Flexible Grouping


Return|to Tara Reed's Portfolio Page

Return to ETAP 623 taught by Byrne ETAP_623_Fall_2014_taught_by_Byrne


Anyone who thinks there is one right way to teach has never taught two children.

Do you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions by too many levels of students during the day? Are some students in your math class completely lost while others are bored because they have already mastered the material? Are you tired of being told to teach to the middle?

Then I suggest you give flexible grouping a try.

Flexbile grouping is not a new phenomenon. If you think back to the one room school house where one teacher had many different ages of teachers, you will probably see flexible grouping in action. How did they handle all of those ability levels? They learned to group certain students together during the school day in order to make things more manageable and more effective for the learners.

One of the best resources on this subject is the author Michael Opitz who writes for Scholastic Professional Books.

Opitz lists nine reasons for using flexible grouping in language, arts that can easily be adapted to math:

  • To ensure that all learners feel part of the community.
  • To help children better understand what they have read (or learned).
  • To enable students to work cooperatively with a wide variety of peers.
  • To help students feel more involved in their learning.
  • To capitalize on the research that supports the use of grouping as a way to engage students with appropriate instruction and materials.
  • To offset the effects of ability grouping.
  • To help the majority of students by using time efficiently.
  • To provide for individual differences using open-ended assignments.
  • To accomplish the goals of a reading (or math) program and address national standards.

With flexible grouping you can manage to keep your low students from falling behind and engage your high students in more complex work allowing them to gain deeper understanding and explore content further.


Lesson 1: What do we mean by flexible grouping?

In a discussion forum, the learners will compare and contrast flexible grouping with traditional ability grouping.

Lesson 2: How to get parents on board

In a written response, the learners will work independently or in teams to create an informational newsletter to parents explaining the implementation of flexible grouping in their classroom with 80% accuracy as graded by a rubric.

Lesson 3: Tier Organization

Given samples, students will create a method for organizing flexible grouping within their classrooms.

Lesson 4: Data Collection and Record Keeping

In a Google document, the learners will create a template for collecting data and keeping records with 80% accuracy as graded by a rubric.

Lesson 5: Putting It All Together

Given the classroom setting, the learners will create a plan to implement flexible grouping by utilizing a checklist.


List of Related Citations

Bassett, C., & McWhirter, J., & Kitzmiller, K. (1999). Teacher Implementation of Cooperative Learning Groups. Contemporary Education, 71 (1), 46-50.

Garder, Howard. (1993). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. NY: Basic Books.

Hollas, Betty. (2005). Differentiating Instruction in a Whole-Group Setting. Peterborough, NH: Crystal Springs Books.

Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1999). Making Cooperative Learning Work. Theory into Practice, 38 (2), 67-72.

Kagan, S. (1994). Cooperative Learning. San Clements, CA: Kagan Cooperative Learning.

McQuillan, P. (1997). Humanizing the comprehensive high school: A proposal for reform. Educational Administration Quarterly,33, 644-683.

Melser, N. (1999). Gifted students and cooperative learning: A study of grouping strategies. Roeper Review, 21 (4), 315.

Putnam, J., & Markovchick, K. (1996). Cooperative learning and peer acceptance of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Social Psychology, 136 (6),741-753.

Sparapani, E.., & Abel, F. (1997). Cooperative Learning: An investigation of the knowledge and classroom practice of middle grades teachers. Education, 118 (2), 251- 258.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (1995). The Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (1999). How to Differentiate in Mixed-Ability Classrooms.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD.