by Courtney Belolan
The other week we looked at one possible lens to think through for grouping: targets and measurement topics. That strategy works well in a declarative knowledge based learning opportunity, like applied learning or an interdisciplinary project. This week let’s look at a grouping method that can work well with procedural knowledge. To refresh, procedural knowledge is the type of knowledge needed to do a task. It is the knowing how, and being able to do it.
In this case, grouping begins with setting goals. Here are some examples of goals related to procedural knowledge:
Now, it is sorting time! Grab some student work that shows evidence of learning towards that goal. Depending on the goal, a whole class might get sorted or only a portion of the class. After looking at each piece of student work and comparing it to the goal, place the work into one of four piles:
Once the learners are sorted in the piles, you have the beginnings of groups! One pile may represent one group, or there may more groups within the pile. This second sort is more about numbers than it is about how closely the evidence of learning aligns with others in the group. An effective small group has no more than five students. The evidence is already grouped, so there should not be the case where needs are that far off within a given pile.
Now it is time to plan instruction. Pick a group, any group. Consider where the learners that group are in relation to the goal. Consider what strategies or skills might help them get closer. After jotting down a few options, referring to resources to help come up with as many possibilities as you can, select the three that you believe will be most serving for this group and star the one that you think is most important. Plot out the order in which the sessions will go, then schedule them into class time. Repeat for all the piles.
These groups are short term, they are not permanent, so the instruction needs to be efficient. Three group meetings gives the learners a decent length of time to work on the goal, and three different strategies or skills gives them a good variety to try and see what works for them. For groups needing more support to move towards the goal, focus only on the strategy you starred. Instead of planning three sessions with three different skills or strategies, plan three sessions about that one. The first session should be very scaffolded, very guided, very “the learner can repeat immediately after the teacher models.” The second session less so, and the third lesson more of a coaching feel in which the teacher watches as the learners practice the strategy or skill only giving prompts when absolutely needed.
At the end of the three small group session, go back to the beginning and sort again! It may make sense to sort again on the same goal, or perhaps a different goal. This cycle of sorting, planning, and teaching keeps the groups flexible and learners growing.
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