Skill-Based Grouping for Student Learning

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Manage a Differentiated Classroom

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Basics of Skill-Based Grouping
  • 0:40 Differentiated…
  • 1:12 Assessing Student Skill Level
  • 2:19 Homogeneous Grouping
  • 3:32 Heterogeneous Grouping
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers can differentiate instruction by grouping students. This lesson explores criteria that can be used to group students and gives examples of how grouping is used in the classroom.

Basics of Skill-Based Grouping

Years ago teachers divided students into groups during reading instruction, usually with names like robins, eagles, and bluebirds. With different reading materials and expectations, it was pretty clear to everyone that these were low, medium, and high groupings. Some students felt pretty smart; others, not so much.

Fast forward to today and teachers are still using skill-based groupings. These days, though, the groups are more fluid. They can change from day to day and are determined using a variety of criteria. How are they different from the robin-eagle-bluebird groups? Let's take a look.

Differentiated Instructional Grouping

In education, teachers use many methods to help every student learn. Sometimes they form small groups to differentiate instruction, or address specific student needs, such as ability level, interest, and learning style.

How do teachers decide which students to pull into small groups? They use information gathered from observations, test scores, quizzes, and other assessments. One important thing to remember about forming skill-based groups is that teachers use ongoing, formative assessments to drive their instructional decisions. Here's how it works.

Assessing Student Skill Level

Back when teachers were using robin-eagle-bluebird groups, grouping decisions typically were made based on a test given the first day of school. That reading test determined which group students would be in for the rest of the year and, in turn, formed their concept of who they were as readers and determined what type of instruction they received.

Making decisions about skill-based groups has changed dramatically. While teachers still use assessments to make decisions, they recognize that students have many different strengths and struggles within a subject area. One reader might have strong decoding skills but struggle with comprehension. Another student might be solid with addition and subtraction but struggle with abstract ideas like algebra.

Teachers these days use many kinds of criteria to form skill-based groups. They take notes on each student during small group and individual conferences, they use scores from pretests and quizzes, they look closely at student work samples, and they analyze student performance in class and group work. By keeping track of students in many different contexts, teachers are able to group students according to their needs on specific skills. They do this in two ways.

Homogeneous Grouping

Teachers can group students homogeneously, or according to a similar skill level. For reading, teachers typically give students an assessment that determines the student's reading level. These assessments take into consideration several important factors necessary for successful reading, like decoding, comprehension, and fluency, and level students on a scale, such as A to Z or numerically. The teacher will then group similar readers together, such as all level B readers or all level F readers, and meets in small groups with these students during a guided practice time.

The same procedure can be followed for a guided math group. Teachers typically meet with students who fall in the lower range more often than those performing above level, but all students are given materials on their level. This ensures they're learning skills valuable to their current ability and are making progress toward both overall grade-level objectives and their own specific needs.

Students in homogeneous groups can move into another group if they make progress at a faster rate than their peers. The teacher also might need to regroup students occasionally to reflect changes in students' performance, but typically, homogeneous groups are steady and do not change often.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account