They say that there is nothing new under the Sun. Flexible grouping certainly falls into this category. If you have ever watched an old episode of Little House on the Prairie, you have seen it in action. Did you ever wonder how the teacher managed to handle a classroom filled with students with such a wide range of ages?
Of course things changed quite a bit in the classroom and the idea of instructing an entire class of students of a similar age became the norm. Still, devoted teachers have always looked for ways of addressing the needs of the individual students. It does not take long in a classroom setting to figure out which students are working at similar levels of ability and understanding. Without any other options, teachers have often resorted to making up different groupings of students throughout the school day as a way of making things more manageable for themselves. When these flexible groups are made, it can also help the students to succeed.
Flexible grouping can be used successfully in a variety of subject areas in the differentiated classroom. Flexible grouping in reading is sometimes done in classes where leveled readers are used. Flexible grouping in math is also certainly possible and it can be very useful for helping to keep struggling students from falling behind, while giving students with a better grasp of the concepts an opportunity to explore the topic further.
Experienced teachers realize from what they have accomplished and experienced in the classroom, that different situations call for different groupings of students. Now that differentiated instruction is being focused upon by so many, the different types of groups are being examined more closely. There are basically two types of groups, which can be broken down even more based on how the groups are assembled and managed.
The first style of grouping is teacher led groups. These are very useful when introducing new material is the main goal. Every teacher has used these methods. Speaking to the whole class, dealing with small, teacher made groups, and directing individual student activities are all examples of teacher led group instruction.
A less traditional method of grouping gives much more control to the pupils. One common way of forming these student led groups is putting students together based on their need to develop understanding or practice what has been taught. These groups also can be useful for breaking larger topics down into more manageable chunks which the groups can research, discuss and then share with the rest of the class. Other grouping options can also be quite useful depending on the situation. You may want to check out one of the books shown below to learn more about the benefits and possibilities of flexible grouping. Here is a very detailed look at flexible grouping that you might also enjoy (opens new tab).