you explain a bit more how that works? Is it Monday- A, Tuesday B, Wednesday- C, Thursday (Start over on day A) etc? Please get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you!! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  23. Hello! Thank you so much for all your helpful information! It’s my first year teaching and I’m beyond overwhelmed. After reading your post I feel more confident in beginning the implementation of DI. Do you happen to have resources for 1st grade?

    Reply
  24. You have taken tons of stress off of me. I have been struggling with doing math centers and now it is crunch time. Thank you so much this is going to work for me.

    Reply
  25. Hi! This resource is awesome!! I teach 4th grade and this resource for my specific grade level would be a tremendous help for the start of the year. I know you are probably trying to enjoy your summer can you provide a tentative timeline of completion for grade four? Oh where are my manners. THANKS for all the amazing downloads!

    Reply
  26. Wow! This is soooo helpful! I’m revamping my math centers this summer and I know this is going to help me set them up when I start the new year. One question…. Do you really only have 18 students in your class? If so, you are truly blessed and so are your kiddos!

    Reply
    • Hey! Organizing for the next year was one of my favorite things to do during the summer πŸ™‚ Yes, in Florida the maximum number of students is 18 (grades K-3). I actually had 16 students one year – it was amazing! Next year, however, I will be a full-time curriculum designer for my store, Math Tech Connections. I have mixed feelings for sure. Good luck organizing, and let me know if you have any questions.

      Reply
  27. I teach 3rd grade and I came across your blog. It’s awesome and I LOVE how informative and thorough it is! I am looking to change my math rotations for next year. The structures of math workshop I tried were just too overwhelming in that it was really a challenge to meet with all students every day. I plan to have 4 groups next year and I appreciate seeing that there are 2 rotations for each group each day. I definitely plan on trying this structure next year, and I look forward to trying this out with my 3rd graders. Thank you so much for all of the information and the freebies! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  28. Oh my goodness! You are an angel, this is wonderful information you have generously shared. A million thank yous!!

    Reply
    • You’re so welcome! If you can take any of this information and put it to use in your classroom, then I am one happy teacher! I KNOW that guided math is the way to go to reach every student πŸ™‚

      Reply
  29. I came across your post on pinterest, and I loved it! I tried stations last year and had some success, I am looking for more… Thank you for the step by step instructions. I can’t wait to implemented in my class.

    Reply
  30. Thanks for sharing all of this great information. It’s very useful for those who are trying to figure out how to get started!

    Reply
  31. This is so great! I want to start Math Rotations this year and this information will really help me get started. Thank you!

    Reply
  32. I love this! I have requested the editable printouts multiple times and it’s bot showing up in either of my mailboxes. Is there another way to get those?

    Reply
  33. Exactly what I was looking for, more condence then the formats I was using. That literally were not as coicieve as yours. I gathered pieces from all workshops I attended.
    Your format is exactly what works for me.
    – 4 or 5 groups
    -I just switched the iPad station for games with manipulatives/essential math/any game that correlate with the standard
    – only 2 rotations a day is genius .. Specially now that I’m with 2nd grade. After almost 9 years in the upper grades .. specially 4th
    – also having 3 days of Math centers is heaven
    Love it! Sharing with my team and starting next week

    Reply
  34. I love this!! I want to use the materials you have created, but I teach 6th grade. Any chance you will create these documents for 6th? Thanks!!

    Reply
  35. Really testing the idea of doing centers in my 30 student fourth grade math class. Whole group instruction just isn’t working, too many behavior issues and kids aren’t focused. Having 4 groups means I’ll have at least 7 kids in a group, do you think this will still work? I’m worried about the kids doing independent things and interrupting me while I’m trying to work with my group. Any advice or suggestions would be amazing! Thank you!

    Reply
  36. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this post and the FREE documents ( I love a good freebie!) I can’t wait to implement this in my first grade class. Thanks again, this was so informative and helpful!

    Reply
  37. Wow!! I love this! I am so looking forward to getting this ready for my math groups! You are so generous to share! I also wanted you to know that the link for the 5th grade tri-fold isn’t working. I was able to find it in your store. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Reply
  38. Thank you so much for this amazing blog. This is my first year in 3rd grade teaching math and science. My entire class are low to low medium students. This really gives me some idea of how to manage the groups, even when they can barely do it since they are in a 1st or 2nd grade level.
    Thanks,
    Nancy

    Reply

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