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Flexible Grouping. What is it? How can I use it?. Presented by Charity Dowell National Conference on Singapore Math Strategies 2011. The Challenge…. Differentiate Instruction… Foster Independence & ownership…. Manage the classroom… Assess, re-teach, enrich, & cover curriculum…

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Flexible grouping

Flexible Grouping

What is it?

How can I use it?

Presented by

Charity Dowell

National Conference on Singapore Math Strategies


The challenge
The Challenge…

Differentiate Instruction…

Foster Independence & ownership….

Manage the classroom…

Assess, re-teach, enrich, & cover curriculum…

… learning gaps…




  • 1980’s homogeneous grouping

  • Results

    • small effect size

    • inequality

      “…in other words it does little to narrow the gap between the low ability students and the middle and the high ability students”

      Marzano, Classroom Instruction That Works, p.85

One solution
One Solution…

  • Cooperative Learning/Flexible Grouping

  • Benefits:

    • Positive Interdependence

    • Face to Face pro-motive interaction

    • Individual and group accountability

    • Interpersonal and small group skills

    • Group Processing

    • Opportunities for decision making, aka problem solving

Marzano, 2001

Definition of flexible grouping
Definition of Flexible Grouping:

The informal grouping and regrouping of students throughout the school day based a upon a variety of criteria to create learning experiences that are focused on maintaining consistently high expectations for all students.

How does it relate to Singapore Math Strategies?

Research says flexible grouping
Research Says Flexible Grouping… grouping.

  • Raises school achievement (Gentry, 1999).

  • Equips students with social skills and conflict resolution abilities (Frydentall, LeWald, Walls, & Zarring, 2001).

  • Provides ownership of classroom behaviors (Baugous & Bendery, 2000).

  • Provides opportunities for social interactions (Valentino, 2000).

  • Increases individual achievement levels (Gentry, 1999).

Planning for grouping questions to consider
Planning for Grouping grouping.:Questions to Consider

Teacher or student lead?

  • When does grouping benefit students?

  • When does grouping facilitate instruction?

  • Which activities lend themselves to group work?

  • How do you determine group membership?

Flexible grouping1

Example: grouping.

The Daily 5

Flexible Grouping

Cooperative groups
Cooperative Groups grouping.

Think Pair & Share



Interest Based Activities

Skills Based Activities

Management… grouping.

  • How can flexible grouping be incorporated into the classroom?

  • Centers/Workstations

  • Cooperative Learning

  • Peer tutoring

  • Assistants, volunteers

  • Student choices

Now let s see what it looks like in a real classroom work stations
Now let’s see what it looks like in a real classroom…Work Stations…

Keep them flexible

Who’s in the group? classroom…Work Stations…

Keep them Flexible

  • Where are the bubble students?

Urgent! Urgent!

What is our purpose?

Identify specific needs & interests.

Achievement gaps occur when students are “Left behind”, “Just don’t get it”. Use cooperative learning time to address those needs.

How much time should I spend with each group?

Be creative classroom…Work Stations…

How do you form groups?

  • Popsicle sticks with names – last one picked chooses group

  • Puzzle pieces

Forming groups

  • Stickers on card, find matching sticker

  • Birthdays in seasons

Share ideas with your neighbor.

Ideas for organization
Ideas for Organization: classroom…Work Stations…

  • Appointments

APPOINTMENTS classroom…Work Stations…

Number bonds
Number Bonds classroom…Work Stations…

  • Students in K-2 study number facts to 10.

  • Students spend a significant amount of time on each number.

  • Students study number facts (bonds) to understand part-whole relationships.

  • After students master numbers through 9 they work on making bonds of 10. Ten is an anchor number.

Addition is commutative: Young mathematicians need hands on experience to discover this principle.

Practice number bonds & whole to part.

How many number bonds are there for a for any given number

How many number bonds are there for a for any given number?

Answer: Always one more than the number itself.

Continue making number bonds with tens frames.

How many bonds were you able to create?

Tip: Use a circle map to record your answers.

10 classroom…Work Stations…

Ten bracelet

Number bonds

9+1 10+0

0+10 5+5

2+8 7+3

4+6 1+9

3+7 8+2 6+4

My toes

My head

My hands

Tens family song

Number bond books
Number Bond Books classroom…Work Stations…

Create number bond boards for all of the bonds you are working on.

Leave out 1 of the numbers. In the blank box include a piece of Velcro.

Have a set of numbers 1-9 with velcro on the back.

Students fill in the missing numbers to complete the number bond

Make eleven
“Make Eleven” classroom…Work Stations…

  • Groups: Three students

  • Materials: None

    Directions: This game is great when you have a few minutes between classes or subjects and want to practice addition without getting out materials.

    All three students stand in a circle and put their right hands in a closed fist position, behind their backs. Without anyone seeing, each student opens their fist to show one, two, three, four, or five fingers.

    Together, they count to three, and then put their opened right hands inside the circle. They count their fingers. The goal is the make a sum of eleven.

The facts of life a k a math war
“The Facts of Life” classroom…Work Stations…(A.K.A. Math War)

  • Groups: Two or more

  • Materials: Playing or Number Cards

  • Directions: A student distributes cards, face down, to student players. Each player turns over two cards and adds them. The student with the greatest sum is the winner and gets all the cards. In the event of a tie, cards from the “round” are left on the table. Another round of adding is done. Winner takes all!

Facts on the brain
“Facts on the Brain” classroom…Work Stations…

  • Groups: Three students

  • Materials: Playing or Number Cards

  • Directions: the object of this game is to practice finding sums and missing addends. One player will be the sum finder, while the other two will be addends.

  • 1. The sum finder gives each addend a pile of cards that are face down.

  • 2. The sum finder counts aloud,” 1,2,3!”

  • 3. On “3,” each addend lifts a card from his or her pile and places it on their heads.

  • 4. The sum finder announces the sum of the two numbers.

  • 5. Knowing the sum, each addend looks at their partner’s number to determine their missing addend.

  • 6. The first student to announce the correct missing addend wins that round and gets both cards.

  • 7. The students repeat steps 2 through 6 and continue until their cards decks are used.

  • 8. When finished with the decks, students rotate roles and begin practicing again.

How do i assess this type of learning
How do I assess this type of learning? classroom…Work Stations…

  • Contribution chips.

  • Checks for understanding.

  • Product.

  • Anchor charts.

  • Progress : academic or behavior .

Aspects of formative assessment
Aspects of formative assessment classroom…Work Stations…

References: classroom…Work Stations…

  • http://www.eduplace.com/science/profdev/articles/valentino.html

  • http://www.syntiro.org/resources/handouts/PDF/handout%20-%20fg%20-%20tips%20on%20managing.pdf

  • http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Dozen-Surefire-Tips-on-Flexible-Grouping-and-Small-Group-Learning&id=4872300

  • Marzano, R. (2001). Classroom Instruction That Works: research based strategies that work. McRiel: Danvers, MA.

  • Moser, & Boushey. (2006). The Daily 5: Fostering literacy independence in the classroom. Crystal Spring Books:

  • http://www.learner.org/workshops/readingk2/pdf/session6/FlexibleGroups.2.pdf

  • www.rtsd.org/59996823234213/.../FLEXIBLE_GROUPING_WS.ppt

  • http://www.fcpsteach.org/docs/Differentiation.packet.pdf


  • http://www.eduplace.com/science/profdev/articles/valentino.html

  • Bellanca, J. & Fogarty, R. (1991): Blueprints for Thinking in the Cooperative Classroom. H.B.E.

  • Forsten, National Conference on Singapore Math Strategies 2010