Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Workshop Wednesday #6- Small Group Instruction

Every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer  I will be blogging about the components of math workshop,  how I implement math workshop in my 7th grade classroom, the tools and resources I use, and I will be answering any questions posed by readers.  I have previously written several posts about doing Math Workshop in middle school.

These are the previous three posts I have written in this series:

Workshop Wednesday #1-Getting Started
Workshop Wednesday #2-Opening
Workshop Wednesday #3-Mini-Lesson
Workshop Wednesday #4-Work Time
Workshop Wednesday #5-Sharing and Reflection

Today is the sixth post of the series; Workshop Wednesday #6-"Small Group Lessons". 

Small group lessons are probably one of my favorite things about math workshop.  I also think it's one of the most effective things I do to meet the needs of each individual learner in my classroom.  

I do not have much need to do small group lessons with my Honors Math class, but once in awhile I would pull a few small groups if formative data showed the need for it.

I frequently pull small groups in my regular math classes.  We have a computer program MATHia that our students work on two days a week (on average).  This is the time I will typically pull small groups.  The students who are not working with me in a small group are busy working independently on MATHia.  It works out very well.

I previously blogged about how I did Small Group Lessons during our unit on two-step equations.  I plan my small group lessons based on formative assessment results.  We do Standards Based Grading in my school, so students get a score between 0-4 on anything I grade (which is just formative or summative assessments).  

I will quickly group the formatives based on scores.  Students who receive a 4 need do not need a small group lesson.  Often students who receive a 3 don't really need a small group lesson, they just need to chat with me for a minute or two.  I tend to focus mainly on students who score 0-2 on formatives.  Obviously I need to spend the most time on students who score 0-1 because they have the greatest need for some small group reteaching.

I mix up which groups I start with for small group time, so one day I may start with the students who scored 2 and another time I may start with those who scored 0.  I tend to prefer to start with the higher scores first because those lessons don't take as long the others.  I feel that sometimes if I start with the 0 or 1 I use up all the class time and don't get to everyone.

Each time I do small group lessons this all varies based on the results I get from the formatives and how many small groups I need to have.  My small group lessons are between 1-5 students.  I try to work with groups of 4-5 students most of the time because when you have class sizes of 30 students, it's a more effective use of time.

A couple things that are built into our daily schedule that I really love are Core Plus and Homebase.  Some days I just do not have time in math class to meet with every student that needs small group or one on one intervention.  There is only one of me and 30 of them.  I use Core Plus a lot to pull small groups when I can.  If I run out of time I may have students come back during Homebase for a small group lesson.  I don't need to do that too often because I have a pretty good handle on grouping students effectively and using that Core Plus time.

This blog post explains how I had students request a Small Group Lesson via google form.  I need to do that more often.  I like giving students the chance to request small group instruction when they feel the need for it.

During small groups students either write on their formatives or use whiteboards and dry erase markers.  They love using whiteboards and will usually choose those when given the chance.  We will work through the problems they had trouble with and also do a few other similar problems until they show mastery on the concept.

Small groups are a great way for me to understand their thinking by listening to their reasoning as we work through the problems.  I love to see how students will start explaining to each other how to do the problems once they understand.  I think it's helpful to have students learn from their peers whenever possible.

Feedback from students on my end of the year survey that they really appreciated small group lessons:

What did you like best about this class?

  • Something I like about this class would be the small groups because if we do need help we can fully understand what we were confused
  • I like how Mrs. Nackel gives time for kids who don't understand to get extra time to work with her in small groups or independently.
  • The lessons are easy to understand, and if you don't get something Mrs. Nackel will help you if you need it

What helped you learn in math class this year?
  • The one on one time
  • All of the example that were available such as the small groups or asking questions.
  • The small groups
  • Just that I was in her Math core plus since I struggle in math. 
  • The formatives, because through the formatives I was able to figure out I did not know and what I needed extra help on. 
  • The core plus helped a lot. 


  1. I love your ideas about math workshops! I'm starting student teaching in October, and am looking forward to continuing to build my own teaching style. This is really similar to how I want my classroom to be ran and I love how you let students use Google Forms to request small group instruction. How has this worked so far? Successful?

  2. I would love to read your post about "conferring" in math workshop! I am teaching 6th grade math this year and love your ideas!


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