Incorporating Flexible Grouping in the Classroom

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  • 0:05 What Is Flexible Grouping
  • 0:41 Kinds of Groups
  • 1:28 Teacher-Led Groups
  • 2:41 Student-Led Groups
  • 3:46 Incorporating Flexible…
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
One of the most common ways to differentiate instruction to meet student needs is through flexible grouping. This lesson defines flexible grouping and details several ways you can incorporate it into your classroom.

What Is Flexible Grouping?

Imagine a classroom where you, as the teacher, have the power to move students around, regroup them, and adjust their instruction based on these groups. It sounds like a magical place, I know. But stay with me, because with the power of flexible grouping you are able to do just that!

Flexible grouping is a term used to refer to the methods teachers use to group students according to needs, instructional objectives, and ability level. If you are already a classroom teacher, this is probably something you do. If you're not, this is something you're going to want to do when you have your own classroom.

Kinds of Groups

First, before discussing how to use flexible grouping, it's important to know what kinds of groups you might see in a classroom. There are essentially two broad categories of groups: teacher-led groups and student-led groups. These can come in a variety of forms. For example, teacher-led groups can be whole-group instruction, small-group instruction, one-on-one instruction, or independent work. Student-led groups can be whole-group, small-group, or pairs.

What is most important to know about each of these kinds of groups is that they serve a specific purpose and should be employed wisely. Also, the key term is flexible. Students should be shifted into and out of groups often, depending on their abilities or needs. It's never a good idea to stick with the same exact groups of students every time.

Teacher-Led Groups

Teacher-led groups are, as the name says, groups in which the teacher drives instruction and learning. These kinds of groups are often used when introducing new material or closely monitoring students as they work with new concepts and ideas. For example, whole group instruction is good for when you, as the teacher, need to convey information to the whole class before letting them explore the topic through other activities.

Independent student work is also a form of teacher-led grouping, since you are monitoring and telling the students what they need to be working on. Small-group instruction, another form of teacher-led grouping, is useful for a variety of reasons. First, you can work closely with a small number of students. As we all know, some students need more attention and guidance when working. Small-group instruction also gives you the opportunity to differentiate activities.

Finally, one-on-one teacher-led groups allow you to work individually with students who require even more attention and assistance. You would work with these students while the rest of your class is working independently or in small student-led groups. One-on-one instruction gives you the opportunity to bring students who are struggling up to speed by differentiating your instruction to meet their individual needs.

Student-Led Groups

Like teacher-led groups, the idea of student-led groups should be obvious. These are groups that are led by students, where they are responsible for the agenda and flow of the work they are engaged in. Placing students in student-led groups allows them to practice collaboration, problem solving, and social skills, while also learning and practicing skills you have taught.

Whole group student-led groups usually take the form of a class discussion. These are useful for sharing new ideas and perspectives, but only if students understand the expectations and the rules they must follow during the discussion. The more practice students have with class discussions, the better the discussion will be.

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