- Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.
3.1 Demonstrating Knowledge of Students. Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ skills, knowledge, and language proficiency and displays this knowledge for groups of – students.
Students can most efficiently advance in their learning when the teacher knows each students’ strengths and needs and is flexible and responsive to them. Effective teachers know that there is a wide range of ability levels across subjects. There are many benefits to small groups both for the teacher and the student. Small groups are essential to best tailor instruction to the needs of each student. They give the teacher a chance to meet students where they are at in their understanding and tailor the instruction so that the learning will be most meaningful to them. Specifically for reading, small groups boost self- esteem, increases motivation, and closes the cap between good readers and struggling readers (Barr & Dreeben, 1991; Slavin, 1987) (Calfee & Brown, 1979; Good & Stipek, 1983; Hiebert, 1983; Rosenholtz & Wilson, 1980).
In my kindergarten classroom my mentor teacher and I have created small reading groups based on ability levels. Each group is given an animal as the group name. For example, we have the teddy bears, frogs, sheep, tigers, and the robots.
Groups are created at the beginning of the year based on the students’ performance on a formalized kindergarten assessment. The parts of the kindergarten assessment that we use to make the reading groups are the sections where we assess students’ knowledge on letter identification, letter sounds, segmenting, blending, and rhyming. These areas provide information about each student’s prior knowledge and exposure to reading. Students may be switched to a different reading group depending on their progress throughout the year. In February, students are formally reassessed using the Fountas & Pinnell assessment. This data informs teacher about which students need to be in a different group and what specific areas our readers are struggling with.
Reading groups give us the ability to provide reading instruction that both challenges students but also provides instruction that is meaningful. For example, in the highest performing group we may be providing instruction on vowel rules whereas in our groups that need more support, we may be providing instruction on how to sound out C-V-C words. Each group focuses on reading fluency and reading comprehension.
It has been exciting to see how effective ability groups have been and how they have greatly increased the confidence in my students. I am excited to apply this concept across other subjects.