Now that we have looked at how to manage groups, let’s discuss how to create effective grouping in the classroom. There are several reasons why you may want to create a group. You might want to conduct centers with your students, pull small groups for instruction or have discussion. Either way, it is important to have a strategy behind the way you structure your groups.
Using Data to Form Groups
The first step to forming groups is to look at the data. Your data can come from multiple sources. Some of these sources can include NWEA testing, standardized testing, Dibbles, Fontes and Pinnell, classwork or a test you administered yourself. When students complete testing, analyze the data to determine your grouping. I initially use my data from the NWEA to form my reading groups at the beginning of the year. Once I get to know my students I can make adjustments from there.
Your groups can also be skill based. If the majority of your class have mastered the main idea skill but a small group of students are still struggling, then pull those students to work with. Keep in mind that groups do not have to be final and are not static. As the teacher you have the freedom to change your groups at any time to make them more dynamic.
Two Types of Groups
The home groups in my classroom are based on student performance. These are called homogeneous groups because students work with others at the same ability level. Therefore, all students in the group are expected to complete the same task effectively. I like to use my home groups to differentiate small group instruction or even activities. This makes it easier to give students material that they will be able to master. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to focus on the challenged group of students while the higher-level groups work independently.
The away groups in my classroom include a mixture of ability level. This is called heterogeneous grouping because students perform at different levels. This type of grouping is most effective during group discussions. Students are able to challenge each other’s thinking while justifying their ideas. Away groups can also be used for jigsaw activities. Each student in the group will have a different task to complete, like a piece of the puzzle, everyone in the group will work together to put the pieces together.
I have found that groups in the classroom should be dynamic; constantly changing. This will increase student engagement and invite rich discussion. Data is used to help teachers determine the type of grouping they should have in their classroom. It is a valuable tool that should be analyzed on a consistent basis. Just as the groups are changing, so does the data because your students are expanding their knowledge and should always be moving forward. It is our job to meet them where they are and then challenge them from there.
What challenges are you facing when it comes to groups? Do you have effective strategies that work for you in your classroom? Comment below to share. We would love to hear from you!