Successfully Grouping Students for Centers is Vital for Growth

You have all of the procedures figured out, materials are organized for digital and print centers. You have a framework that is going to work for you and your classroom. Your centers are ready to rock! Now, it’s time to start meeting with students. How do you ever start to put your students into groups? When you start to meet with your students, you want to make sure you are grouping students for centers in a way that is going to make all your hard work worth it!

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Quick Recap on Grouping

Grouping students is no easy task, but you have a few options. When you group students, you can group them heterogeneously or you can group them homogeneously. Grouping students heterogeneously means you are putting students at different levels together. This can help with differentiation because you have students who are currently achieving at a higher level helping those who are not understanding quite as well yet. With homogenous grouping you are putting students together who are at a similar level. This is great for differentiation once the teacher center is reached because you know where these students are and what you need to do to challenge them to whatever the next level might be.

Breaking Down Your Groups

Breaking down your groups into the right formula can be difficult. I suggest starting by grouping students into three categories at first. This should be below basic, basic, and proficient. Then you can keep creating groups until you get the desired number of groups for your set up. While you are breaking down the groups, you can think about the personalities of each student as well. Thinking about the personality of each student is important because you want groups that are going to mesh.


Grouping Students in Centers for Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the best parts of math and literacy centers is they are great for review. If you’re starting to do some test prep, you want to group your students in a way that will be beneficial for you and for them. Now, you can go with their option (heterogeneous or homogeneous) and still differentiate, but you’ll want to make sure you’re grouping students in a way that is going to work best for your framework. Personally, I prefer homogenous groups. However, if you don’t have enough time in your center to do as much as you need to, you might want to consider heterogeneous grouping. On the other hand, if you have several students that need more help than others, you might want to have homogeneous groups and ensure your students are getting the review they need.

Keeping Groups Consistent

Once you have decided on what type of grouping you want to use for a unit or a lesson, you want to make sure you keep it consistent. Keeping students grouped with the same people over the length of a unit or however long you use a certain grouping type, can be beneficial to the student because of the consistency. Everyone, adults and children, do better when they are comfortable. If you keep students in the same group, they will learn how to work together better which will ultimately make the learning more dynamic in the group. In addition, students will take on various roles in the group which is awesome! However, there are benefits of switching groups up.

Switching it Up When Grouping Students for Centers

When students are in the same group there are several benefits. However, there are benefits to switching up groups in math and literacy centers. One of the first benefits of grouping students into different groups for centers is the variation of roles. When you have the same group, students will get comfortable where they are in their role. But if you switch it up, students will be required to take on new roles.

Students will do well with each other over time which is why keeping them together is great, but getting students too comfortable isn’t great either. Much like too many worksheets, keeping students in the same groups can start to cause problems. If students get too comfortable with each other, more arguments might ensue, behaviors might become an issue, and less and less work might get done. The best thing to do is to continue to monitor progress and behavior. If everything is going well, don’t fix what isn’t broke! On the other hand, if it’s getting crazy, it’s better to change it up and get students back on track.


Having Group Roles in Centers

While your students might naturally fall into roles, it’s not a bad idea to have roles set for each center. These roles can be a part of the color coded lanyards that you may use to keep the centers organized. In each center, you might want to have a set-up person, a clean-up guru, a questioner extraordinaire, and a ring leader. Each job has a specific role. The set-up person makes sure everything is set up properly. The clean-up crew makes sure everything is put away and there is a note written if something needs to be re-stocked. The questioner is responsible for asking questions if any arise. Finally, the ring leader keeps everyone focused.

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These roles can change and more can be added on depending on the purpose of your center. For example, if you are asking students to take pictures, you might have an official photographer. Having roles when grouping students in centers is important because it keeps everything running smoothly, just like having a simple rotation.


Grouping students for anything is no easy task. However, if you think about what you have time for, what your overall goal is, and use this freebie, you can create great groups that will be perfect for enriching and reviewing material in your math and literary centers. Learning is a beautiful thing; students learning from each other is the ultimate dream. So, find the grouping technique that works for you and watch your students climb to new heights!

Until Next Time…

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