Chapter 3 in Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups is all about grouping. Trying to make small groups for reading instruction can be really difficult. I have heard that small groups should be homogenous and flexible. They can be based on anecdotal records, classroom observations, and assessments.
Some of my thoughts from the chapter:
1. Debbie suggests using both formal and informal assessments along with anecdotal records to form groups. Some of the formal assessments include DRA, TPRI, DIBELS, and QRI. In some schools, teachers complete their own assessments while in other schools the teachers don't. It is suggested in this chapte that the teachers tesst their own students in order to get to know them as readers, writers, and individulals.
2. When managing the assessments in the classroom, Debbie suggests waiting a couple of weeks so that students are more comfortable during the assessment and you will get a clearer picture of the students' abilities. You can also complete some of the easier testing first and then go back and complete the testing later.
3. What do you do with the rest of the students while you are testing? In order to complete your testing and avoid interuptions, it would be best to have the other students completing activities that they can complete independently. There is a list of examples, but a few include: have kids write about or draw their favorite things to do, their families and pets, what they did during the summer, etc; let kids work with partners to do puzzels or word sorts; have kids read independently, browse books at their tables.
4. Managing anecdotal notes is am important part of assessing students but can be difficult to keep up with. There are some great ideas given to managing them including keeping an index card file and using sticky notes. I personally follow the strategy Debbie uses: In my small group binder, I have a pocket divider for each group. I keep an index card for each student so when I call a small group, I take out the index cards and jot notes on students either during the lesson or after the group leaves. When the card gets full, I replace the card with a new one. I refer to these cards when getting ready for conferences and report cards.
5. Debbie gives directions/suggestions for keeping a small groups folder and for showing how to manage groups that are flexible. I have to admit that I posted construction paper lists with sticky notes like she does and it worked very well! It was easy to move a student from one group to another.
6. There are two examples in the chapter showing how to use formal assessments to form groups. I mostly use the DIBELS assessment to form initial groups and then make adjustments as I go. This helps me get groups going within a few weeks into the year-even if meeting with them is just for a few minutes in the beginning.
7. Running records: Can I just say I don't care too much for running records? I have found them difficult to keep up with. This is definately an area I need to work on A LOT this year. I know they can be helpful...but, dang, I don't like them! Anybody else?
8. Meeting with groups...I think that most of us probably know a majority of the info included in this section but there were a few things I am going to take from here:
-students can be in more than one group depending on their needs
-rearrange students and groups when you need to, groups are not set in stone
-you can begin with just one group a day (I tend to think I have to do it all right from the beginning)
-quality instruction is our goal, not quantity
-how often to meet with each group depends on the needs of the students, fair is not always equal
-meeting with small groups can happen any time during the day, ie. in the morning when they come in
Questions to consider:
- Do you test your students or does someone else? I complete DRA's in my classroom but DIBELS is completed by the Title One staff.
-What ways have you all come up with to keep anecdotal records?
-How do you form small groups in your classroom? Do you use formal or informal assessments? How do you post groups so students know which group they are in?
-What criteria do you use to switch students to another group?
There was a lot of great information in this chapter! It already has me thinking about the upcoming year. I would love to hear some input from you all about the questions I asked! Thanks for visiting!