JANUARY 2011LiteracySurvival Tips for New Teachers!By Lori Oczkus Grouping Survival Tips: Guidelines and TOP 5 Grouping Strategies for Improving Reading
2 W hen you were in week from the reading specialist. The What Effective Grouping rest of the class rotates around the elementary school, Looks Like room to centers where the students do you recall Let’s peek into two classrooms to have been trained to work quietly in whether you read with the blue see how teachers use grouping to pairs and triads. birds, red birds, or yellow birds? I meet student needs while effectively Later in the day, during readers’ engaging them in a variety of reading workshop, Mrs. Lee reads aloud distinctly remember reading in the tasks. Notice that grouping in these and models how to make personal blue or mid-level reading group. classrooms includes partnerships, connections. Then every student Throughout elementary school, I cooperative groups, and flexible reads independently while Mrs. Lee longed to read the interesting and groupings based on student needs conducts individual conferences and interests. Skilled teachers know with five or six students per day. She “hard” books reserved for the red how to use different ways of grouping monitors student progress using group! Luckily, today educators students to maximize instruction. informal assessment techniques that know that fixed-ability groupings help her to form new groups for guided reading. do not offer a wide enough Primary example range of reading experiences to Mrs. Lee’s first graders enthusiastically meet student needs. Instead, we chant and sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” Intermediate example from a Big Book. They then sit cross- Lively discussion fills the room as employ a rich array of grouping legged and spellbound as Mrs. Lee Mr. Gallegos’s fifth graders meet options that are flexible and that reads aloud from a nonfiction text in literature circles twice weekly to change based on student needs about spiders. Throughout the lesson, discuss novels. Students select a novel and interests. Mrs. Lee directs the students to talk from a list of choices and are placed to their assigned partners before she in interest groups to read with the All students benefit from assigned roles of discussion director, calls on a volunteer to share with the a variety of grouping formats. whole class. predictor, questioner, clarifier, and Researchers inform us that our During guided reading time, summarizer. Mr. Gallegos circulates Mrs. Lee calls small groups of five or and coaches the groups as they talk struggling readers need frequent, six students to meet at her reading about their books. quality instruction in small groups table and read nonfiction texts The class also reads from the (Allington, 2006). This month we about insects. She coaches them district-adopted basal four times a explore the different groupings in comprehension and decoding week with varied groupings including strategies as they read books that are partners, individuals, and sometimes you can choose from as you build literature discussion groups with carefully matched to their reading your reading program. levels. Students engage in literacy assigned roles. Informal, informative centers in individual and partner assessments and observation provide activities that include reading books, valuable information that helps Mr. making words with a variety of Gallegos group students flexibly for manipulatives, and quick reteaching lessons. writing activities. Later in the day, the students read Three times the social studies chapter with their per week, Mrs. Lee tablemates and construct a summary meets with her most poster to share with the class. During challenged readers in readers’ workshop three times a week, small groups of three each student reads from a self-selected for an intervention text while Mr. Gallegos confers with group. Some of those one to three students at a time to students receive coach comprehension, encourage one-on-one, intensive critical thinking, and teach decoding instruction twice a strategies for unlocking words.
3 The five most challenged readers Table. Powerful Grouping Options meet three times a week for an Grouping structure Meeting student needs intervention. Once a week, the fifth Whole-class lessons • Partnerships informal or assigned graders read picture books aloud to During whole-class lessons, ask students to talk with partners often to process first graders to build comprehension the information, ask questions, and respond. strategies for themselves and their • Table groups little buddies. Students work in teams at their tables or discuss or perform a response to reading task with tablemates. Readers’ workshop • Partnerships Powerful Grouping Options During teacher modeling and the guided practice portions of the lesson, individual students discuss their reading with a partner. When you vary the ways you group • Individual conferences students, the classroom becomes an Students work independently or in partnerships while the teacher calls on one engaging learning atmosphere where student at a time to confer over reading strategies and habits. Teacher takes notes and uses the information to coach the student, monitor growth, and to students become better readers, form flexible groups with students of like needs. thinkers, and independent learners. • Teacher-led small flexible groups Conducting regular assessments While the rest of the class reads independently, the teacher meets with a small during instruction provides group of students who are reading the same text or who have the same needs. observations and findings that will Flexible-needs or strategy Teacher meets briefly with temporary group that has the same need. For help you group students by need and groups example, after a whole-class lesson on prediction, if five students wrote interest. (See last month’s Literacy predictions that didn’t make sense, the teacher would gather them to model and practice making sensible predictions. Survival Tips on assessment.) The Table shows some of the Guided reading groups Guided reading groups are teacher-led and organized by need, interest, or reading level. The text is usually at the students’ reading level. The teacher groupings you can choose from, and guides students as they predict, make connections, and read silently while the then you may select how many times teacher coaches the students to decode, question, and in the end think critically per week you will implement these and summarize. structures. Which grouping structures Partnerships Partnerships can be used during whole-class lessons or at literacy stations or you will use over the week and how centers. Partners can be assigned or can be more informal. The teacher models the partner behaviors that are expected. often you will implement them Cooperative groups/ Students work in teams of three to five students either informally at their tables depend on your grade level and literature circles or in assigned groups with roles. Literature circles are a form of cooperative/ district requirements. collaborative groupings. Interest groups Students form groups based on their interests, which might be related to book titles or topics. Practical Guidelines Cross-age groups Older students are paired with younger students from another grade level to read and write together. for Grouping to Meet Intervention group • Intervention small group Student Needs The struggling readers are identified, and the teacher or reading specialist meets with these students regularly to provide instruction at their level that Here are some research-based will boost achievement and catch them up to grade level. guidelines that will help ensure • Intervention triad for RTI student success as you select a variety In a Response to Intervention program, the goal is to help struggling readers of grouping structures to fit your catch up and avoid special education by providing constant monitoring through classroom setting and students’ needs. assessments and intervention with intense levels of targeted instruction. The struggling readers are taught in small groups of three. Avoid the bluebird syndrome! Unfortunately, the self-fulfilling need to provide time for intensive Students needs are best met if you prophecy “once a bluebird, always interventions for struggling readers vary the grouping structures in your a bluebird” often becomes a reality (Pikulski, 1994). overall weekly plan and make sure to through the grades, and struggling Studies on the effects of constant include interventions for struggling readers suffer from low self-esteem ability grouping are worth considering readers, flexibly organized small (Slavin, 1987). Studies on intervention when deciding how to group your groups, time to confer with individual indicate, however, that schools students for literacy instruction. students, student choice activities,
4 partner work, and mixed-ability Allow students to discuss in pairs more engaged and motivated to collaborative groups. or groups. learn. Students first choose a book or topic, then form groups with other Teachers often complain that their students who selected that same Keep groups flexible. students are not engaged during title or topic. For example, in fourth Try keeping your groups flexible by instruction. One effective way to ensure grade, students select which type of using constant informal, or formative, that students process content and stay animal habitat they are interested in assessments. For example, if you are involved in your lessons is to provide and form groups that then read books teaching students to summarize, time for students to work with partners on their chosen topics. In first grade, then after students write or draw a or group members during lessons. after reading aloud Clifford books by summary, collect the samples and Learning is social, and students Norman Bridwell and Curious George sort into piles: those who got it, the use language and discussions to books by Margret and H.A. Rey, I students who sort of got it, and those construct negotiated understandings encourage students to choose their who missed the mark. Meet with (Vygotsky, 1978). During a first- favorite character, either Clifford or these groups, formed according to grade read-aloud, for example, you Curious George. They work in groups their progress in summarizing, to might pause several times during to create murals depicting scenes briefly model and practice together. the book to ask students to share from the books. Also use random grouping their predictions with a partner. You might pair English learners with more techniques to keep groups flexible. proficient English speakers. Or during Pass out playing cards—or use other a social studies lesson in sixth grade, Avoid behavior problems by modeling. color code or number techniques—to Student partners and student-led students may work in teams of four to form randomly organized groups to groups are successful when we model verbally summarize the chapter and work on class projects. the behaviors we want students to then perform a quick dramatization of an important point they learned. use during those groups. Make a chart with your class to help model Provide intervention in small and discuss what good partner or triad groups. Incorporate student choice. group behavior looks like and sounds Use formative assessments during When you allow students to form like. Encourage volunteers to model instruction on a regular basis to groups based on choice, they become for the class. Discuss ways to improve. identify exactly how your students are progressing. Try meeting with just three struggling readers at Sample Partner and Group Behavior Chart a time who share similar reading Partner or group behavior looks like Partner or group behavior sounds like levels or needs (or at least put your • Students leaning in using body • Polite manners three most challenged readers in language to show they are • No interrupting listening • Stay on topic a group and the rest of the class in • Eye contact • Piggybacking onto one another’s groups of five or six). Evaluate their • Pleasant looks on faces comments: progress constantly to customize • Head nodding “ agree….” I your instruction to their needs and “ also think that….” I • Praise for one another: to promote growth. (See last month’s “Nice prediction….” Literacy Survival Tips on assessment.) “ liked your summary ” I ….
5 ■ Encourage students to share their number 11, a reader who reads Lori’s Top 5 work with other corner groups, in the middle of the class. The Grouping Strategies or students may gather in home student who falls in the middle groups made up of one member of the class is paired with the one Four Corners (Kagan, 1992) from each corner. who struggles the most. Encourage students to form groups ■ Revise your list and change by interest. Four Corners is a partners from time to time. P Partner Match-Up cooperative structure that can be used ■ Occasionally allow students to read in endless combinations to enhance Match students across ability levels with the partner of their choice or your reading and literacy lessons. to partner read. When students their tablemates! Students choose among four options partner read in your classroom, and meet in a designated corner of the you may find that some students classroom to work with other students experience frustration. For example, J Jigsaw Reading Groups (Kagan, 1992) who’ve selected the same option. your most capable reader may not The teacher circulates to facilitate and be patient enough or willing to read Engage students in cooperative direct each of the corners. with your readers who struggle. reading. The students in Mrs. Partner Match-Up is an easy solution Lopez’s fifth-grade class work in to your partnering woes! This popular groups to read and discuss portions Some Ideas for Four Corners of the social studies chapter. After method involves creating a list of • Four different book titles your students ranked by reading mastering a portion of the text, • Four characters from a book or ability and matching students across students are assigned to home books—students decide which reading levels to read together. The groups, where each student shares character they are most like or that partnerships help both students to his or her expertise on a chunk of the they like the most and then share grow in their reading. text. The group then collaborates on reasons with cornermates a quick response, or all members take Procedure for Partner Match-Up a quiz to measure their learning. • Four different response modes (e.g., one corner houses paper for sketching, ■ Using your district or informal assessments, rank your students Procedure for Jigsaw Reading another materials for creating a drama, another writing supplies, and the with your top reader as number 1 ■ Divide the reading material into fourth art materials) and your most struggling reader as logical portions by headings, last, or vice versa. chapters, or pages. • Four different writing topics ■ Cut the numbered list in half. ■ Place students into home groups ■ Position the lists side by side. of four to six students. Mix ability Procedure for Four Corners Based on a list of 20 students, if levels so that students may help number 1 is your strongest reader, one another. Either randomly assign ■ The teacher presents four choices you are pairing him or her with students to groups or strategically (e.g., topics, books, response modes) and designates specific corners of the classroom for each. Sample Partner Match-Up List ■ Each student indicates which of the four choices he or she prefers by recording it on a paper or 1. Jose 11. Roberto sticky note. The teacher may even 2. Maria 12. Angel require that students write reasons 3. Rebecca 13. F ernando for their choices. 4. Vince 14. Keiko 5. Ishmael 15. Jermaine ■ Students gather in the corner 6. Gretta 16. Otis of the room designated as the 7. Cai 17. Vanessa meeting place for their chosen 8. Olivia 18. T atiana topic or title. 9. Destiny 19. Lee 10. Ricky 20. Tito
6 select students for groups. Either name the groups (e.g., after the assigned leader) or allow students to name their groups. ■ Count off so that each home group member has a number from 1 to 4. Then call each numbered group to meet either with you or on their own to work through an assigned portion of the text to master that text. You may wish for the jigsaw expert groups to meet simultaneously while you rotate to each to observe or facilitate. ■ End the lesson by asking students to return to home groups and share what they’ve read with their match up students. Try keeping comprehension. When coupled team members. The home group partners together all year long to with cooperative group work, can work on a culminating project bond. comprehension soars. A wonderful or prepare for a quiz. ■ Set aside a 30-minute time slot first-grade teacher, Jenny Dodd, for the classes to meet and work came up with this fun and easy together. lesson that works at all grade levels. L Buddies, Big Buddies Little Students select one best sentence ■ Older students select a title based from their writing and copy onto Provide opportunities to work on the little buddy’s interests. The paper strips to combine with those of with cross-age buddies. When you older student practices reading other students for Best Line Poetry or provide time for younger and older the selected book in the classroom Responses. students to read together, something and marks it with sticky notes in magical happens. The first graders spots where he or she will stop Procedure for Best Line Writing and fifth graders pair up around the and ask questions or promote room, snuggling with books on the ■ Students write a poem about the discussion. Model read-aloud reading or a character from the floor, at desks, and sprawled together techniques for the older students. text, or they write a response to on the carpet. The little ones are ■ The older student reads the literature using a variety of starters spellbound as they look adoringly selected book to the younger (Oczkus, 2009), including to their “cool” buddies, and the student, pausing to predict, make older students puff up their chests • “I was surprised by….” connections, and ask questions. as proud, responsible “teachers” When finished, the pair works • “Something new I learned and leaders. The room hums as the together to write and sketch a was….” 30 pairs of students read, discuss, quick summary of the story. • “I made a connection to the part and laugh their way through books. ■ Time permitting, you can also where….” The best news about this free and engaging intervention is that both provide time for the younger ■ Students underline their best line student to read a short leveled text or favorite line and copy it onto a cross-age buddies improve in their to the older student. paper strip. reading (Topping, 1989), especially the older struggling reader who is ■ Keep the session short! ■ Students work in groups of three teaching a younger child. or four and combine their best lines to create poems about the Procedure for Cross-Age Buddies B Line Cooperative Best reading. R Reading Responses ■ Select a classroom from a few ■ They prepare to present their best grade levels above or below yours Teach students to respond to line poems to the class by reading to partner with for the year. Meet reading. Written responses chorally, dramatizing, or acting out with the other teacher to carefully help students deepen their their poem.
7 Web Resources Q&A Reciprocal Teaching at Work Classroom Video Clips: “Time is my biggest problem. How can I meet with all my designated www.reading.org/General/ groups during the course of a week?” Publications/Books/ In the course of a day, you will not be able to meet with every group, but you SupplementalContent/BK507_ SUPPLEMENT.aspx can rotate through your groups every few days. You may want to meet with Reciprocal Teaching lessons show your three to five most challenged readers daily. Literature circles meet in students in whole-class settings, upper grades at least twice per week. guided reading groups, and literature A readers’ workshop is another effective way to meet individual needs circles. while incorporating some guided reading groups. In a workshop, students read ReadWriteThink: their self-selected books while the teacher circulates to confer with students, www.readwritethink.org taking notes to keep track of student progress. During readers’ workshop, the ReadWriteThink is a great resource teacher may opt to gather and teach three or four students who need to work for hundreds of free downloadable lessons in all aspects of reading. Try on the same skills or strategies. “Book Clubs: Reading for Fun” (Grades Select which types of groupings best fit your grade level and situation, and 3–5) by Traci Gardner. create weekly routines. Annenberg Learner.org Teaching Reading 3–5 Workshop: www.learner.org/resources/ series204.html Provides wonderful online videos on a variety of topics for staff development at no cost to teachers. Richard Allington and others have contributed. Lori D. Oczkus is a literacy coach, author, and popular speaker across the United States. Tens of thousands of teachers have attended her motivating, fast-paced workshops and read her practical, research-based professional books, including Interactive Think-Aloud Lessons: 25 Surefire Ways to Engage Students and Improve Comprehension (Scholastic & International Reading Association, 2009) References Allington, R.L. (2006). What really matters for struggling Slavin, R.E. (1987). Ability grouping and student achievement and Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Powerful readers: Designing research-based programs (2nd ed.). in elementary schools: A best-evidence synthesis. Review Strategies and Lessons for Improving Reading Boston: Allyn & Bacon. of Educational Research, 57(3), 293–335. Kagan, S. (1992). Cooperative learning. San Juan Capistrano, Topping, K. (1989). Peer tutoring and Paired Reading: Comprehension (2nd edition; International CA: Resources for Teachers. Combining two powerful techniques. The Reading Oczkus, L.D. (2009). Interactive think-aloud lessons: 25 surefire Teacher, 42(7), 488–494. Reading Association, 2010). Lori has extensive ways to engage students and improve comprehension. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of experience as a bilingual elementary New York: Scholastic; Newark, DE: International Reading higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Association. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds. & Trans.). Cambridge, MA: teacher, intervention specialist working Pikulski, J.J. (1994). Preventing reading failure: A review Harvard University Press. of five effective programs. The Reading Teacher, 48(1), with struggling readers, staff developer, 30–39. and literacy coach. She works regularly with students in classrooms and really knows the challenges that teachers face in teaching students to read! You can contact Lori through her website at www.lorioczkus.com.