Effective Grouping for Small Group Instruction

 Guided Reading instruction is a powerful way to improve students' reading level and comprehension at the primary level.  Establishing and maintaining groups can be a struggle and while research supports this as an effective practice often teachers are left without any guidance on how to set this up in the classroom. Here are a few tips that may help you with the process!  

#1 Assessment

At the beginning of the year we assess students to find their individual instructional level.  You may have a system already in place (my district uses DIBELS) or you could be on your own.  I use my DIBELS reports to help me make these decisions early on but we only test 3 times a year and we move forward at a much faster pace in Kindergarten.  This leaves me with a lot of time to do assessments on my own.  Here is how I break it down. 

  • Letter Naming- Letter naming is not a required skill to read however it is an early literacy skill. Students may start reading without being able to quickly identify all the letters in the alphabet however it is a good skill to have when it comes to reading and writing down the road. My lowest reading group includes all of the students that have not yet mastered this skill. Our goal is to read 45-55 letter names in one minute.  Once they are doing this I am comfortable moving them on. 
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View more about Letter Naming Intervention HERE
  • Phoneme Segmentation- This is a skill that many students will FLY through.  Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break words down into their individual sounds.  If I say "cat" you say /c/a/t/. For students that struggle with this it can truly be a roadblock to reading. In my experience it is essential that students master this skill before they move on to any other skills in reading.  These students are also grouped into my lowest reading group for individual practice on this skill.
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View more about Phoneme Segmentation Intervention HERE
  • CVC Words- Our next step is to move on to reading the sounds in words.  If students are ready to start saying letter sounds for every letter they make up the majority of my class groups in the "middle" range.  Through the year this middle range group works on reading each letter in the word to blending the words.

  • Blending and Beyond- My high groups are students that are blending those CVC words (without sounding them out first) and these students are ready to move on to new skills like digraphs, vowel combinations, and long vowels.  These skills are not taught within our regular kindergarten curriculum so this differentiation is essential to keep these students challenged.   

  • learning with mrs langley, effective grouping for guided reading, interventions, CVC words, guided reading
    View more about CVC Word Intervention HERE.

    #2 Establishing a Routine

    Once you have establish your groups then you can decide when to meet.  For me it works best to meet first thing in the morning when my students are fresh and everyone is engaged in independent word work centers.  I have 45 minutes of small group instruction time which gives me time to meet with 3 groups a day.  Students in your low and low medium groups need to meet more often (every day) while the higher groups can meet just two or three times each week.  Here is one way to schedule groups. 
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    Low Groups 5 times a week, Low to Med 4 times a week and High Groups 2 times a week.  
    learning with mrs langley, effective grouping for guided reading, interventions, guided reading schedule, guided reading
    This schedule stays in the front of my notebook with a plan for each day and each group. 
    I use this form to plan out my week and list all of the materials I will need to teach each group.  It really helps your routine if you know what you need when those little faces show up at your small group table!  

    You can get your free editable copy HERE

     #3 Be Flexible! 

    Groups will change from day to day sometimes. As soon as a student has made that jump to the next level it is ok to move them on.  If a student is struggling and the rest of the group is making good progress it is also a good time to move them back to a different group.  Of course my students never know what group I'm working with so there is no stigma attached to being "moved back".  It is important to have students working within their own level to be truly effective. 

    #4 Take your time! 

    So small groups start next week for me. I tried to start last week but we weren't quite ready. I always wait 6 weeks to get our routines in place but this year I thought I could jump in on week 5 but I was WRONG! It was a little bit of a mess, so I took a step back and really made sure we had our routines down this week. For you to have effective small group this is a must. So I'll give it another try next week and this time I am confident we can make it happen! 

    Thanks for stopping by today!