Do you have any tips for creating a Grid?

Rae HughartBlog, GRID FAQ, Lesson Plan Better, Manage Better, Mastery Done Better


  • A grid is a full unit and can evaluate a standard, a group of standards, a target, or a key idea.
  • Consider your assessment before fully creating a Grid.
  • Think of each box as a lesson plan.
  • Find the right spot for Teacher Checks with your Grid.
  • The Grid Method can help promote student ownership of their learning and lead to a positive classroom community where students help one another.
  • There are solutions for red flags you may notice, including seeing a lot of red on the tracking page, lots of students needing conferences, encountering activities that don’t work, feeling exhausted at the end of the day, and parents being concerned that you are not “teaching.”

Where My Journey with the Grid Started

“Do you have any tips for creating a Grid?” Great question! I get asked this one all the time!

I began my exploration with The Grid Method framework after a Google Meet call with Chad Ostrowski himself. Picture this, friends: Chad Ostrowski and Jeff Gargas scrunched together to fit into a Google Meeting frame as they were on the road working with a school district earlier that day.

This was my first introduction to these two goofballs who carried a dream to begin a movement in education to truly reach and support all learners. Yes…yes, I thought they were nuts!

As Chad shared with me the details of the mastery framework, I told him it all sounded like a great idea on paper, but one that would never work in my classroom. I mean, come on…think about it: a system that would allow students to advocate for their needs and explore content as they were ready for it, creating time for the teacher to truly act as a facilitator in the classroom? A system that creates time for teachers to conference with students daily and finally have the opportunity to authentically evaluate student understanding? Can you say #ClassroomGoals?

Boy was I wrong. It has been transformational.

Nevertheless, while The Grid Method framework is outstanding—it’s a learning curve! So, let me share a few tips on getting started, what to keep an eye out for, and the small red flags that should warn you to reach out and brainstorm solutions with a friend!

It is a tough shift - not only for you, but for their brains as well. Therefore, the transition can be a tough one, but well worth it when you all come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

Reviewing the Basics of Creating a Grid

As I am sure you know, the Grid Method Mastery Framework truly is a pathway towards learning for students. You can explore this idea in the free Grid Method course in our Teach Better Academy.

Here are a few basics to understand before we get into additional tips for getting started:

  1. The Grid is scaffolded using Webb’s DOK (Psst…also a free course in the Academy).
  2. Each Grid is a unit or key idea(s)/target(s).
  3. Students move at their own pace, mastering one idea before moving to the next.
  4. Student/teacher check-ins and conferences are very frequent to monitor student success, facilitate discussion, and evaluate for understanding.

Tips for Getting Started

Sometimes getting started is the toughest part! While there is a full Grid Method Workshop Course in the Teach Better Academy walking you through the process step-by-step, I get asked all the time by educators struggling to get started to hop on a call and talk things out.

If you want to do this by the way, click here for my calendar. This seems to help a TON!

Here are some tips to follow to help yourself get started in your Grid development if you are stuck.

Tip 1 for Creating a Grid: Consider the Learning Target

A grid is a full unit. Therefore, it can evaluate a standard, a group of standards, a target, or a key idea. Whichever one of those best works for your brain as you are slowly moving through this, start there!

The reason the team focuses so much on “standards” is that we truly believe in educator tools being standard-aligned. However, if that is tripping you up as you dip your toe in the water, start with a target or main idea, and work your way from there.

Tip 2 for Creating a Grid: Plan Your Assessment

Consider your assessment. What does your student need to know to fully prove their understanding of the idea/topic? Then, use the backward design process from there.

For example: If students are going to complete and turn in an argumentative essay as their assessment, step one may be to show your students a mentor text of an argumentative essay and go over key elements of an argument!
For example: If students are going to take a common assessment on dividing decimals to prove their understanding of the standard, the first step may be to review what a decimal is or how to use division with whole numbers before building into the teaching of the skill with decimal computation.

Tip 3 for Creating a Grid: Create a Structure 

I know it doesn’t say it anywhere, but I always think of each “box” in the Grid to be like the perfect lesson plan. For me, I start each box by introducing an idea.

Then I move to practicing the concept.

Lastly, I formatively evaluate the student’s understanding of that small idea before moving forward.

This often makes each section easy to plan and my students begin to understand the flow from each box to the next. As I get higher in the levels of my Grid, this ridged thinking fades, but it works wonderfully for me in Levels 1 & 2.

Tip 4 for Creating a Grid: Plan for Teacher Checks

Find the right spots for Teacher Checks! Create intentional moments for students to check in with you to confirm their understanding. These are often quick conferences or small group discussions.

I always recommend putting a Teacher Check at the end of each level as well as a few scattered throughout the level.

And remember…give yourself some space with these in the Grid! If they are conferencing with you 5 times in Level 1, you are going to have a LOT of students needing your attention. Consider spacing these out so you can truly have the time you need for each student.

Keep Your Eyes Out!

Hey, no one said completely reinventing your classroom would be easy! Therefore, here are a few reminders of what to keep your eyes out for. If you see any of these behaviors, understand they are 100% normal and have solutions!

And remember…we are always here to help if you haven’t found the right solution for your students yet.

Keep Your Eyes Out For…Lots of Reds on the Tracking Page

As you well know, a MAJOR part of managing a Grid Method classroom is utilizing some sort of Progress Monitoring System and Triage System (also a free course in the Teach Better Academy). Let me tell you, as you get this started in your classroom, it’s going to be tricky!

Think about it: students have been told in the majority of their classroom learning environments to sit down, listen to the teacher, and ask questions when the teacher says so. They have been taught to raise their hand and wait, as well as not ask a friend because only the teacher knows the correct answer. All of that goes out the window in a mastery-focused classroom because now students—some for the first time—take ownership of their learning and have the opportunity to be both a learner and a leader in the classroom at all times.

It is a tough shift—not only for you, but for their brains as well. Therefore, the transition can be a tough one, but well worth it when you all come out on the other side. During this transition, students will push boundaries, ask for help when it is not needed, and share they are feeling lost in the process. This is normal.

So, how do you best support them during this time?

Set up a routine and focus on growth mindset language to help them get through the challenging time of problem-solving.

Do you see a number of reds in the classroom (indicating multiple students have questions)? Pull them all together in a quick small group meeting and ask them if they can answer each other’s questions or find a few key questions they are all wondering the answer to.

Not an idea that works for you for that exact moment? Consider having the student post their question somewhere so others can see if they know the answer.

For me, the first few weeks in class we practice physically standing up when we see a student in the class is “red” and has a question. Why? Because any time student learning is stopped due to a question, we all as a learning team have the responsibility to see if we can help. And if we can’t, we should join in assisting to help them find the answer they need!

Keep Your Eyes Out For…Lots of Students Needing Teacher Conferences

This stressor can sometimes be twofold, so let’s look at both components.

Common Mistake 1:

If a large number of students are in need of a Teacher Conference, do not feel these always need to be individual. Feel free to pull small groups and strategically allow your conferences to be discussions between students. Find each student’s area of success as well as needed areas of growth as they build a learning-focused community.

While using the Grid, it is common for me to hear teachers feel they have the time to pull small groups, but find themselves getting “stuck” in conferences lasting a long time.

Here are a few tips to help if you are feeling this way:

  1. Do not sit! Conferences should be check-ins with students to confirm understanding. Therefore, allow your conferences to occur at a standing table or up at a whiteboard. Do you have papers you are looking at for your discussion? Use a magnet to hang up the student’s work during the conversation.
  2. For reteaching during a conference, create resources and have tools on hand (i.e. videos, extra practice, etc.) that address common mistakes. Then, simply check back with the student throughout their exploration of these tools.
  3. Set a timer – either for YOU or the students. When this timer goes off, either have students take a quick break to stretch or keep working through a section as you do a lap around the room to check on other learners.
Common Mistake 2:

It might be a ‘you’ problem…hehe I have always wanted to say that! My sister is a veterinary student at Glasgow University in Scotland. While she is incredibly bright, personable, and one of my favorite people on the planet, there is a phrase she says frequently: That sounds like a ‘you’ problem! This may be one of those times, but take it in the humorous way I intend!

It is challenging for a teacher to “let go” and allow their learners to begin taking ownership of their learning. With many of us carrying a Type A personality, we are not all wired in a way that allows others to lead. This is not shameful! It is simply something we have to work on. We want to control because we care!

However, you may need to evaluate how often you feel you need to have “Teacher Checks” in your Grid. Some teachers really feel they need to happen in every box. That is your choice. However, then having a number of students needing you at all times is inevitable.  If you space them out and only require a “Teacher Check” every other box or every few sections, you will find you have more time to have rich conversations with students.

Just because you are requiring a conference in one section and not the other does not mean in your next student/teacher meeting you can’t ask about the previously covered idea! Throw them together!

Keep Your Eyes Out For…Activities That Don’t Work Correctly

Eh, that’s life! Sometimes activities don’t work as we intended. And you know what, that would have been the case whether the whole class was working on it at the same time or a student got there early. Take it as an opportunity to reflect, readjust, and move on. We have all been there, and will be there again!

Keep Your Eyes Out For…Feeling Exhausted at the End of the Day 

100% YES! Oh my goodness, when I started the Grid Method I was finding myself buzzing around our learning environment like a bee, only to need to take some extreme downtime with my feet up at the end of the day. Why was I so tired?

Honestly, the Grid is going to both allow and require you to problem solve all day long. You will spend 30 minutes conferencing with students, walking around the room for teacher sign-offs, laughing with students as they tell you about their weekend plans, and reteaching with groups. All. Day. Long.

It is exhilarating to be able to accomplish so much personalized support in one school day. However, it is tiring! So give yourself permission to keep your laptop at school (you shouldn’t need it at home anyway because you just did all that work during the day already) and take the night off! You deserve it!

Keep Your Eyes Out For…Parents Concerned That You Are Not “Teaching”

#BeenThere. It is common for parents to assume that if you are not standing at the front of the room for 45 minutes asking students to take notes on a lined sheet in their notebook, you are not teaching. Hey, can we really blame them? That’s how they learned. That’s what they know. And guess what? They are not in education so they may not be aware of all the research proving that model is extremely outdated and teacher-focused, rather than student-focused.

So rather than dwell on the misunderstanding, let’s do what we do best: educate. If a parent (or any stakeholder) feels you are not “teaching,” my typical go-to is always to invite them into our learning environment to see it all in action. You cannot deny the energy a Grid Method classroom has with all 34 students doing 34 different things—showing they are taking ownership of their learning, tracking their success, collaborating with peers, and getting one-on-one time with the teacher when they need support.

In my nearly 10 years in teaching, I have never had a parent walk away from a classroom visit thinking I didn’t teach. Oh boy…do I teach 🙂

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Addressing Students “Falling Behind”

I won’t lie, friends. This is one of my favorites, which is why I left it at the end. If it’s possible to have a “Common Mistake” or “Keep Your Eyes Out” section pet peeve…this is it! It often goes the same way every time: I hop on a call or chat with a teacher during a training and they begin to tell me about how their classroom is full of different types of learners. Teachers often specifically identify IEP students, truant students, and often some other group of students who lack support at home from their families. And then that sentence comes out…the one I have been waiting for…”I just have so many students falling behind. What do I do?”

Self-Paced Means Self-Paced.

Therefore, while students may not be moving as quickly as you’d like to see, it’s impossible to “fall behind” when you are emphasizing to students they set their own pace.

So rather than focusing on a student “falling behind,” adjust your perspective. Your student is needing more time to understand the concept than you’d like to allow. Okay. What can you do?

Consider working with them one-on-one, chunking the content, or putting students in a small group to collaborate together. Sometimes just a little TLC can really help a student overcome the hurdle slowing them down in their learning.

Another strategy to help is to carry clear expectations that students can refer to at any time.

Try something like a Teacher Suggested Calendar! I use this tool during every Grid.

Here is how I set it up: the Teacher Suggested Calendar is a resource where at ANY TIME if you wanted to know what your teacher feels you should be working on, you can see the teacher suggestion. Students should always try to stay with this goal or ahead of it. If a student is more then one or two boxes behind the goal, that is a red flag (for both the student and teacher) that they should meet and problem-solve through any hurdles and create a “Catch Up Plan!”

Still hunting for the perfect tip to help support your classroom? Schedule a time to chat with me and/or check out all the other FAQ Blogs on Mastery Learning at! We are here to help no matter what!

Impact Story

Virtual classrooms, which were required for schools to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic, have created some new and unique challenges.  For instance, this year I am not only responsible for running an elementary school, but I am also teaching the 4th and 5th grade curriculum for virtual students, as we were short one teacher and unable to fill the position until October 1st.

Luckily for me this past year, we began to implement the Grid Method throughout my school, and I was fortunate enough to have attended the different training sessions with my staff, which gave me the confidence to explore creating a Grid.  It was also helpful talking with Chad during our weekly Mastermind meetings, as he was encouraging us all to try implementing the Grid Method with our virtual students and offering his support.

So, that weekend I built my very first Grid for a science biome unit. It was filled with vocabulary, videos, and task completion activities that all led to a choice in projects they could do at levels 3 and 4. It was an amazing experience as I was able to see my students take off and start completing assignments and checking in with me to ask clarifying questions.  I was able to meet with kids to review vocabulary words and key concepts, while the rest of the class continued to work on the different assignments. 

This past week, my 5th grade class has been enjoying the special presentations that each of their classmates put together on the various biomes.  The mission at Cameron Elementary is to ‘engage every child in the learning; get every child excited about learning; and help them excel to new levels.’  The Grid Method allowed us to hit every piece of our mission! – Robert F. Breyer, Principal at Cameron ES

About Rae Hughart

Rae Hughart is a Middle-Level Math Educator in Illinois, the Director of Training and Development for the Teach Better Team, and author of Teachers Deserve It (20) and Teach Better (19) books available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame. In 2018, Rae was honored again by winning 1st place in the Henry Ford Innovator Award for her work within educators communities to build unity between local businesses and schools. You can learn more about Rae or book her for Professional Development opportunities within the Teach Better Speakers Network.