How to group your students in Guided Math

Guys… how many times have you heard the word “differentiate” during college, a PD, your normal working day? I hear about it all of the time. Seriously…all of the time. My first two years- I smiled and nodded and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.
Then I had a district person come in and she asked me what my weakness was…I, of course, said to differentiate and group students. She watched my lesson and came back and said to me that I did everything just the way that I was supposed to. That I had already differentiated and grouped my students correctly.
So how do I group my students?
I sort my kids into 4 groups. These groups have very easily fluctuated. They do not stay in this group forever and I make it well known that they could move groups very quickly. The 4 math groups that I have are high, high-medium, low-medium, and low. I know it’s riveting!! It is actually very helpful and is one of my favorite methods to use while grouping.
So at the beginning of the year, I look at the previous school years score. I try to do a pretest at the beginning of the year so I can gauge where they are before each unit. In 5th, our units are broken down like this:
Units 1-3- Multiplying and dividing whole numbers
Units 4-6- Decimals
Units 7-9- Fractions
Unit 10- Measurement
Unit 11- Geometry
Why did I tell you this? This is how I sort my kids. If my students tested low at the beginning of the year, I would place them in a specific group. So let’s start with my “class” and I say it is a quotation mark because they are not my real kids.  There are ten math problems that fall under Units 1-3. If you are a standards-based school, you will want to combine all of the standards that would fall under your first unit.
Let’s look at the 10 questions and break them up…

  • High- 8-10 questions answered correctly would fall in the high group. (Should be 80% or higher)
  • High-Medium- 5-7 questions answered correctly would fall in the high-medium group. (50%-79%)
  • Low-Medium- 3-4 questions answered correctly would fall in the low-medium group. (30%-49%)
  • Low- 1-2 questions answered correctly would fall in the low group. (1-29%)

Obviously, you will alter your numbers based on the numbers that cover the specific skill/standard.
I really try to keep the groups small however I only have four groups. This year I have 24 kids so sorting them means each group has 6… but sometimes I have more than 6 in a group.
How do I overcome that?
I look at the assessment as a whole. I look to see did they struggle as a whole on the assessment? Should they be in a higher group? A lower group?
Remember, you are a teacher. You know if a kid would be a low kid, a medium kid, or a high kid. Make the decision for your kids and listen if they are in too high of a group, move their group.
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