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Student Grouping Strategies for Reading Instruction

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  • 0:03 Reading Instruction
  • 1:06 Whole Group Activities
  • 2:33 Small Group Work
  • 3:39 Individual Activities
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Using different grouping strategies can help to foster reading skills for many students. This lesson outlines three grouping strategies with suggestions for how to use each one.

Reading Instruction

Reading development involves a wide variety of skills. Perhaps the most important is reading comprehension, which is the ability to interpret and attach meaning to written text. In addition, reading skills also cover fluency, which is the ability to articulate text or express oneself through the spoken word. These are just two examples of the many skills that should be learned in the classroom.

To develop the reading skills of middle grade students, a middle school language arts classroom might have the following reading standard or goal:

  • Recognize implied meaning (e.g., expression of opinion, inference of character, meaning contained in an image, and ironic effect).

Not only are there several skills mentioned in that standard, but there are also many techniques to teach those skills. English language arts teachers must use a wide variety of instructional techniques in order to foster numerous reading skills. To do so, teachers can use different grouping strategies to support instruction. Three grouping strategies include whole group activities, small group work, and individual activities.

Whole Group Activities

Traditional visions of education revolve around whole group activities, involving instruction to all the students in the classroom. While this might seem old-fashioned, whole group instruction is still very important, especially when introducing new reading skills.

Let's look at the sample language arts standard again:

  • Recognize implied meaning (e.g., expression of opinion, inference of character, meaning contained in an image, and ironic effect).

Now consider how frustrating and unsuccessful it would be to have students work in small groups or individually with any of these concepts without first instructing the whole class. In instances like this one, the teacher can address the terms in this standard via whole class discussion.

For instance, when dealing with ironic effect, begin with a class discussion on the reading selection. Using guided questions, lead students to an ironic moment in the text. Instead of just feeding your students the definition of irony, encourage students to share their thoughts and have others respond verbally to their peers. Then end the discussion with the whole class deciding on the definition of irony.

Furthermore, whole group activities can assist with fluency development. Observing and listening to others read aloud helps struggling students learn how to decode and pronounce words. Students can see how their peers respond to unknown words and incorporate those same methods. Whole group activities can go a long way to helping students learn the strategies to become fluent readers.

Small Group Work

The next strategy for grouping students calls for small group work, which consists of groups usually containing 3-8 students. Choosing these groups can be a difficult task. One method is to create heterogeneous groups, or ones with students of mixed levels. For example, reading circles of groups of four could include one strong reader, two average readers, and one struggling reader. This way, the average and strong readers can give support to the struggling reader, while the advanced reader can push the average readers above their limits.

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