Structuring Math Groups in a Special Needs Classroom

It seems like every school year I'm tweaking our systems/ routines for  how we run groups. I do this for a few reasons:

  • Students' needs change from year to year, so systems need to change too!
  • I get bored and like a little change sometimes, and I know my entire class benefits from change too!
  • When I reflect on past school years, I can often see gaps and what I can do better.
We mixed up how we are running math groups quite a bit this school year. We are heading into week 6 of the year and the new routine has honestly been great, so I want to share it with you!



The basic structure & set up:
We normally have 3 teachers in our classroom, but at this time of day, we only have 2 teachers in the classroom (myself and 1 paraprofessional). This means we have to be super strategic about staff zoning. So many teachers say that being understaffed is the biggest barrier to running groups. Trust me, I feel and understand this pain, but we HAVE to find ways to work around it! I know it's SO hard, but you can find ways to make it work! 

Our direct math instruction/ math rotations last about 40 minutes and we do them in the morning. During math rotations, we have students at three different round tables and we have 3-4 students assigned to each table. During the 40 minutes, each table/ group of students complete a total of three different math activities. Every group does each activity for about 10-12 minutes (there are a few minutes built in to allow for transition time between activities). Students stay at the same table for the entire 40 minutes and the materials move/ transition around the classroom. Here is a chart that explains how the rotations and staff zoning works. 


We organize all of our materials for math for the entire week in a drawer system. There is a drawer for each table/ activity. 



What we do for the week:
We focus on math topics (like time, measurement, addition, etc.) for 3-4 weeks at a time. Don't worry, I'll share another post soon about how I map out and plan what I'm teaching for math and how I link it all together with standards and IEP goals. 
  • Activity 1: The first activity is a packet of worksheets related to the weekly math topic. There is a differentiated packet for each student. Worksheets in the packets are labeled with the day of the week so the staff member at the table knows exactly what page should be worked on for the day. Packets are also separated by group/ table number. Everything that is needed for that activity is included in the drawer.


  • Activity 2: The second activity is some sort of a hands on activity that is also related to the math topic. Again, everything that is needed for the activity is already included in the drawer. Tasks are separated/ differentiated based on tables and students as well. 



  • Activity 3: The third station is always a math related game that students can play independently. The game stays the same for the entire week. I try to link the game to the topic of activity 1 and 2, but sometimes I can't find one that relates.

  • You might be rolling your eyes at activity 3 and the thought of your students playing independently, but trust me... if you put the time and effort into teaching them to do it, they CAN do it! If you want some tips and ideas for teaching students to play independently, check out this blog post
All of these measuring activities are from my measurement unit here.

Leave any questions in the comments or send me a message on social media!