Simplifying Small Group Formation

On an almost daily basis as a 3rd grade teacher, I was creating small groups in my classroom.  This was done for various reasons: seating charts, guided reading, partner work, project-based learning, field trips, and many more.  Whether for small group instruction, group work, or partner work, I loved the benefits of moving away from the whole class instructional model: personalized support, improved collaboration, and heightened engagement.

The Challenges of Creating Small Groups in the Classroom 

Think back to the once-a-year ordeal of creating class lists.  Writing each child’s name on a card with key data points and then shuffling the papers in an attempt to create an equitable distribution of students into new classes for the next academic year.  In essence, that same process occurs with teachers at the classroom level not just once per year, but dozens of times. The sheer volume of group formations can quickly become overwhelming.

For many teachers, including myself when I was in the classroom, the go-to method for making these decisions involved using 3×5 cards for each student. I’d jot down relevant data points, shuffle the cards on my desk, and painstakingly arrange them to determine the groupings. And that was just for one group. The process was repetitive, time-consuming, and cumbersome.  

It’s not just about the initial creation of groups; it’s also about the ongoing management and adjustment as students’ needs evolve.  Relying on paper-based methods meant limited flexibility and scalability.  The hesitation to create new groups, or to adjust longer running groups, often stemmed from the awareness of the time and effort required—a luxury that teachers, already stretched thin, can barely afford.  As a result, the potential benefits of small groups were often overshadowed by the practical constraints of implementation.

But what if there was a better way? What if educators could streamline the process of forming and managing small groups, freeing up time and mental energy for more meaningful work?

How Class Composer Can Help with Small Group Formation and Management

One of the key features of Class Composer is the Student Cell which makes it easy to get a condensed, summary view of each student during the class creation process.  This same Student Cell is available for teachers to create small groups in their classroom throughout the school year.  The process begins by customizing the Student Cell to display the key data point to be used in the formation of the group.  Then the Student Cells can be dragged and dropped on the virtual whiteboard to create groupings. In the example below, the Student Cells have been customized to show the beginning of the year Developmental Reading Assessment scores (DRA) as a guide to create guided reading groups for the fall. 

Once the new group is saved, it can be easily accessed again from the teacher’s dashboard. 

As the year progresses, the teacher can go back into this saved group, update the DRA scores, and rearrange the groupings based on the most recent data.  Or the teacher can simply create a brand new group.  This ability to create small groups can also be done across an entire grade level.

See how simple it is to use by starting a free trial!

  • Mike Cronley

    Mike Cronley is the CEO and Co-founder of Class Composer. He taught 3rd grade for 12 years at Arapahoe Ridge Elementary in Westminster, Colorado.