Mild, Medium and Spicy Strategic Grouping

Strategic groupings and appropriate learning activities support student mastery
364 teachers like this strategy
Mild, Medium and Spicy Grouping Overview

About This Strategy

Students need to engage in activities that meet their needs. Strategic grouping using formative data provides a systematic approach for grouping students based on formative assessment data. Based on these groups, a teacher carefully crafts learning activities to address this group's needs. Strategic groupings and differentiated activities enable students to practice skills at an appropriate level.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Use formative data, benchmark data, and observation data to group your students into three proficiency levels (you can call these mild, medium, and spicy).

  2. Determine the desired outcome of each proficiency level.

    • Will you meet with each group?

    • Will students engage in differentiated work based on their level?

  3. Based on your desired outcome, explain which group students are in and what they will be doing within that group.

  4. Frequently assess to fluidly change these groups

Groups for Differentiating Learning Activities

This is a great way for teachers to strategically group students and provide opportunities of differentiated practice.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Once your students are in strategic groups, create learning activities that align to the needs of each proficiency level

  2. Create clear routines and procedures that enable students the expectations during mild, medium, and spicy

    • Where do students go?

    • How do students know what work to complete

    • How do students advocate for help?

  3. Introduce Mild, Medium, and Spicy to the students

  4. Provide feedback to students and assess students

Groups for Student Choice

This is a great way for students to own the process of picking the most appropriate activity that will meet their individual needs.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Create differentiated activities based on students' levels of proficiency

  2. Introduce the levels of activities (you can call these mild, medium, and spicy)

  3. Explain to students that they will have the opportunity to pick the level that meets their needs.

  4. Create clear routines and procedures that enable students the expectations during mild, medium, and spicy

    • Where do students go?

    • How do students know what work to complete

    • How do students advocate for help?

  5.  Have students engage in the activities. It may be helpful to pause after 5 minutes to ask students to reflect on whether or not they picked the appropriate level. Allow students to switch levels if needed.

    • Is the level you are working on too easy?

    • Is the level you are working on too hard?

    • Check in with students if you think it would be beneficial for them to switch their level.

  6. Ask students to reflect on whether or not they engaged in the right level of work and if it meet their individual needs.

    • You may have a discussion or ask students to complete a written reflection.

Special Education Modification

Strategic Grouping can provide students with learning disabilities with additional, scaffolded support. Using small groups can help some students feel more comfortable asking questions and provide them with additional scaffolding and practice to support mastery.

Kelly's Tips

Kelly Kennefick
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Mild, medium, and spicy is a great foundation for strategic grouping and differentiated practice. Students often enjoy having choices and feel more ownership over their work when given choices. If you want students to have more choices when assigned to a level or picking a level, you may be interested in adding choice within the strategic group activities.

When curating activities for the three proficiency levels, consider using a Choice Board such as the Mild, Medium, and Spicy in a Choice Board or providing two or more activities for each level that students can choose from.

Tech Tools


  • A HyperDoc can be used to provide structure and detail for a self-paced activity where students are assessing at different times. A HyperDoc can be designed from templates or created from scratch using a word processing program. Students can type directly into these documents or use them as a guide for learning a concept or skill

  • Hyperdocs can easily support this strategy by creating 3 pathways for practice time aligned with the mild-medium-spicy levels of mastery pre-defined by the teacher. It also makes it easier for students who choose a path first but feel ready to move to a more or less challenging path, to be given links to quick formative assessments allowing them to determine they need to move up or down a level. It also gives teachers a record of the data from these assessments.


  • Formative allows students to take a digital assessment when they are ready and teachers to track progress and scores live! Assessment can be created based off their library or any of your own assessments. It includes a PDF transformation option so that you don’t have to type up questions and answers inside the tool.

  • This tool makes creation of digital assessments easier. Students can take multiple standard-based assessments using links generated by Formative, and data is tracked inside the tool.