How to Use Grouping for Literacy Instruction

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  • 0:00 Instructional Grouping
  • 0:54 Heterogeneous Grouping
  • 2:09 Dynamic Grouping
  • 3:05 Cooperative Learning
  • 3:54 Peer Tutoring
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rita Kerrigan

Rita has taught elementary and middle school and has a master's degree in reading education.

There are various ways to use instructional grouping for literacy instruction, such as heterogeneous grouping, dynamic grouping, cooperative learning, and peer tutoring. Learn how these grouping strategies give students opportunities to learn at their individual levels, as well as collaboratively.

Instructional Grouping

Instructional grouping, by definition, is when a large classroom of students is divided into smaller groups based on various criteria. This type of grouping is important in all aspects of education due to the increase of social interaction that exists when using small groups, as well as the motivational factor. Kids often respond more enthusiastically and openly when working in a small group as opposed to a large group setting.

Instructional grouping is especially important when dealing with literacy instruction due to the wide range of reading levels that exist within a traditional classroom. There are various ways to group students in a literacy classroom. Some of the most successful and frequently used are heterogeneous grouping, dynamic grouping, cooperative learning, and peer tutoring.

Heterogeneous Grouping

Heterogeneous grouping is when students of all different abilities are placed in a class together. The teacher may use shared reading, mini-lessons, or a read aloud to introduce concepts to the whole class but will do the bulk of literacy instruction in small groups due to the variety of levels present in a heterogeneous class.

In these small groups, students are group by reading levels for activities, such as guided reading. Guided reading is when the teacher leads a small group through an instructional level text while working on decoding and comprehension strategies. It is important to use these small groups that are based on reading ability when there are students of many different levels heterogeneously grouped in a classroom.

The teacher may also use one-on-one conferencing with students as a way to individualize instruction. A final commonly used practice of heterogeneous grouping is literature circles. A group of students reads a book on their reading level simultaneously and meets on a regular basis to discuss topics and concepts that arise in the book, similar to a book club. The teacher meets with groups on a rotating basis to aid with facilitation when needed and assess students.

Dynamic Grouping

Reading groups should always be dynamic. Dynamic grouping means that groups are not permanent. Rather, they can and will change often as the levels of the students also change. Benchmark assessments, such as running records, are used to place students into groups for a period of time. Teachers then can work with students of similar abilities on specific strategies in which they have demonstrated a weakness.

The guided reading groups previously discussed should always be dynamic in addition to heterogeneous. The assessments that are used to group students should be repeated often so that groups can be changed as needed as students' levels evolve at different rates. It is not recommended that dynamic groups be given a permanent name, as that could confuse students when they move into another group. Rather, it is best to use the individual names of the students or the current book they are reading, instead, to identify the group.

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