Flexible Grouping & Scheduling in Middle School

Instructor: Tammy Galloway

Tammy teaches business courses at the post-secondary and secondary level and has a master's of business administration in finance.

In this lesson, we'll define flexible grouping and scheduling. You'll learn about the different types of scheduling systems and grouping strategies and their benefits.

Defining Non-Traditional Scheduling and Flexible Grouping

Remember your first day of middle school? Like most students, you were probably a little scared. Even your teachers were probably a bit anxious. They may have wondered how they were going to teach you everything you needed to learn in a traditional short class using a traditional (and, let's face it, rather boring) lecture format.

To address both student and teacher anxieties and to maximize learning, some non-traditional scheduling and grouping strategies are being used in many middle schools today. A non-traditional scheduling system increases class time from the traditional 40-55 minutes to 65-90 minutes. This system minimizes the amount of time students spend transitioning between classes and allows more time for engaging lessons that increase learning and comprehension. Flexible grouping strategies are used to arrange students differently to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction.

Non-traditional Scheduling Systems

Schools use several types of non-traditional scheduling systems. The first is block scheduling, which allows three 90-minute classes of instruction and one 90-minute planning period each day. Teachers benefit from a daily planning period and the student's class load drops from six classes per day to four classes. Increasing the class time allows teachers to plan engaging and interactive lessons that provide depth.

Another type of scheduling system is alternate day or A/B scheduling where students attend one set of classes on A day and another set on B day. For example, students may attend electives on A day and core classes on B day. Teachers benefit from more time for preparation, grading, and feedback, while students can spend more time on homework and projects since with an extra day between classes.

A third type of scheduling system is rotating scheduling where classes are held during different times each day. The main benefit to teachers and students is being able to interact with each other at different times of the day. Some students may be more focused in the morning and the rotating scheduling allows students the opportunity to attend each class in the morning for awhile to maximize learning. Conversely, some students learn better in the afternoon, and with the rotating schedule, each one of their classes will eventually rotate to the afternoon time.

Flexible Grouping Strategies

As a middle school student, did you feel more energetic between classes than when you were settled into your seat in class listening to a teacher drone on? Today's middle school teachers have more techniques to engage students than to ask a question when they see someone distracted or dozing off. Of course, there are times when the teacher needs to talk to the whole class, but flexible grouping can help students learn more in small groups and in pairs.

Whole Class Grouping

Whole class grouping is the grouping technique most widely practiced. The teacher delivers instruction to all the students at the same time. However, whole class grouping should not be used for the full instruction period. For example, whole class grouping is appropriate when all students are at the same level of learning and comprehension. Another example for whole class grouping is when the teacher is introducing new material and providing a foundation or giving instructions for a project.

Small Groups

Small groups are essential in enhancing learning and comprehension. Research shows there are many advantages to small grouping:

  • Students learn better from each other.
  • Students are more likely to ask questions in a small group rather than when the teacher is facilitating a lesson with the whole class.
  • Small groups can increase student interaction and communication, and assist in problem-solving skills.

Small grouping is also important when differentiating instruction. Differentiating instruction is a technique where you've assessed the strengths and weaknesses of your students and deliver specialized instruction.

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