Flexible Grouping: Tips and Tricks – For the Teachers

Small Group of Students

There are as many ways to structure flexible grouping as there are teachers and classrooms.


  • Duration: Can range from part of one day to an entire school year
  • Subjects: For one or two subjects or all subjects (research suggests no more than two for most students)
  • Classes: Within a single class, within classes at one grade level, or among classes at multiple grade levels
  • Core Instruction or Supplemental:
    • In place of subject-level instruction (ie. the group becomes the students’ primary instruction for that subject) or in addition to the “regular” class (ie. the group is supplemental instruction)


  • The Needs of the Particular Group of Students
    • Are there just a few students with scores well above or below the rest of the class, or are their scores more evenly spread out, allowing for groups of similar sizes?
  • Schedules
    • When do the bells ring?
    • When are the biggest blocks of time during the school day?
    • Are there blocks of instructional time that two or three teachers share, allowing the possibility for the teachers to group across multiple classes?
    • When during the school year would be natural times to restructure groups? (ie. beginning of new units, start of the instructional terms/quarters, etc.)
  • Support of Teachers, Administrators and Parents
    • Are other teachers willing to do multi-class or multi-grade groups?
    • Does the school administration support grouping? Are there particular rules or guidelines that must be followed?
    • How and when will the grouping process and potential benefits be explained to parents and other stakeholders?
  • Materials Available
    • Are materials at a variety of academic levels available?
    • Are you restricted to particular curriculum, or can you bring in supplemental materials as needed?
  • Group within Groups
    • Example: If students are grouped by ability for a lesson, within those groups, students can be further grouped by interest or learning style
    • A Teacher’s Aide or other assistant may work with a small group of students within a group to even more specficially focus on a skill those kids need

Ideas from Other Teachers:

Fifth Grade Leveling Packet

    • Describes structure for flexible grouping in Math and Reading with three teachers

Transition Activities

    • Ideas for moving students to small groups and back to large group activities
    • from The Free Library

Cooperative Learning Strategies

    • Descriptions of strategies to help small groups stay on task and work together
    • from myread.com

Student Inventory Resources:

Communicating with Parents (One Teacher’s Examples):


Flexible Grouping: Tips and Tricks
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4 thoughts on “Flexible Grouping: Tips and Tricks

  • August 25, 2015 at 10:53 am

    I truly love this site!

    • August 28, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Thank you!

  • June 4, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for your ideas! Our elementary school is looking for ways to do flex grouping to address gaps and needs of all levels of students in the area of Math.. We have done reading flex grouping with 1st graders this year. (15 minute reading groups and all students are working with a licensed teacher every day of the week at their own instructional reading level. It’s been really great.

    That being said, does it seem developmentally appropriate to send students out for another subject of the school day? Is both math and reading too much? This seems like a lot of transitions for K-3. I realize that each classroom of children is different, and younger grades ( K-1) are still learning to be in an academic school setting, feel safe, make important connections with their teacher and make friends with the children of their elementary classroom. and school. While wanting to try something to address math needs at all levels, we are wondering what is appropriate i(n most cases ) for elementary age children to handle? Is there some research somewhere that our school can read ? Elementary schools are not set up to run like middle school and high schools for a reason. We know that, We have been estimating what this would look like to do this, We thought it might look like:

    Kdgn- Not done at all until until late January, and then only 1 day a week
    1st -done one day a week beginning in November? Then 1 day a week?
    2nd- Start out 1 day a week in October, then…?
    4th- ?
    5th-Begin at the end of September?
    It also seems like there needs to be an awful lot of testing to know who knows what skill as the elementary math manuals have whole group instruction and guided practice for many lessons. Is this even appropriate? Collaboration also needs to be factored in with the grade level teachers. We are already strapped down with 2 set weekly meetings on our prep, and 2 before school weekly meetings as well.

    We used to have funding for GT services so those students received pull out 1-2 days a week. Our EL ( English Learners) recieve flex group support within our Reading Flex Groups. With budget cuts, we are down to bare bones.

    We need to research this before jumping in with both feet and finding out it is a disaster for kids that are so young.

    Thanks so much!


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