Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Brought To You By Lori

I thought about this post the other day while I was planning a lesson. It was an odd lesson because I would only be working with 4--count them 1,2,3,4--students. When I considered all of my activities and the grouping format that I needed my lesson to have, the obvious choice was to sit in a circle and engage in an informal (yet tightly structured) lesson. 

That's what got me thinking...that particular scenario was an easy one. It's easy to make a whole-group format effective when the whole group fits in the palm of your hand. However, I think that all too often teachers default to that same format even when their classrooms are spilling over. 

Grouping should be elastic--moving from whole group to small group maybe to pairs and then back out to whole group and then individual practice. This helps to engage all kids, bell to bell.

All of this can be accomplished in a single lesson! Let's think about how this could work. Think about an upcoming lesson. Maybe you'll be working with a persuasive article and you want to target author's argument and details for support. 

Whole Group--Begin with Likert Scale descriptions on each of your four walls: Strongly Disagree; Disagree; Strongly Agree; Agree. Without mentioning today's reading, provide students with a polarizing statement related to the argument in the upcoming article. Ask them to silently move to the poster that best describes their position. 

Small Group--Once students are happily situated, have them buddy up with the two or three people closest to them and discuss their choice. 

Whole Group--Keep everyone standing right where they are. As the teacher, you now step in and facilitate a discussion, asking certain students to share their choices. Because you were moving around during small group discussion time, you already know who to call on to keep discussion precise and dynamic. Have students return to their seats. Explain that you'll be reading a persuasive essay dealing with a controversial issue and you want students to determine where the author stands and how they know.

Individual--Distribute the day's reading. You could already have a targeted passage outlined that relates to recent discussion. Instruct students to read that short piece to themselves.

Whole Group--Read a portion of the article aloud to students (1 or 2 paragraphs). Model thinking: what does the author think and how do I know that?

Individual--Allow time for students to read individually (depending on the length of the piece).

Small Group--Students come back together to complete an activity to determine the author's argument and supporting details. Individual students within the small groups have a role so that everyone is accountable for a task.

Individual--Exit ticket.

This is a typical lesson style in a Curly Classroom. The grouping format has shifted about 5 or 6 different times and each shift is intentional and purposeful. The ever-changing structure keeps all students accountable for their work and does not allow anyone to lay low in the back row. 

We LOVE hearing from our readers! Leave a comment and let me know how you were able to play with your grouping formats this week. If you want grouping tips, search the tags on the right for some great ideas. 

1 comment

  1. I totally understand the conundrum of too few students! While being able to give all your students tons of one-on-one attention sounds fantastic, it does take some getting used to. I am the English teacher within a special ed school that only holds a max of 36 high school students. My classes have ranged in size between two and seven students over the past three years. All of my training to be a teacher has been with typical class sizes of 25-30 students, so this has taken some getting used to. Anything that involves pairs is almost always out the window. So I mostly use whole-group or individual activities. Whole-group isn't so bad though with so few students. I've got our desks in a U-shape, then myself and my TA can pull up and we can have great, intimate discussions--and nobody gets away with not participating! But the intimate setting does help a lot of students feel more comfortable. Its not so scary to share ideas within a group of 4 or 5.