Small groups are helpful in communicating effectively with students. They can be used to review new materials, work with individual students who need extra practice with concepts, and challenge students who need more than what is given in whole group lessons.
Here are some simple steps for using small groups in classrooms:
1) Start with beginning-of-the-year diagnostic tests or standardized assessment results to group students into four equally-numbered, same-ability groups. These groups will work with teachers to review new materials.
2) Sort the four groups of students into eight different mixed-ability groups of two-to-three students per group. This is tricky because you want to group students of varying abilities together, but you also have to consider the social impact of putting certain students together: Will these students stay on task? Do specific students have trouble getting along? Will cliques of girls speak to others? Will boys interact with girls?
3) Once groups are determined, write students’ names on index cards with different colored markers based on the groups they are in. The colors are used to code students’ abilities.
4) Now, turn eight groups into two groups. There should be four mixed-ability groups within the two large groups. Draw a triangle on the four cards of Group One, and place a circle on the four cards of Group Two.
5) Sort the cards according to the triangle or circle shapes then place them into a small pocket chart on the wall. Don't laminate or fancy it up at all because changes to the groups will occur all year long.
The hard work is finished! As the school year progresses, change your groups’ participants as needed.
Part Two will be posted in next week's Featured Article...