A buzzword in the education community is flexible grouping. Flexible grouping is using student grouping to maximize instruction. Those groupings can be utilized in many different ways. Groupings can also extend to include partners. If you are just starting out exploring groupings or it takes you a little longer to get going, I suggest focusing on five types of groupings:
- Emerging/Proficient Readers/Writers: Remember those progress monitoring probes we’ve discussed? This is where you can utilize them. This information is simple to gather. Look for students that are below grade below for emerging. Proficient students are on grade level. For my classroom, I also have a professional level. These are the students that are above grade level. In the beginning though, I would suggest starting with just twoseparate groups: emerging readers and proficient readers. Use these two groups to drive differentiated instruction based upon their ability. This would be encouraged in a special education classroom since you are meeting their academic need. Another example is pairing an emerging reader with a proficient reader to encourage peer tutoring and appropriate social interaction.
- Learning Style: During the first few days of school, I have students complete a simple learning style inventory. It indicates whether the student is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. They may even be a combination of the learning styles. I use this information to drive differentiated instruction activities. If I know some students would prefer a video to completing a hands-on activity, I attempt to indulge them.
- Interest Survey: Interest surveys are also completed during the initial days of school. They are specific to content areas (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). These interest surveys are the basis for what some may call the “Genius Hour.” This is a topic that the student chooses and works on either independently or with a partner. Students work on this project if they finish early or during other designated times.
- Content-Driven: Content-driven groupings are used after assessing where students are in the curriculum. We may cover a topic within a week and complete an assessment to see how well the students understood and analyzed the information. If some of the students are showing a clear need for remediation, you can group these students together to clarify the topic or use peer tutors for extra practice.
- Socially-driven: As a teacher, you will find out that just because students meet the criteria for a grouping, doesn’t mean it is an effective grouping. I’ve had two students in the past that fit into similar grouping criteria each and every time, BUT they just could not stand each other. That is reality. Sometimes, you will have to adjust the groupings based upon the social aspects. That’s okay. It just means that you are meeting the needs of the students and providing the best environment for your class.
What type of groupings do you use in your classroom? Any tips or tricks that you would like to share?