The next step after creating a physically beneficial, affectively planned, and procedurally sound literacy classroom, teachers need to plan for flexible grouping. Flexible grouping debunks old theories of constant whole group instruction, and the three tier method of labeling students below, average, and advanced. Flexible grouping allow for homogenous and heterogeneous groupings related to whole group, small group, paired, and individual instruction (Canter & Winberry, 2002). The example following will portray flexible instruction aimed to promote student connections, insights, and ideas with those of others through speaking and listening (Texas Educational Agency, 2007).
The whole group instruction will happen first. A short speech (of any kind) will be read to the students. Each student will be encouraged to make connections, and ask questions based on their connections. Questions can reflect new ideas, empathetic statements, or insights applicable to their own lives. Once a strong example and clarifications are made, the students will be released into heterogeneous trios (Canter & Winberry, 2002).
The pairs will be required to write a small speech about something they care deeply about. During this time, students will be called into homogenous groups (predetermined reading groups) to meet with the teacher (Canter & Winberry, 2002). One group will work on finding elements of the text in which to make connections. The next group will also make connections, but also will determine how the connections can be applicable into one’s own life. Finally, the third group will use their connections and insights to determine how the speaker’s insights have connected and promoted good in the world as a whole. Essentially, each group will be able to cover text to self, text world connections, and their applications on a continuum of difficulty. Students will report back to their groups with different ways of gaining insights.
After the speeches are completed, the whole class will meet in order for trios to share their speeches. At this time, students will be required to relate connections through various ways as a means for feedback to the trio (Canter & Winberry, 2002). The teacher will then help students point out similarities and differences among the speeches, and release students, once again, into their heterogeneous trios to compare and contrast the speeches.
It is imperative that students receive expert instruction through the flexible group of hetero and homogenous groups. After the literacy standard is identified and the objective is confirmed, groups should be planned and implemented to allow for diverse literacy experiences. The years of constant homogenous grouping are over, and flexible grouping is presently an extremely effective model for instruction (Canter & Winberry, 2002).
Canter, L. & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2002) Program 2: Flexible grouping. [Motion Picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), Planning and managing the literacy classroom. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.
Texas Education Agency. (2007). Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – Fourth Grade. Austin, TX. Retrieved July 1, 2008, from http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/grade/Fourth_Grade.pdf