How to Make the Most out of Your Small Group Math Time (en maternelle)

Fun fact: prior to last year, I always taught math whole-group.

I knew small group math would be valuable, but I didn't have the TIME to sit down and figure it out, and my students were still getting great results with how I was teaching math whole-group.

(I do a workshop model, with hands-on practice with a partner every single day, so my students were still getting lots of great math experiences.)

Buuuuut, as you may or may not know, I missed half of last year because I was out on maternity leave.

I came back to work in January, and I felt so behind in math!

My students still hadn't even mastered numbers 1-5, and not only had I not taught any content yet, but it often takes me a few weeks to get the workshop model off the ground.

I knew I wouldn't have enough time to make sure every student was meeting every outcome in the few months I had left.

With whole-group math, it can be hard to see who isn't grasping each concept until it's time for evaluations. By then, most of the class is usually ready to move on.

It can also be challenging to make sure every single student is staying on task and making the most of their hands-on practice.

If a single set of partners gets off task, you may have to spend all your time helping that group... and completely miss what the other students are doing.

It was simply impossible to make sure everyone was always writing numbers correctly, counting correctly, using 10 frames left to right, etc. - I'm only one person!

I still LOVE teaching math whole group, I do still teach math whole-group every day, and I still think it's extremely valuable.

BUT, I needed something more last year. When I finally sat down and hashed it out, I found something that I loved and wanted to continue with this year, too...

Small group math!

Read on to see what our routine looks like.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


Our routine


I do small group math 3-4 times a week, depending on our schedule. We can fit in two rotations each time, except on Thursdays we do three.

Each rotation takes about 15-20 minutes, so that's something to keep in mind when you are making up your schedule.

Our routine looks like this:

1. The students who aren't working with me choose their activities, and my group meets me at my table (more about this in a future post!)

2. We do a math fluency warm up.

I have a collection of flash cards with numerals, tally marks, 10 frames, dots, etc., and we practice recognizing how many are on the card at first glance.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


This warm-up takes 1-2 minutes, and I colour-coded my cards so I know which set to grab for each group.

We do a warm-up like this during whole-group math, too, but with my small groups, I can pick cards to meet their abilities and push them to go farther if they are ready.

3. Numeral formation practice (we use a sand timer and whiteboard markers)

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


My students love this activity!

I get them to choose two numeral formation cards, and they try to write as many as they can before the timer runs out.

I use the one-minute sand timers from this pack (affiliate link).

They have to start at the star, and they have to go in the correct direction. I love having a small group because I can make sure they are writing each number correctly!

When the timer goes, they erase their numbers. If they didn't have time to do them all, it's no problem!

4. Game/activity

Right now, we are working on numbers to 10, so the game for each lesson is for practicing 1:1, counting to 10, and writing numbers to 10.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!

Writing our numbers correctly takes us SO. MUCH. PRACTICE, so we practice as much as we can!!!

The above picture shows the first lesson I do for number sense - I read a poem for numbers 1-5, and my students listen, add a jewel for each number I say, and then write it.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


5. Exit ticket 

Before we clean up, each student completes an exit ticket.

The exit ticket is related to the game or activity we did and is a quick and easy way for me to see who can complete the ticket correctly, on their own.

My students MUST write each number the right way on the exit ticket before they leave my table.

I lay out the numeral fluency cards from our warm up, and they may use them to check their directionality.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


We glue the exit tickets into a scribbler, and I keep all the scribblers at my table.

This is how I store them (and the exit tickets):

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


I also am sure to take notes during each lesson for each student.

These notes help me see what my next steps will be with each group, see if someone needs to move to a new group, and they give me great ideas for report card comments.

Are you interested in giving small group math a go?

Because I like to be organized and know where I am headed, before we start each small group topic, I compile a binder with a month's worth of lessons and everything my students will need to complete them.

So, for numbers 1-10, I have all the plans I need for 20 different lessons, plus a variety of work mats, spinners, 10 frames, and other materials all ready to go!

My lesson plans look like this:

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!


I also make a pre-test to help me group my students, and I use that info to decide which lesson to start them on.

This year, for numbers 1-10, two groups started at lesson one, but one group started at lesson six, and two other groups started somewhere in between.

I make sure to see my groups that needed to start at lesson one more often (2x/week), to help them catch up to where the other groups are.

I love small group time because I feel like I can actually do my job and teach evvvvverything - no putting out fires!

I can take the time to make sure my students are writing every number correctly, using their 10 frames correctly, counting correctly with 1:1, etc.

I do groups of four, and a group of four students is so much easier to manage and supervise than 20!

By doing 45 minutes of whole-group math every day and 45 minutes of small group math most days, my students are well on their way to mastering all of our content.

My students still get all the benefits of my whole-group, workshop-style teaching (practice with a partner, learning to work together, etc.), AND they get the benefits of working in a small group 1-2x a week, where I can make sure they are practicing good habits.

I am working hard on compiling all of my lesson plans and getting them ready to post on TPT.

Numbers 1-10 is the only unit I have up at the moment, but les régularités will be coming soon.

I like to make sure I try each lesson out myself before I post them!

If you are looking to start small group math and you want all your lessons and materials already prepared, be sure to check out my Numbers 1-10 small group math unit on TPT.

>>> Click here to see it!

Enjoy your week!

No comments:

Post a Comment