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Teacher Toolbox: Small groups

November 11, 2011

Teacher Toolbox, where teachers share ideas to meet the needs of gifted students.

Teacher Toolbox advice from Katie Dzierski, 1st grade teacher at Valley Ranch Elementary:

Katie Dzierski offers advice on using small groups to help with differentiation.  “Differentiation in the classroom is done on a daily basis for all students. As a classroom teacher, all students do not learn on the same level or at the same time. Teachers are challenging students as well as re-teaching others in small groups. These small groups are to give more individualized lesson to the specific ability of the students. Small groups consist of ideally 4-5 students and are done across all subjects.”

When implementing groups, Dzierski emphasizes that the purpose of different levels is to help students succeed, not to emphasize their areas of weakness.  “The students don’t really know what level they are on,” she said.  “They try to guess to see who is the highest level, but it is never provided to the students. Some know that they can read better than others, but I always tell the kids that it doesn’t matter because we all are learning to read.”

Also, small groups can be created in different ways, creating different groups based on different needs.  One example of this, offers Dzierski, is pulling “kids that are from Group A, B, and C that all need help with rate of reading or they didn’t understand what greater than and less than mean. This way the students that are not always in the same group.”

The key to successful small groups is understanding the purpose of differentiation.

Differentiation is not giving students more work if they are above level. It is also not only working with students who are below level. It is working with all students at their level while challenging them. By working in the small groups, teachers build relationships with students to make them feel confident in their learning. When students are confident, they learn and grow more. — Dzierski

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