Small Group Writing Guidance
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
My colleagues and I have students write a Synopsis of their learning after every Independent Learning Zone period as well as after Live Investigations. The Synopsis acts as a reflective tool for both large and small concepts. I often tell my students to write what they actually learned or improved upon, not what they THINK I want them to write. I train my students to make a space for the Synopsis in their notebook headings. Occasionally, I will have my students read their Synopses out loud, but most often I walk around and do a quick check, as they are mostly a personal reflection for my students.
I implement a station rotation model in my classroom. On a typical day, following brief whole-class direct instruction, my students will rotate through three blended learning stations: small group instruction, collaborative learning, and independent work. At each station, students work either with a teacher, a group of their peers, or individually towards content mastery. The key levers of my model are student self-pacing and small-group instruction. Through a mix of student choice and teacher facilitation, I have been able to activate my students’ learning and accelerate them towards higher academic achievement.
Number of Students: ~25 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; one paraprofessional
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 45 minutes
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Kahoot!; Plickers; PBWorks; Blackboard; Newsela; Edmodo; BrainPop & BrainPop Jr; Discovery Education Techbook; Padlet; Vimeo; Today’s Meet
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: 25 ASUS T100 laplets with charging cart (1:1); Promethean Board
Key Features: station rotation; student agency
Like It-Love It-Gotta Have It is a strategy I use to differentiate assignments within my micro-groups in a Live Investigation. The three names are, in my opinion, a better way of saying high, medium and low. The kids really love the names. In a Live Investigation, there is usually varying levels of abillity or knowledge in that particular skill. By making a high, medium, and low activity, students have the ability to challenge themselves at their own level. I assign different parts of the room for each activity so I can physically see where the students are. Most of the time, I let the students self-assess and they move throughout the room according to which level they are. They are free to move (up or down) from one section to the next. Most of the activites I assign here are digital. I really like using Khan Academy here, as I can track students physically as well as digitally. With this strategy, I can also target the students at the Like It level and allow the Gotta Have it students to fly a bit on their own.